Skip to content
Topics
Stories

Lessons in resilience from Superstorm Sandy

North­eastern University’s George J. Kostas Research Insti­tute for Home­land Secu­rity co- ​​hosted a con­fer­ence on Tuesday to dis­cuss the need to strengthen trans­porta­tion resilience to major dis­as­ters like Super­storm Sandy.

The event, held at the Stevens Insti­tute for Tech­nology in Hoboken, N.J., kicked off a series of four day­long sym­posia focused on enhancing the resilience of trans­porta­tion, energy, health ser­vice, and com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems in coastal cities. The Kostas Research Insti­tute received a one-​​year, $575,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foun­da­tion to sup­port the project.

Tuesday’s con­fer­ence con­vened public sector trans­porta­tion leaders, emer­gency man­agers, and gov­ern­ment offi­cials from around the country. Speakers included senior offi­cials from Wash­ington and the agency heads of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New Jersey Transit, and the Met­ro­pol­itan Trans­porta­tion Authority. The meeting’s goal was to iden­tify and share lessons learned from the par­tic­i­pants’ col­lec­tive expe­ri­ence with dis­as­ters in order to strengthen the resilience of the nation’s mass transit, port, and avi­a­tion infrastructure.

Super­storm Sandy wreaked havoc upon the tri-​​state area’s trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture, inflicting mil­lions of dol­lars in damage to tun­nels, bus depots, and sub­ways sys­tems. A $50.5 bil­lion relief bill passed by Con­gress and signed by Pres­i­dent Obama in Jan­uary set aside funds to repair the destruction.

“Sandy high­lighted the extra­or­di­nary extent to which the New York met­ro­pol­itan area depends on trans­porta­tion,” said Stephen Flynn, co-​​director of the George J. Kostas Research Insti­tute for Home­land Secu­rity and the prin­cipal inves­ti­gator of the $575,000 grant from the Sloan Foun­da­tion. “The pur­pose of this project is to find ways to design resilience into sys­tems and modify oper­a­tions and pro­tocol to speed recovery once they are knocked down.”

“We know that we need to design sys­tems to better with­stand these kinds of storms the next time around,” added Flynn, an expert in com­mu­nity resilience and crit­ical infra­struc­ture pro­tec­tion. “Unfor­tu­nately we have a habit of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again and hoisting him up to teeter on the wall.”

North­eastern, he explained, has the poten­tial to play a large role in mit­i­gating risk and shaping the response to large-​​scale dis­as­ters, noting the university’s ability to “mar­shal and mobi­lize expertise.”

Flynn is a big pro­po­nent of cre­ating a team of experts to inves­ti­gate dis­as­ters like Super­storm Sandy and then share their find­ings with key stake­holders. The non-​​governmental body, he said, would be sim­ilar to the National Trans­porta­tion Safety Board, the inde­pen­dent U.S. gov­ern­ment inves­tiga­tive agency.

To this end, the symposia’s par­tic­i­pants will pub­lish two reports of their find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions; the first report will be released in October to coin­cide with the first anniver­sary of Super­storm Sandy and the second will be released after the final sym­po­sium in the spring of 2014.

“We should treat each and every major dis­aster as an oppor­tu­nity to learn what we can do to adapt to the ongoing risk,” said Flynn.

– by Jason Kornwitz

More Stories

Photo of the Capitol Building at night

High stakes for politics, SCOTUS in 2018

01.04.2018
Photo of the crashed truck that was used in the October 31st attack in Manhattan.

Weaponizing Language: How the meaning of “allahu akbar” has been distorted

11.08.2017
Northeastern logo

Why I love studying Spanish

05.29.20
Uncategorized