Category: News

Princeville residents guide plan for future of town

Students and faculty from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill North Carolina State University worked with residents on designs for a potential expansion of the town in August 2017.
Students and faculty from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill North Carolina State University worked with residents on designs for a potential expansion of the town in August 2017. Photo by Adam Walters.

Loria Martin was lucky this last time. Her home in Southern Terrace, a Princeville, N.C. neighborhood, was spared the flooding that impacted so much of eastern North Carolina when Hurricane Matthew hit the state in early October 2016. She has been supporting family members but is thankful damage to her home was limited to a temporary loss of electricity.

When Hurricane Floyd hit the area 17 years earlier, she wasn’t as lucky.

“This time, I didn’t get hit, but in ’99 I lost almost everything,” Martin said.

Martin was among several hundred Princeville residents who attended a multi-day Community Design Workshop, held Aug. 25-29 in neighboring Tarboro, to design a plan for a more flood-resilient future. The event was co-sponsored by the town of Princeville, Edgecombe County, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC-CH) Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC), North Carolina State University (NCSU) College of Design, North Carolina Emergency Management and the (N.C.) Governor’s Recovery Office.

This five-day workshop (see photos) brought together teams of land use planners, engineers, architects and landscape architects to collaborate with local, state and federal officials to develop three scenarios for a new 52-acre tract of land that the state intends to buy. The parcel will include houses, businesses, infrastructure, public facilities and community open space in ways that ensure that the new space connects physically, socially, environmentally and economically to historic portions of town. Located outside of the floodplain, the new space would make the town more resilient to future flooding.

The event was a unique collaboration between UNC-CH and NCSU. Faculty and students from the Department of City Regional Planning at UNC-CH, led by CRC Director Dr. Gavin Smith, joined forces with faculty and students from the NCSU College of Design for this effort.

A 52-acre site is being considered for expansion of Princeville.

The design team and resource team – which provided subject matter expertise for the design – included experts from across North Carolina and other states including Louisiana and New Jersey. Members came from organizations as varied as the North Carolina Sea Grant, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Parks Service.

The workshop was part of a larger effort, the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative, which began earlier this year to address recovery and rebuilding issues in six communities: Princeville, Fair Bluff, Seven Springs, Windsor, Kinston and Lumberton. Since early 2017, a team led by CRC Director and UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Dr. Gavin Smith has met with leaders from the six communities to learn about the particular challenges the communities face.

A video about the event, produced in partnership with the North Carolina Rural Center, can be viewed on the Hurricane Matthew media page.

Princeville was formed in the waning days of the Civil War and incorporated in 1885. It is the first town founded by freed slaves in the United States. Though surrounded by a levee built in the 1960s, Princeville was affected by two storms less than 20 years apart that overtopped those defenses.

At the opening of the event, Princeville Mayor Pro Tem Linda Joyner said Hurricane Matthew “bullied us for 3 or 4 days” but now the town must focus on rebuilding for future generations. The town must make sure the magnitude of flooding from Hurricanes Matthew and Floyd (1999) do no happen again, Joyner said.

“Our youth will reap the benefits of what we’re doing here,” she said.

Focuses of the final designs, presented to residents on the final day of the workshop, included potential relocation of some residents, town services and businesses rebuilding some structures to make them more resilient. Designers also focused on reuse of land near the Tar River, making the area centered toward cultural and recreational purposes while avoiding structures that could flood in future storms.

Working together

Marshall Purnell, a Professor of the Practice at NCSU’s College of Design, said the effort to put all of the federal, state, local and university resources into one place to design a comprehensive plan for Princeville was impressive.

“This storm was devastating because Hurricane Floyd hit this community in 1999 – that was considered the ‘500-year event,’” Purnell said. “Seventeen years later, we got Matthew, which was not as intense as Floyd – maybe 85% of Floyd. When you have water in your house that is 6 feet as opposed to 8-9 feet, it doesn’t matter to you.”

The design team’s approach was to assess Princeville’s potential future in both the short and long term – 5 years from now and 50 years later, Purnell said. The team did not come with pre-set notions of what to design – that was instead driven by community feedback.

“Most people understand the significance of this town and they really want to remain here,” Purnell said. “Princeville has flooded many, many times since 1865. They don’t just want to pull up and leave, but they know they can’t stay and keep doing what they have been doing in the past.”

Design Team member Kofi Boone, far right, and Princeville, N.C., Mayor Pro Tem Linda Joyner, second from right, discuss plans for a proposed expansion of Princeville, N.C., with residents.

Having resources from UNC-CH and NCSU together, working to support a community, was a welcome sign, he said.

“It’s rewarding – it’s the kind of thing we as a profession, in academia, should be doing more of,” he said. “There’s no better way to learn than do it for real and for people who need it.”

Learning from history

Town Commissioner Milton Bullock said he was impressed by the attendance at the events.

“This is the closest Princeville has ever come to reconstructing itself and fulfilling the dream of our ancestors,” Bullock said. “We’re not moving Princeville, we’re expanding the footprint. At the same time, we have some issues to address, like the river.”

Eric Evans, Edgecombe County Manager, said displacement of residents from Hurricane Matthew is still a significant concern in the area. The town’s focus will be “building back better,” he said.

“The Tar River defines who you are as a town – flooding defines part of who you are,” Evans said. “It doesn’t have to define your destiny.”

State officials said that housing is still a concern in the 50 counties impacted by Hurricane Matthew – about half of those in North Carolina. Edgecombe County is among the four most affected by the storm, he said, and the focus is on making new and rebuilt structure more resilient.

Dan Brubaker of North Carolina Emergency Management said that floods from Hurricane Matthew rose more than 4 feet about the “500-year flood” gauges. A 500-year event is one that has a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in any given year, whereas a 100-year event has a 1 percent chance of happening in a given year.

More documents from the event can be found on the Princeville community engagement page.

Princeville resident Martin said she liked the ideas to use flood-prone property – a proposed Freedom Hill Walking Trail –  for historical context and tourism income.

“We need recreation, something for the kids,” Martin said. “My concern was also with businesses and stores, which could bring revenue to Princeville. If we had our own stores we wouldn’t have to go so far.

“I’m feeling like the future of Princeville is looking pretty good. If everything that is said and done tonight follows through, we could be growing.”

Q&A: Dr. Camellia Okpodu, Norfolk State University

Q&A: Dr. Camellia Okpodu, Norfolk State University

Dr. Camellia Okpodu, Professor of Biology at Norfolk State University, worked on a cross-university project with Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) project lead Old Dominion University as part of the Department of Homeland (DHS) Security Science & Technology Directorate-funded Summer Research Team exchange program. Dr. Okpodu spoke about the scope of her project, her past experience with coastal hazards and her hopes for future collaboration.

 

Q: Can you describe your summer project’s goals and if you felt they were achieved?

A: The whole concept was having a systems approach to look at the idea of sea level rise. We are trying to understand how minorities, particularly under-served and under-represented groups in this area, respond to sea level rise and coastal flooding. From a dataset working with the University of Virginia, one of the outcomes was that minorities, particularly African Americans, have a low affinity for the environment. That troubles me as an African American person who grew up in coastal North Carolina on a farm – that is not my experience.

I wanted to be able to look into this, so when the DHS funding came about, I decided instead of just working by myself this was a way to work across universities in a multi-disciplinary way and to have a social scientist and students from that area who were interested in crime and social justice issues. This is how Dr. Bernadette Holmes got invited to participate.

I wanted to take this questionnaire from the University of Connecticut, not just to compare directly with what he got but to ask additional questions. For example, one of the things I thought was culturally sensitive and I wanted to look at is that most minorities – people that are my age – we don’t refer to this area as Hampton Roads. We grew up calling this Tidewater or 757. One of the questions put on our survey is how they identify their area where they live. 

Q: How would you describe the connection between the work you do in your home department and the coastal resilience realm?

A: I am primarily interested in the people of Portsmouth, Va. Portsmouth is an “economic empowerment area” – it’s about 96,000 people but they have a high rate of crime, high rate of asthma – this is primarily epidemiological data I could get. I was interested in those social indicators and finding out what we can do in the landscape from a biological aspect. Are there things we can do with dune plants for coastal restoration and mitigation? I worked on a long-term ecological project to learn about what types of plants we can add back. Rebuilding wetlands is very important for storm surge. We wanted to look into what could be done to the landscape on the basic level to help mitigate some of that. We already have some of that information, but we wanted to better identify the plants that would be most responsive and tolerant in that area. The Eastern Shore is very fertile for farmland, but as we have more flooding moving inland it’s not just us being affected. We are looking into whether there are epigenetic markers that we can see, expressed in the DNA of certain plants, that make them more flood-tolerant or stress-tolerant.

Q: Do you have any personal experiences with coastal storms? How have they impacted your work?

In 2009, I experienced Tropical Storm Ida, in November – I’ll never forget, it was Veterans Day – that hurricane came through, the remnants of a nor’easter. It was high tide, it was a perfect storm – everything happened at once. Nobody told me how the tide came in here, so I got caught in it and I saw first-hand things I could not imagine. The houses next to us were two-story houses, and the first level was underwater. I went down a street close to the university and I watched the water come in through the tunnel like in a bathtub.

We have a real problem in this area – it’s going to take all hands on deck. We need to have different vantage points – nobody is going to have all of the answers but they can benefit from having a diverse team working on that.

I was just shocked. There was no siren to warn you that there was high water; I watched a lady’s car float off in front of me. Everyone else acted as though this was a normal occurrence. These people were acting like this was everyday business. I was freaking out. I realized this was normal to them. We need to be able to have some emergency preparedness staff in place and talk to them now because they should take this seriously. There are situations where you need to leave or make it a really high priority. That made it a priority for me.

The students at NSU informed me of a lot of this because they came to me – some of them are from the areas getting flooded – and they said this happens all of the time and nobody seems to care. We started a group called Strategies foe Ecology Education Development and Sustainability (SEEDS) that has been working to address this issue. For a long time, for sustainability after I go away, that students can continue.

I grew up near Wilmington, N.C. Hurricane alley – it changed my mind. I decided when I was an adult and someone said “leave,” I would leave, unlike my grandparents – near Holden Beach – who would refuse to leave and go to a better facility. I got interested as a plant biologist and am very interested in the environmental aspects of coastal resiliency.

Q: Can you talk a little about the opportunity to collaborate with other universities in the Hampton Roads/Tidewater region? Where do you hope this partnership goes from here?

I believe collaboration is always better than competition as a scientist. There’s always room for competition around collegiate things like basketball, but because we are all interested in what happens to our country and to our world we have to be collaborative. When I moved here in 2003 from Elizabeth City State University, as a farm child we always knew you couldn’t farm tobacco and do other work without your neighbor. I grew up learning that being collaborative isn’t a bad thing.

In 2007 I had the chance to go to ODU for a fellowship and shadowed their president at the time. During my time there, I thought about how we could bridge what happened in the past – not to forget but to use it as a building block so that we could be more collective and collaborative.

Rebuilding wetlands is very important for storm surge. We wanted to look into what could be done to the landscape on the basic level to help mitigate some of that.

We have a real problem in this area – it’s going to take all hands on deck. We need to have different vantage points – nobody is going to have all of the answers but they can benefit from having a diverse team working on that.

We share common issues that drive us because we’re all in the same boat. Sea level rise affects all of us, directly and indirectly, and it’s something we should all be interested in, irrespective of gender or race. It’s a universal question that we should all put our differences aside and work collaboratively toward addressing.

Hopefully we’ll have another focus forum and then I will take that out in the field with the SSEED students, collecting feedback and taking it to Dr. Holmes and her group to analyze it. I am hoping we’ll get funding to continue the project and have gotten good support from the community. I’m thankful that the funding that we have was a primer to get us started. I envision that this will be a tipping point.

Summer research team focuses on disaster impacts on minority communities

This past summer, Old Dominion University (ODU) hosted a summer research team led by Norfolk State University (NSU) faculty Dr. Camellia Okpodu and Dr. Bernadette Holmes as part of an interdisciplinary, multi-institution collaborative summer research project.

Norfolk State University students Mikel Johnson an Raisa Barrera participated in a summer research team project at Old Dominion University.
Norfolk State University students Mikel Johnson an Raisa Barrera participated in a summer research team project at Old Dominion University.

The project was titled “A Systems Approach:  Developing Cross-Site Multiple Drivers to Understand Climate Change, Sea-level Rise and Coastal Flooding for an African American Community in Portsmouth, VA.”  Dr. Okpodu, Professor of Biology, led biological and ecological aspects of the project and Dr. Holmes, Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, led the sociological part of the project. Read more about the research in this Q&A.

Funding for the project came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Summer Research Team (SRT) Program. The program aims to increase and enhance the scientific leadership at Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) in research areas that support the mission and goals of DHS.

The project included five students, three from NSU and two from ODU:

  • Raisa Barrera, Graduating Senior, Biology (NSU)
  • Mikel Johnson, Rising Senior, Sociology (NSU)
  • Bryan Clayborne, Rising Senior, Sociology (NSU)
  • Donta Council, Doctoral student, Public Administration and Policy (ODU)
  • Isaiah Amos, Master’s student, Ecological Sciences (ODU)

The ODU team, most of whom are part of a DHS Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) project, included Principal Investigator Dr. Larry Atkinson, Dr. Wie Yusuf, Dr. Michelle Covi, Dr. Joshua Behr and Dr. Gail Nicula. The researchers are part of the ODU Resilience Collaborative. The ODU graduate students were sponsored by the DHS Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence.

Dr. Okpodu developed a questionnaire for the Chesapeake Bay region’s minority populations, seeking to learn more about why those populations are considered to have a lower affinity for the environment and environmental resources than the general population.

Dr. Holmes developed a framework for studying the views of African Americans about  sea level rise and coastal flooding in the Hampton Roads area. Evidence shows that minority communities are disproportionately impacted by natural hazards, including coastal hazard threats. Both professors plan further work to explore their frameworks.

The ODU researchers provided guidance and feedback, served as a resource for engaging the local community, provided guidance on data management and supervised ODU graduate students participating in the multi-institutional project teams.

The summer research project builds on work done by other researchers at ODU on the disproportionate impact of flooding on low-resource communities, and their adaptation to flood events, Dr. Wie Yusuf of ODU said.

“The collaborative work with NSU was helpful in that it highlighted some key areas related to environmental justice and social justice, particularly as it relates to impacts of sea level rise on under-resourced communities such as the African American community in Portsmouth,” Dr. Yusuf said.

Student participant Barrera said the new skills she gained during the summer will help her future educational and research efforts.

“This research experience afforded me a hands-on opportunity studying plant DNA and physiology and an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of how sea-level rise and coastal flooding effect the gene expression of native coastal plants,” Barrera said. “Our research provides data that will bring understanding to how Virginia native coastal plants – which protect our coastline and vulnerable communities and ecosystems – respond to sea-level rise and flash flooding induced by climate change. Millions of Americans live in coastal communities that have ecosystems that can be negatively affected by flash flooding and sea-level rise.”

The Hampton Roads region, which includes 17 jurisdictions, has varying vulnerabilities and responses to flooding and sea level rise, she said. Working with NSU will help to spread resources across universities in the region, and coincides with another ODU project to network with researchers at the region’s other universities and community organizations.

Millions of Americans live in coastal communities that have ecosystems that can be negatively affected by flash flooding and sea-level rise.

“In terms of future collaborations, I think we’ve just begun to scratch the surface,” Dr. Yusuf said. “In the short-term, I envision the ODU-NSU team to continue to collaborate on projects assessing the vulnerability of under-resourced communities such as those in Portsmouth. In the longer term, the connection to social justice and environmental justice is what really resonated with the ODU team, and I foresee us continuing to work in this area.”

This partnership is part of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program managed by Oak Ridge Affiliated Universities (ORAU), which solicits competitive proposals from MSIs to perform summer research in residence at one of the DHS Centers of Excellence (COEs) under the mentorship of a COE researcher.

The student researchers presented outcomes of their summer work in late July. A recording of the complete presentation is available on the ODU website.  Individual student presentations are also available:

Slides from Dr. Okpodu can be viewed here and from Dr. Holmes can be viewed here.

Students participate in second annual summer exchange program

For the second summer, undergraduate and graduate students in Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) education programs were involved in a wide variety of academic exchange and professional internship programs, providing them the opportunity to gain important research skills and experience designed to aid their academic and future careers.

Sabrina Welch of Jackson State University learns about surveying at the University of Central Florida as part of the CRC's SUMREX program. Photo by Dr. Stephen Medeiros.
Sabrina Welch of Jackson State University learns about surveying at the University of Central Florida as part of the CRC’s SUMREX program. Photo by Dr. Stephen Medeiros.

Eight students who are enrolled in CRC-supported courses at partner universities were hosted by principal investigators (PIs) of CRC research projects through the SUMmer Research Experience (SUMREX) Program. As part of the program, CRC Education & Workforce Development partners arrange for one or more students to visit the home institution of participating CRC researchers for a summer research internship lasting between six and 10 weeks. Key to the program’s success is making the best match between the student interns and the research PIs, so that the students have the opportunity to become fully immersed in a research project. Students come largely from Minority-Serving Institutions, part of the CRC’s work to increase diversity in research environments.

Sabrina Welch, a PhD candidate in Engineering at Jackson State University, and Diego Delgado, a graduate student in Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, were hosted first by Dr. Stephen Medeiros at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and later by Dr. Scott Hagen at Louisiana State University (LSU).

During the UCF portion of her summer experience, Welch said she learned the fundamentals of the ADvanced CIRCulation (ADCIRC) model. This included the completion of a mathematical methods pre-test in addition to the Surface-water Modeling System (SMS + ADCIRC) boot camp tutorial. Two field days were also included, the first covering the basics of Real Time Kinematic (RTK) surveying, while the second day focused on teaching methods of assessing land cover in order to determine Manning’s n Value for a site of interest.

The second half of Welch’s SUMREX experience was spent at LSU, where she applied the knowledge gained at UCF. At LSU, she learned about high-performance computing and the Linux command line, the generation of ADCIRC required input files, executed storm surge simulations and analyzed output data.

“The SUMREX research program was a great experience for me as a rising ADCIRC user,” Welch said. “My participation in this program has led to an improved understanding of the ADCIRC system, which is beneficial since ADCIRC will play a major role in my PhD dissertation topic, and the knowledge gained will aid in the development of my aspiring career as a coastal engineer.”

In other pairings, two students from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, Hector J. Colon and Peter Rivera, both undergraduate students in Engineering, were hosted by Dr. Dan Cox at Oregon State University, where they learned about extreme surge/wave forces during hurricanes.

Stephen Kreller, a graduate student in Geography at Louisiana State University, was hosted by Dr. Brian Blanton at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose project involves developing enhancements to the ADCIRC storm surge model.

The University of Rhode Island (URI) hosted three undergraduate students from Tougaloo College: Psychology major Courtney Hill and Biology majors Rosalie Cissé and Kierra Jones. As a participant in URI’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURFO) program, Hill worked with co-PI Pam Rubinoff on the CRC project “Overcoming Barriers to Motivate Community Action to Enhance Resilience.” The summer project examined how the 2010 floods of Rhode Island led to specific reforms, creating a timeline of events, gathering information from documents and press reports and creating a social network map to showcase the various roles involved when discussing the new policies.

Cissé worked on a project identifying species of toxic plankton bloom present in the Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound in 2016.  Jones worked on a project analyzing the role of phytoplankton to temperature changes.

One-day exchange

Johnson C. Smith students spent a day learning from PI Dr. Casey Dietrich (foreground, left) at North Carolina State University.
Johnson C. Smith students spent a day learning from PI Dr. Casey Dietrich (foreground, left) at North Carolina State University.

Summer activities also included a one-day exchange where students from Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) in Charlotte, N.C., visited North Carolina State University (NCSU). Nine students enrolled in a summer research program led by Dr. Hang Chen visited the NCSU Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering (CCEE),   where CRC PI Dr. Casey Dietrich exposed the students to the concepts of computing-intensive and coastal resilience research.

The visiting students learned about the CCCE department, along with summer and graduate program opportunities. Dr. Dietrich arranged presentations and discussions with faculty members in their computing and system group. Ten faculty members presented their interdisciplinary research projects addressing problems throughout civil and environmental engineering using computational tools. The JCSU students also interacted with Dr. Dietrich’s graduate students and learned more about their  individual research projects.

Imyer Majors, a computer engineering major at Johnson C. Smith University, said he learned “exactly what an engineering graduate student looks like and how much work and dedication is put into the students’ work.

“We had the opportunity to go around to each student’s work area and hear their stories on what they all created,” Majors said. “I love the honesty they gave on the difficulties they were faced with in certain areas of their projects, and how they were able to think of different ways to solve them.”

CRC graduate participates in Hurricane Irma recovery

Matrix McDaniel, far right, is a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District Power Team currently working in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to aid recovery from Hurricane Irma.
Matrix McDaniel, far right, is a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District Power Team currently working in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to aid recovery from Hurricane Irma. Photo submitted.

A graduate of a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) education program is part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) team aiding in Hurricane Irma recovery.

Matrix McDaniel, a spring 2016 graduate of Jackson State University who earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering, is part of a 14-person USACE Memphis District team responding to impacts of Hurricane Irma in Puerto Rico. The team arrived in the island territory on Sept. 11 to provide technical expertise and “turn-key” installation of FEMA emergency generators at critical public facilities, such as hospitals and shelters.

McDaniel joined the Memphis District earlier in the summer and is pursuing his Master of Science degree in Engineering with a Coastal Engineering concentration. His graduate education has been supported by the Education and Workforce Development program of the Department of Homeland Security Office of University Programs. One of the goals of the CRC’s education programs is to educate and place graduates in the workforce of the greater Homeland Security enterprise.

McDaniel’s role with the USACE Power Team is Action Officer, linking USACE, FEMA and other government institutions to fulfill requests. His background is in the technical elements of engineering, he said, and he has realized the value of project management skills in running on-the-ground projects. He said he credits his JSU education with providing a strong foundation in the engineering process.

“With project management experience, in addition to technical expertise, an engineer can venture into many more roles and gather many different experiences,” McDaniel said. “This is relevant because although the mission is to help repair infrastructure, the mission my team had was more about governing.”

The Power Team is part of more than 700 USACE employees in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, North Carolina AND Texas supporting the response to hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Hurricane Irma passed north of Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm on Sept. 7, causing more than 1 million residents to lose power in the initial wake of the event.

HBCU experts gather for Flood and Hurricane Meeting

Attendees of the HBCU Flood and Hurricane Meeting pose with U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (center, at podium).

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) hosted their first Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Flood and Hurricane Meeting Aug. 3-4 on the campus of Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss. The CRC university network includes 21 universities and colleges from throughout the country.

More than 30 researchers and other professionals representing 21 HBCUs from Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Mississippi, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama and the District of Columbia attended the meeting.  The HBCU representatives  interacted with CRC researchers on issues related to response and recovery from natural disasters within minority communities. Because of their locations, historical significance, and positive reputations within their surrounding communities,  HBCUs are likely to be able to help improve outcomes within minority communities.

Stephanie Willett, a program manager within the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Office of University Programs (OUP), assisted with organizing the meeting. As program manager she has worked intensely with various HBCUs for the past nine years. She has overseen the management of grants, internships and summer programs intended to increase capabilities and involvement of HBCUs in homeland security mission space.  The meeting provided an opportunity for HBCUs with ties to S&T and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to interact and identify synergistic opportunities for future work and opportunities.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, gave the keynote address at the event. Rep. Thompson, a Tougaloo College graduate, spoke about the partnership DHS has with HBCUs and the importance of diversity within the universities that are involved with DHS.

“When I went to meetings [at DHS], there was no one who looked like Bennie Thompson, and I wondered, why?” Rep. Thompson said. “I am trying to make sure the playing field looks like America.”

Rep. Thompson said that through dealing with multiple hurricanes in the Gulf region of Mississippi – including Katrina and Rita– he began to better understand the gaps in emergency management planning for underserved communities. These communities are often disproportionately impacted by natural hazards, he said, and a mission for HBCUs is to train future professionals to provide a talented, local workforce for major emergency management functions.

“We want to, over time, grow that product so we have it here locally,” Rep. Thompson said.

The event featured presentations on CRC education projects by Dr. Meherun Laiju and CRC Education & Workforce Development Director Dr. Robert Whalin. Dr. Gavin Smith, the CRC Director,  spoke about the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative, through which University of North Carolina faculty, staff and students, along with state and federal officials, work with six local governments in eastern North Carolina to plan for long-term recovery needs.

Other featured speakers were Norma Anderson, founder of the William Averette (Bill) Anderson Fund; Ellis Stanley, Chairman of the Global Board of the International Association of Emergency Managers; and Dr. April Tanner, who teaches computer science at Jackson State University.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi speaks to attendees of the HBCU Flood and Hurricane Meeting at Tougaloo on Aug. 3.

The Bill Anderson Fund (BAF) was started in honor of its late namesake, who was director of the Natural Disasters Roundtable at the National Academies/National Research Council. The BAF works to increase minority representation in the hazard and disaster mitigation fields, with a heavy emphasis on mentorship, especially of Ph.D. candidates. It currently has 14 fellows, more than 50 volunteers, and is supported by more than 700 individual donors.

Norma Anderson said she works to engage future scholars by asking them to think about their next steps and to ensure the hazards and disasters field reflects the society it impacts. Greater community understanding, she said, can help mitigate future hazards.

“HBCUs should be in a position of understanding what our communities need,” she said. “Many cities are a Flint [Michigan] waiting to happen.”

Stanley stressed the importance of coordination of individuals and groups within university communities to make sure those most impacted by hazards are involved in preparedness discussions. He said that many people don’t know who emergency management officials are in their community, and that students are more aware of community conversations taking place through social media. Engagement across income spectrums is also key to preparedness, he said.

“Poor people are probably the most resilient people in your community because they have to fight to survive every single day,” Stanley said.

Dr. Tanner spoke about her research on the role of social media in disasters. Pulling from government-established social media models as well as commercial systems, Dr. Tanner said she hopes to analyze data on past hazards response to improve response to future events.

Participants broke into groups to discuss how HBCUs could be better involved with the OUP mission and work on coastal resilience efforts specifically. Some of the conclusions and recommendations generated during these discussions included:

  • Utilize the expertise on HBCU campuses – law enforcement, emergency managers, urban planning, computer science – as well as existing relationships with disadvantaged communities and state and local officials.
  • Enhance campus and community engagement through a variety of education options – digital, in-person and tailored to communities.
  • Engage veterinary and agriculture programs to increase their capacity to prepare for hazards. Utilize agriculture programs’ relationship with the rural community and their additional resources to enhance relationships outside of campuses.
  • Identify other stakeholders within disproportionately impacted communities, including churches and nursing homes.
  • Emphasize the integration of social media, GIS mapping and other technologies in education and response training.

Meldon Hollis, J.D., a visiting lecturer at Savannah State University, said that education programs sometimes have to choose between training emergency management practitioners or future scholars.

Attendees at the HBCU Flood and Hurricane Meeting discuss breakout session questions.
Attendees at the HBCU Flood and Hurricane Meeting discuss breakout session questions.

“You have to figure out if you’re training people going out into communities or educating people to get their Ph.D or their master’s,” Hollis said. “We need both, but it’s hard to do that if you’re short on resources.”

Curtis Johnson, Director of Campus Safety and Government Relations at Arkansas Baptist College, said he hopes to further engage the law enforcement community on emergency preparedness and hazard mitigation issues on campus. He has worked to establish a formal emergency management program on campus, and the meeting gave him further information and contacts to push that discussion forward.

“I have already visited the City of Little Rock as far as integration with our campus,” he said. “I think we have some things in motion that we didn’t have before that will impact our city and the people who really need help.”

Dr. Jessica Murphy, Associate Professor and Technology Education Master’s Degree Program Coordinator at Jackson State University, said the discussion of drawing lessons from other countries was particularly interesting.

“At this point, we have been more focused on growing our program from within,” she said. “However, in working with other HBCUs with their distinct programs to grow our own, as well as working with international collaborators, I think that’s one of the key things that will expand our knowledge of emergency management.”

Design teams develop options for Princeville

Residents urged to get involved

When Hurricane Matthew flooded Princeville last fall, it marked the second time in less than 20 years that a flood nearly wiped out the town. Local, state and federal leaders vowed to work with the community to help them recover and figure out solutions to help preserve one of the country’s most historically significant towns.

This week, local and state leaders will host a five-day community design workshop to bring together teams of land use planners, engineers, architects and landscape architects to collaborate with local, state and federal  officials to develop three scenarios for a new 52-acre tract of land that the state intends to buy. The parcel will include houses, businesses, infrastructure, public facilities and community open space in ways that ensure that the new space connects physically, socially, environmentally and economically to historic portions of town.          

“Princeville has a deep, rich history and incredibly resilient people,” said Dempsey Benton, Governor’s Recovery Office director who is leading the hurricane recovery efforts. “The town has a rare opportunity to develop a new portion of land that will be better able to withstand flooding while still preserving this historic community.”

The design workshop begins Friday, Aug. 25. Various local and state officials will make technical presentations to the designers to outline the planning and visioning process and also describe the culture and history of Princeville, review local codes and standards, flooding history, floodplain management and hazard mitigation programs. Additionally, they will discuss levee issues and proposed solutions, and review best practices and lessons learned from other community design projects across the country. Friday afternoon, local officials will lead the design teams on a tour of the community.

During the day Saturday through Monday, the design teams will create three conceptual plans for Princeville’s future. Each evening from 6 to 8 p.m., the three teams will present their ideas at an open house to gather feedback from local residents and town leaders, then adjust the designs based on input they receive. Residents are encouraged to come multiple nights to see the evolving designs as they change based on public input.

“Local input is critical,” said Mayor Bobbie Jones. “This is our town and we want our citizens to help decide its future. These plans will help ensure our future.”

Co-sponsored by the town of Princeville, Edgecombe County, NC State Design School, the UNC Center for Coastal Resilience, North Carolina Emergency Management and the Governor’s Recovery Office, the workshop is a one-of-a-kind collaborative effort amongst government agencies, universities, and subject matter experts to protect one of nation’s most significant towns.

 “Our goal is to partner with the people of Princeville and together develop a workable plan for a community that is flood resilient, attractive, safe and welcoming,” said Gavin Smith, professor in the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning and director of the Coastal Resilience Center who is leading the Princeville design workshop. 

Tuesday evening at 6, the design teams will present their final concepts for how the town could be developed in a way that connects the new tract of land with historic Princeville, while still allowing the town to expand in the future. Ultimately, town leaders will determine which plan is the most viable.

Initiative addresses community needs post-Matthew

Dr. Gavin Smith, who heads the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery & Resilience Initiative, walks along Main Street in downtown Fair Bluff, N.C., one of six communities that is the focus of the project. Photo by Darien Williams.
Dr. Gavin Smith, who heads the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative, walks along Main Street in downtown Fair Bluff, N.C., one of six communities that is the focus of the project. Photo by Darien Williams.

Matthew work continues in 6 impacted communities 

Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) researchers, state officials and students from the University of North Carolina system have begun field work to address the unique needs of communities in eastern North Carolina impacted by Hurricane Matthew.

They are working as part of the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative (Initiative), which began earlier this year to address recovery and rebuilding issues in six communities: Princeville, Fair Bluff, Seven Springs, Windsor, Kinston and Lumberton. Since early spring, a team led by CRC Director and UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Dr. Gavin Smith has met with leaders from the six communities to learn about the particular challenges the communities face.

The Initiative is funded by the State of North Carolina (through disaster-recovery appropriations and through the N.C. Policy Collaboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, through the Flood Apex program.

The towns face unique issues and are located in four distinct watersheds: Fair Bluff and Lumberton along the Lumber River; Kinston and Seven Springs in the Neuse River watershed; Princeville in the Tar-Pamlico watershed; and Windsor along the Cashie River.

Several projects underway

Princeville, N.C., officials give a tour of the damage to the town museum, which was damaged by Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Jessica Southwell.
Princeville, N.C., officials give a tour of the damage to the town museum, which was damaged by Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Jessica Southwell.

Within the larger Initiative, recovery planning is underway to support each of the six communities, which involves deep community engagement throughout the process. The recovery planning process includes creating a broad community vision, a set of associated goals and the identification of policies and projects. Common themes addressed in a recovery plan include housing, infrastructure, public facilities, public health, hazard mitigation, economic development and finance. Recovery planning projects intended to help residents turn their communities’ vision of recovery into reality include:

  • A team from North Carolina State University’s (NCSU) College of Design, led by Professor Andrew Fox, is designing housing prototypes for residents who are being bought out and will relocate. The proposed housing designs will ultimately inform bid specifications used by builders to construct replacement housing in the affected communities, but located outside the floodplain.

The NCSU College of Design has also developed open space guidance to be used by communities participating in the buyout. Once acquired, the home is demolished and the land turned into open space. Appropriately designed, this open space can serve as local amenities and as community greenways, pocket parks and flood retention areas. The housing designs and open space guidance have been combined in a report titled “HomePlace,” and will be placed online once completed.

  • Dr. Mai Nguyen, of the Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC-CH, is leading an effort along with several UNC-CH graduate students to focus on housing and relocation strategies. This effort focuses on families who have chosen to accept buyouts of their properties, including interviews with residents to ascertain family size, whether they would be able to return to a new home nearby (but outside of the floodplain) and other factors that can inform the types and locations of replacement housing to be built.
  • The HMDRRI is also working with North Carolina Emergency Management, including Lea Sabbag, a former Career Development Grant recipient at the CRC. Sabbag is part of a group studying affordable housing solutions for impacted communities.

    Princeville, N.C., Commissioner Milton Bullock (orange shirt) gives HMDRRI staff and students a tour of Hurricane Matthew-impacted areas of the town. Photo by Jessica Southwell.
    Princeville, N.C., Commissioner Milton Bullock (orange shirt) gives HMDRRI staff and students a tour of Hurricane Matthew-impacted areas of the town. Photo by Jessica Southwell.
  • Sarah Odio of the Development Finance Initiative, part of the School of Government at UNC-CH, is leading a study focused on the financial viability and associated economic development opportunities in three hard-hit communities.
  • The N.C. Rural Center is funding an effort to identify varied flood retrofit techniques for historic downtown buildings. These funds will enable experts from the Association of State Floodplain Managers to conduct this study. The results and estimated costs will be used to inform efforts to identify funds to implement the techniques identified.

Community needs assessed

As part of the process of gathering information to assist in recovery planning for six communities impacted by Hurricane Matthew, Initiative staff, students and partners made community visits from May 15-17, 2017. During visits to Fair Bluff, Kinston, Seven Springs, Windsor and Princeville, the project team toured damaged historic downtown and residential areas, and spoke with local stakeholders on issues faced on the road to recovery.

N.C. State University Professor Andrew Fox, right, discusses redesign options for buildings in Seven Springs, N.C., with Mayor Stephen Potter, second from right. Photo by Mary Lide Parker.
N.C. State University Professor Andrew Fox, right, discusses redesign options for buildings in Seven Springs, N.C., with Mayor Stephen Potter, second from right. Photo by Mary Lide Parker.

An important objective of the HMDRRI is to link schools within the University of North Carolina system through resource-sharing agreements to assist targeted communities with unmet needs. Initiative leadership is working with local governments and the N.C. Governor’s Office, in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Community Planning and Capacity Building group.

All six communities have faced significant impacts from Hurricane Matthew and subsequent flooding, and have modest-to-low capacity to address recovery needs, which will necessitate working with them for 1-2 years.

Another important aspect of the Initiative is to provide a hands-on learning environment for students, who gain practical experience not found in the classroom.

“Working with my peers on this project, outside of a more prescriptive experience, and dealing with many unknowns, has presented a different set of challenges than working in a classroom,” UNC-Chapel Hill student and CRC Education and Workforce Development grant recipient Colleen Durfee said. “I am working through these situations with talented, passionate individuals on the project who want to impact change in these communities. Recovery can be unpredictable, and we can use what we have learned while being challenged – you don’t get that in the classroom.”

For instance, some design concepts for impacted communities were proposed during a student competition, DesignWeek, which was held at NCSU’s College of Design in January. Students from multiple North Carolina universities came together to assess the best ways for two impacted communities studied under the Initiative – Windsor and Kinston (and a third, Greenville) to rebuild.

About 70 students worked in teams, along with participating schools’ faculty, industry representatives and community leaders, to research and create designs that mitigate flood damage and improve resiliency in the towns. Some student perspectives can be found on the CRC blog.

Four teams of students won student awards – three Analysis & Planning Honor Awards and one Analysis & Planning Merit Award – at the 2017 American Society of Landscape Architects Southeastern Regional Conference in June.

Other efforts

Seven Springs, N.C., business owner and resident Ronda Hughes, center, discusses the impacts of Hurricane Matthew on her property. Photo by Mary Lide Parker.
Seven Springs, N.C., business owner and resident Ronda Hughes, center, discusses the impacts of Hurricane Matthew on her property. Photo by Mary Lide Parker.

Additional researchers are working with the six communities, including some involved in other CRC projects. CRC Principal Investigator Dr. Jen Horney has proposed working with the Department of Health and Human Services to apply her CRC project’s disaster recovery indicators in impacted communities.

Another project is closely tied to CRC’s participation in the Flood Apex project, a FEMA initiative that brings new and emerging technologies together to increase communities’ resilience to flood events and to provide predictive analytic tools for floods. A Floyd-Matthew Study component of Flood Apex will explore the hazard mitigation policies, plans, investments, activities and actions taken by the State of North Carolina after Hurricane Floyd (1999) to increase resilience. These actions, which could have lessened the impact of Hurricane Matthew, will be studied to improve understanding of the impacts of state- and local-level mitigation actions over the course of repeat disasters.

For more information on the CRC’s involvement in Hurricane Matthew recovery, and to find resources for other UNC-CH involvement, visit the Hurricane Matthew Information page. To see images from site visits, visit the CRC Flickr account.

Q&A: Career Development Grant recipient Ashton Rohmer

Ashton Rohmer, a recent master’s graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was one of the first recipients of the Career Development Grants (CDG) from the Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC). She reflected on her work with the CRC and other projects to bring together practitioners focusing on resilience.

Can you describe the work you did with the CRC during graduate school and how it shaped your career goals?

I worked on two major projects with CRC Director Dr. Gavin Smith over the past two years. One examined the state’s role in disaster recovery, a project that was aided by the fact that Dr. Smith has been quite involved with various state recovery operations in his career. In particular, we looked at both Mississippi’s response to Hurricane Katrina and North Carolina’s response to Hurricane Floyd, specifically on recovery processes. Together with Lea Sabbag, the first CDG recipient, I helped with drafting the overview pieces for each state and also proofread and edited the final article that Dr. Smith authored and that we’re hoping to get published in an academic journal.

Ashton Rohmer

The other project that I worked on was the Resilient Design Education Study, which was requested by the White House under the Obama administration, as a way to learn about the state of resilient design education at colleges and universities across the U.S. There are different disciplines that relate to the topic of resilient design that we focused on for our study – engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, planning and building sciences. We wanted to get a sense of what these programs were offering to students, what innovative programs there might be, and potentially what gaps and challenges schools might face. We are hoping that this information could be helpful to catalog existing programs, identify best practices, and determine whether or not students are adequately prepared to go into this field and contribute to our nation’s homeland security efforts.

 

Describe your experience interning with the National Park Service in the summer of 2016 and how that applies to the sort of things you want to do in your career, regarding climate.

I was really fortunate to be selected for the George Melendez Wright Initiative for Young Leaders in Climate Change. I worked with the National Park Service Park Planning and Special Studies Division in Washington, D.C. as a climate change adaptation planning intern. I was involved with several projects: One was interviewing park superintendents, park planners at the regional level, facility managers for specific parks, the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Manager, and others who have insight into climate change issues at coastal park units about the challenges they face around climate change and the progress they have made to make their parks more resilient.

Through these interviews, I collected information about projects that made coastal park units more resilient to storm surge, sea-level rise, and other climate change impacts, and then created six fact sheets with detailed information that could potentially help other parks look at what their options are and determine how feasible different projects would be. I wrote a report on my activities and presented it to leadership within my group to highlight what we could do to better support parks’ work in the face of climate change. It was a very helpful experience working with the Park Service because I now have a better understanding of not only how climate change is affecting infrastructure and buildings, but also natural and cultural resources. That exposure and the folks I was able to talk with who expanded my knowledge of climate science and specific impacts that are happening on the ground will be useful going forward in whatever career I end up in.

 

You started the Carolina Hazards and Resilience Planners group – it’s a listserv, a newsletter and a website, and you planned a Triangle Resilience Student Research Symposium. Can you tell me about how that started and what you hope to do with it in the future?

In my first semester, I got a request to send a resource to “all of the hazards people” – I didn’t really know who those were, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to come up with a way to reach out in a centralized fashion. Lea and I began by collecting email addresses and sending the Triangle Resilience newsletter, which included job postings, events, and articles. The newsletter catalyzed the creation of the Triangle Resilience blog, which served as a repository for newsletter content. Now that I’ve graduated I hope to transfer that to another student – fortunately there are several students in the program who are passionate about hazards, so I’m hoping there will be interest to keep it going.

The newsletter and blog led to the creation of the Carolina Hazards and Resilience Planners (CHRP) group within the Department of City and Regional Planning [at UNC-CH], which serves to give the growing group of students interested in hazards a way to come together and create programming that is helpful to their academic or professional pursuits. We are open to people all across the Triangle, and indeed would love to collaborate with students from local universities or different schools and departments at UNC.

The CHRP group coalesced around an idea for a research symposium – which we held in April – that would provide students from UNC, Duke, and NC State an opportunity to present their research in a low-cost, low-pressure setting. We were also successful in bringing experts from different fields to the Symposium to share their insights on issues related to equity, communicating with local stakeholders on climate change issues in the current political atmosphere, and how to work across silos. These panels and discussions were a great complement to the student presentations.

Going forward, I am abdicating my duties, but have spoken with some current students about how best to move the group forward and ensure that student interests are well represented in our events. Either way, I am hoping that these efforts will continue to bring students, researchers, and practitioners from across the Triangle together and also recognize opportunities to co-host events and highlight resources across a broader audience than just our little student group at UNC.

 

You have been working with the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative to aide recovery for six eastern North Carolina communities. What have been your biggest takeaways from this kind of work?

The primary takeaway I have is an appreciation of just how complex recovery is. Specifically, recovery is a constant tug-of-war between speed and deliberation – it’s something we talked about it a lot in class, but being in it gives you a whole new perspective. We’re constantly having conversations about meeting unmet needs as soon as possible, but also doing so in a way that is responsible as there are broader issues that we need to keep in mind. Thankfully, though, I’ve also learned that there are a lot of passionate and smart people working on recovery issues. While it’s complex coordinating with all of those different partners, it’s also encouraging to know that there are so many people that are trying their best to help these communities in North Carolina.

 

What does the future hold for you?

I’ve been so grateful to have received support from the Department of Homeland Security to pursue my passion for resilience, and look forward to finding a job contributing to the field. Throughout the past two years as a fellow, student and conference participant, I have been amazed by how broad the field is, how interesting and dynamic it is, and how many opportunities exist. Because there are so many areas involved in resilience and hazards, my experiences thus far have taught me that once I find a niche, it will be really important for me to keep that in mind – the idea that, while I might be focused on a specific aspect of resilience, there are hundreds and thousands of people who are working on a wide variety of issues that will have a lot of overlap with what I’m doing, and to not shy away from trying to make those connections and see how we can all work together to make more resilient communities. Lastly, I’ve learned how critically important it is to look at resilience through an equity lens, so I hope to work in a place that values tackling the social justice issues that increase vulnerability.

Education program to teach project management skills in emergency response settings

In the 10 years between 2003-2012, natural disasters caused estimated global losses of more than $150 billion and the loss of more than 100,000 lives per year, according to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster. Recovery from these disasters involves emergency management activities paid for by federal, state and local agencies and organizations.

For her project with the Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC), Dr. Sandra Knight treats that recovery and building of resilience as a large-scale project that can be approached through project management frameworks.

Dr. Sandra Knight
Dr. Sandra Knight

The project led by Dr. Knight, “Development and Testing of a Project Management Curriculum for Emergency Managers,” at the University of Maryland (UMD) focuses on developing a curriculum to improve project management skills in the emergency management community. Other participants in the project include John Cable and Dr. Allison Reilly of the Project Management Institute at UMD.

To better manage the escalating costs and complex demands of natural hazards, emergency managers, engineers and construction managers should integrate their skills to deliver projects and programs that are resilient in post-disaster environments, Dr. Knight said. The goal of the education project is to develop and test a curriculum that combines the challenges of emergency management with the capabilities and technologies introduced through project management processes.

The Multi-Hazard Mitigation Council has established that building resilience into the built, environmental and social systems helps mitigate financial losses by a factor of at least 4:1.  While mitigating in advance of disasters is desirable, most funds are provided in a post-disaster environment – the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster mitigation grants represent approximately 15 percent of the total disaster dollars, Dr. Knight said.  Major investments are made through public assistance funds, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants and supplemental appropriations for disaster response, clean-up and recovery.

“Managing the vast portfolio of disaster funds, which come from many disparate sources, is a daunting task that can be improved through proven organizational processes,” Dr. Knight said. “We live in an environment where the cost of disasters, particularly in coastal areas, is continually rising. By the year 2050, one report estimates that we’ll experience losses of $1 trillion a year in coastal areas.

“It is imperative, in this often-urgent post-disaster environment, that project and emergency managers have the right training and educational skills to effectively deliver projects on-time and on-budget while being considerate of the needs of the community and planning for a resilient future.”

A FEMA Community Relations team, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and State Emergency Response Team (SERT) members meet as they go door to door providing outreach for potential Tropical Storm Fay-affected residents in 2008. Photo by George Armstrong/FEMA.
A FEMA Community Relations team, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and State Emergency Response Team (SERT) members meet as they go door to door providing outreach for potential Tropical Storm Fay-affected residents in 2008. Photo by George Armstrong/FEMA.

Disasters create disruptive environments that require emergency managers to make critical decisions within limited time frames with often less-than-optimal resources, she said. These decisions include executing and managing projects and programs under volatile change management scenarios while people and communities are dealing with loss and confusion.

“By incorporating modern project management processes, technologies and skills, emergency managers will be able to manage and execute disaster-related projects and meet resilience goals more effectively and efficiently,” Dr. Knight said. “By building disaster-resilient concepts and emergency protocols into project management processes, project managers will be equipped to contribute to a more sustainable and disaster-resilient future.”

The project combines two distinct functions and career fields: Emergency management, which functions to protect communities and reduce vulnerabilities by mitigating and responding to hazards, and project management, the process of applying specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to meet project requirements. Project management tools include managing cost and schedules, preparing for change and mitigating project risks, maintaining quality assurance and quality control, while communicating expectations to those responsible for the projects and programs and those impacted by them.

Applying project management organizational processes and tools to emergency management, Dr. Knight said researchers hope to allow emergency managers to meet resilience goals more efficiently. By building disaster-resilience concepts and emergency protocols into project management, project managers will be better equipped to contribute to overall resilience.

Practitioners in emergency management and project managers who carry out emergency management activities will have the opportunity to hone their knowledge and skills through a set of courses that will be offered through the existing UMD Project Management Program. Curricula will be developed to support existing certifications for practitioners and both degree and non-degree programs at the University of Maryland. An introductory course, “Principles of Disaster Management,” was taught in the spring 2017 semester, with 11 students participating.

Managing the vast portfolio of disaster funds, which come from many disparate sources, is a daunting task that can be improved through proven organizational processes. We live in an environment where the cost of disasters, particularly in coastal areas, is continually rising.

Initial feedback was very positive, Dr. Knight said. Several students said that the experience made them more likely to pursue disaster-related fields, and scored highly the discussion of engineering solutions to societal issues.

UMD’s Center for Disaster Resilience will develop and test courses through coordination with the International Association of Emergency Management, FEMA coordinating offices and other potential Homeland Security partners. The project team will create targeted training materials and short-courses to provide the broadest access possible for practitioners.

While some emergency managers have experience in operating in fast-paced and disruptive environments, most do not have formal project management training, Knight said.

“When emergency managers, construction engineers and design engineers hit the ground post-disaster to recover and rebuild, it’s important that they do so smartly and effectively,” Dr. Knight said.