Hurricane Disaster Infrastructure Relief and Resilience Planning

In the wake of last year’s hurricane disasters impacting the lives of many Americans, the media highlighted the need for more preparedness and better adapted infrastructure to mitigate the impact of future catastrophes.

AIChE received a grant from the United Engineering Foundation (UEF) in January 2018 to support two high-level, multi-disciplinary roadmapping workshops on hurricane disaster relief and resiliency. 

These workshops, which will involve participation from the other engineering societies and other key infrastructure resilience specialists, will address the immediate need to strategically rebuild disaster-prone areas recently affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria. They will also discuss long-term planning to optimize infrastructure for hurricane resilience across the U.S.

The goal of the workshops is to convene all of the key engineering professions to develop a roadmap highlighting the key areas, that if addressed through engineering, would improve both our preparedness as well as our recovery from hurricanes.

The first workshop

 Recognizing the urgent need for all engineering disciplines to come together to rebuild, reengineer, and implement resilient infrastructure in the areas impacted by the recent hurricanes, we held the first workshop in Houston to identify some of the more immediate needs to optimize, redesign, and complete new resilient infrastructures in the affected areas as well as to lay the framework for the overall roadmap.

A look at the second workshop

The second workshop will build on the framework developed in the first workshop. During this workshop, engineers will dig deeper and provide more detail regarding the topics, gaps, and potential solutions in the roadmap with the objective of creating a landscape of the most significant issues and potential solutions for an improved hurricane resilient infrastructure in the U.S. and its territories along coastal lines.

The key players

Representatives and members from all of the key engineering professional societies were involved in the first workshop. This includes the following:

  • American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME)
  • Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME)
  • Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society (TMS)
  • Association for Iron & Steel Technology (AIST)
  • Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • Industry, academia, and government representation.

The second workshop will also convene members of the broad engineering societies with a particular focus on bringing working engineers together who are able to add more detail to the engineering issues and potential solutions.

Short-term and long-term goals

The short-term goal is to develop a roadmap that looks at hurricane preparedness and resiliency planning through the engineering lens. This roadmap will identify the starting point (i.e., where we are today), define a desired end state (i.e., what does the ideal future look like in terms of how hurricanes impact society in the future), and develop a list of gaps, that if addressed through engineering, would move us toward the envisioned end state. This roadmap will also help guide the engineering societies to focus on the high-impact issues and related solutions.

Insights from the first workshop

The first workshop revealed that we have a long way to go before hurricanes cease wreaking havoc on society, especially those societies near the coastline. Infrastructure design and construction, communication protocols, technology, and policy will all play a role in this effort.

The second workshop will be key to taking a closer look at these high-level topics and concerns so that we can create a roadmap that is useful — one that we can use to identify projects and programs that could move us closer to a more hurricane-resilient world.