Revolutionizing Flood Risk Management

May 30, 2013

Dr. Bahram Momen, an associate professor in biostatistics and ecosystem ecology, received a Water Resources Competitive Grant of $200,000 through a joint program between the National Institutes for Water Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He intends to use the grant to revolutionize the way we quantify and communicate flood risk management.

Currently, most online software are presented in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) format and manipulated by GIS experts in response to requests from the authorities during floods. “An example of such a model is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Multi-hazard Loss Estimation Methodology model (HAZUS-MH), which is based on the Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. GIS software,” says Momen. These models are designed to predict losses due to major hazards for purposes of risk-management planning at the regional level. However, all of them require expensive hardware, software, and GIS-trained experts.

Titled “The Effectiveness of a Computer-assisted Decision Support System Using Realistic Interactive Visualization as a Learning Tool in Flood Risk Management,” Dr. Momen’s project has aims to involve both policy makers and likely flood-affected people.  Time and money can be saved in preparing for floods if public and policy makers can directly participate in decision-making processes. “We propose to combine FEMA National Flood Hazard Layer with Google Earth, which will allow all stakeholders to directly participate during flood risk,” explains Dr. Momen.

The effectiveness of a computer-assisted decision support system that uses realistic interactive software in combination with collaborative learning, will be tested for the first time. Potential benefits of this new collaboration includes a better understanding and retention of concepts by the public; increasing their knowledge of flood risk, flood risk-reduction options, and action to reduce these risks. “This direct participation by learners is referred to as interactive visualization,” he explains.