Clemson researchers developing program on disaster preparedness

CLEMSON, S.C. (WSPA) – It’s been nearly a year since record flooding swept South Carolina leaving lots of damage behind.

Now, Clemson University researchers say they’re working on a program that could help improve how communities bounce back from that kind of disaster.

 “When hurricane Sandy hit New York City, because of the floods, the [financial] systems were down and people could not purchase gas to evacuate the area and they got stuck because you don’t think about these things,” the program lead investigator and director, Sez Atamturktur explained.

The project director kickstarted the student program with a $3 million grant through the National Science Foundation. The money will go to research and graduate classes that could find ways to keep basic necessities like transportation, communication and energy reachable and functioning in times of need.

The researchers say cyber, social, and financial systems depend more on each other than we think, especially in lower income areas.

“We will focus on areas that have neglected infrastructure in under served and under privileged areas,” Sez added. “Those areas tend to have the most vulnerability.”

Sez tells us she was inspired to move forward with the programming after the devastating flooding that hit our state last year. With newer technology connecting more people on a larger level, disaster response has become more difficult, according to researchers. That’s why they believe their work will be critical to how preparedness changes in the future.

“This could be very very big,” she said. ”It is very needed and it is necessary in dealing with 21st century challenges.”

The students will be working on the I-95 corridor that was hit hard by the floods. They’ll collect data on different depending infrastructures there, using computer models and return to the area with possible solutions for improvements, once their done.

They’ll take what they learn to other experts, to find and bridge gaps on disaster planning that could help save lives globally.

“They can survive extreme conditions, extreme impacts a lot of them are water proof and can handle extreme temperatures for long periods of time,” Sez said. “In the event happens, something goes wrong and you look back at it, learn some lessons and in hindsight, correct things.”

Their grant is the first one of its kind through the National Science Foundation Research Program in South Carolina.

The new graduate degree program is expected to begin classes next fall.

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