The EEI Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)
in the Americas Program
For an impacted community, the difference between suffering an emergency, a disaster, or in extreme cases a catastrophe is largely determined by the level and effectiveness of its pre-event exposure management and vulnerability reduction, particularly hazard-aware land use, building standards, and lifeline protection, together with post-event community response and resilience. With support from the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, the EEI’s Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas Program has provided education, training, and technical advice for DRR capacity-building in a variety of Western Hemisphere countries. The underlying precept of the DRR program is that even major natural hazard events should have impacts that can be locally managed as emergencies rather than experienced as disasters or catastrophes, both of the latter often requiring national and even international response resources.

Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas

Earthquake, Haiti 2010. Photo by the American Red Cross
Residents of Part-Au-Prince, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Sector Status and Trends Assessment (WASH) of Haiti projects performed in 2010.

Alliance for Disaster Risk-Sensitive Investments

Taiwan Earthquake; Sep 07, 1999. The city of Tai Chung is struck by a huge earthquake killing more than 2,000 people. Taiwanese Army rescue workers hurry to find survivors in the mass destruction.

The private sector annually accounts for approximately 80 percent of all investment worldwide, and in the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which was adopted in March 2015 by 187 national governments, the term “private sector” appears 33 times in only 27 pages. Building on and integrating two prior UN-led efforts – the Private Sector Partnership (PSP) and the initiative for Disaster Risk-Sensitive Investments (R!SE) – to more fully involve the private sector in systematic disaster risk reduction, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) launched ARISE, the Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies, on November 6, 2015 in London.

The Extreme Events Institute had worked closely with the UNISDR on the foundational Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (the 2011, 2013, and 2015 issues), was an integral part of the original R!SE, and remains a leader in the new ARISE Work Stream 4: Disaster Risk Management Education and Training. The EEI role with ARISE is to help create and/or strengthen disaster risk management (DRM) courses and modules in (a) university-level curricula, particularly at the M.A./M.S. levels, and (b) training programs for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Wall of Wind (WOW)

The FIU 12-fan Wall of Wind ™ (WOW) is the largest and most powerful university research facility of its kind and is capable of simulating a Category 5 hurricane – the highest rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This level of wind speed testing (with wind-driven rain) is leading to performance-based designs that are making a significant impact on mitigating hurricane damage and influencing enhanced building codes. Full-scale experimentation results have already been applied to the Florida Building Code. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected the Wall of Wind as one of the nation’s major “Experimental Facilities” under the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) competition as a distributed, multi-user national facility that will provide the natural hazards research community with access to research infrastructure. The goal of the WOW facility as a NHERI-EF is to allow NSF-supported researchers to better understand wind effects on building systems and other structures and prevent wind hazards from becoming community disasters. Thus, the Wall of Wind Team is advancing the understanding of hurricane impacts on buildings and developing and validating innovative damage mitigation products thereby enhancing the disaster resilience of our communities and nation.

Wall of Wind

Wall of Wind™ at the FIU Engineering and Computing Center.

Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model

Hurricane Charley, 2004. Aerial image of destroyed homes in Punta Gorda, following hurricane Charley.

Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model (FPHLM)

The Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model is the state’s only certified and transparent method of determining annual expected insured and probable maximum losses as a result of a hurricane and helping to set windstorm rates. Florida will be the first state to combine wind, storm surge and flood risks in a single public model to determine the overall hazards of a storm. The model assesses hurricane risk and projects annual expected insured losses for specific properties or by coverage, construction type, zip code, county, and region in Florida. The model consists of three major components – wind, vulnerability/susceptibility to damage, and actuarial insured loss. The model can also be used to quantify the economic benefits of hurricane mitigation. IHRC professors lead the team that includes specialists from the University of Florida, Florida State University, Florida Institute of Technology, Hurricane Research Division of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and University of Miami. These experts and the project will make the Extreme Events Institute the leading center for innovative hurricane risk and loss research.

Coastal and Estuarine Storm Tide (CEST)

The Coastal and Estuarine Storm Tide (CEST) model is used to estimate storm surge as low pressure weather systems, such as hurricanes and tropical storms, approach coastal areas. Storm surge and coastal flooding have become increasingly appreciated hazards, brought home so clearly by “Super Storm” Sandy. The research team is comprised of geoscientists, mathematicians, meteorologists, and computer scientists. The model takes into account the expected tide at landfall and the atmospheric pressure and wind characteristics of the weather system. It also takes into consideration major coastal topographic features such as coastal ridges and barrier islands. FIU’s research in partnership with the National Hurricane Center will be used to enhance storm surge models for future operational forecasts when a hurricane approaches.

Coastal and Estuarine Storm Tide

Key West residents fleeing Hurricane Wilma storm surge in 2005.