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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

A&M hazard reduction center increases efficiency

Future disasters may be taken care of more efficiently if researchers at Texas A&M have anything to say about it.
The University’s Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center is a multidisciplinary research center where researchers study the effects of natural and technological hazards. The center is teaming up with other departments to expand research, said Carla Prater, a professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning.
“We are doing some experiments in the psychology department,” Prater said. “It is called Evacuation Management Decision Support System. Psychology students participate in a computerized experiment to better understand decision-making under stress.”
EMDSS will study the ways in which officials make decisions before hazards such as hurricanes, Prater said. More information must be gathered about the officials handling the disasters in order to better handle the situation, she said.
“Authorities have the responsibility to request evacuations, and they have to do so based on very limited information,” she said. “They never know when or where hurricanes are going to land, so there is great uncertainty. We are trying to understand what they can do and how they can work with the limited information that they have.”
Research must go beyond examining the physical characteristics of an area, Prater said.
“We are very good at mapping physical aspects of (disaster) vulnerability such as fault lines, but we also need to know things about the people (in possible disaster areas) – their income, education level, how many cars they have,” Prater said. “Those things are important to know.”
The research for EMDSS will be conducted in several ways, Prater said.
“Part of (the research) is conducting surveys on the coast after Lilly, Katrina and Rita,” she said. “Another part is the experiment here at A&M. We have also interviewed emergency mangers on the coast.”
Last summer, researchers from the HRRC traveled to India to study the causes and aftermath of the deadly 2004 tsunami.
“We went to India and interviewed local government figures and leaders of non-governmental organizations about what had happened after the disasters,” Prater said. “(We) looked at what emergency planning was like and tried to understand local and civil capacity, as well as the outcome,” she said. “We contacted local university figures who were able to conduct extensive surveys of locals,” she said.
Government officials have ignored years of research in handling recent disasters, Prater said.
“There is over 50 years of research in this area, but recent events have prompted the government to reinvent the wheel in dealing with disasters,” she said. “We would like people to know that science has already told us about how people act in disasters and what they can do to avoid them.”
The center, which was established in 1988, received $1,771,790 in research funding for the 2005-2006 academic year, according to a document provided by HRRC Director Walter Peacock.
The center has strong representation from international students at the University, said Sudha Arlikatti, a graduate student studying landscape architecture and urban planning. While some of the students will return to work with disaster research in their native countries, most seek professorships in the United States, Arlikatti said.
“The center is a good example of the University’s efforts to achieve diversity because we have people from different countries and cultures,” said Arlikatti, who works at the center. “Most of the graduate students at the center are from India, China, Taiwan and Korea.”

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