Flirting with Disaster

James R. Phimister, Vicki M. Bier, Howard C. Kunreuther

In the aftermath of catastrophes, it is common to discover prior indicators, missed signals, and dismissed alerts that preceded the event. Indeed, in reviewing the accident literature, there are many notable examples where such prior signals were observed but not recognized and understood for the threat that they posed. They include the 1979 Three Mile […]

This article is in Information Technology and the Research University, Fall 2005

Rethinking, Then Rebuilding New Orleans

Richard E. Sparks

This time around, science should contribute to a systemic long-term plan that will better accommodate the natural forces that shape the Mississippi Delta. New Orleans will certainly be rebuilt. But looking at the recent flooding as a problem that can be fixed by simply strengthening levees will squander the enormous economic investment required and, worse, […]

This article is in New Horizons for a Flat World, Winter 2006

DEE-FENSE! DEE-FENSE!: Preparing for Pandemic Flu

Henry I. Miller

Federal research, economic incentives for industry, and a more responsive regulatory regime will all be necessary to produce a timely and widely available vaccine. Vaccination to prevent viral and bacterial diseases is modern medicine’s most cost-effective intervention. Were a vaccine to be available quickly after the onset of the widely predicted pandemic from an H5N1 […]

This article is in Energy Conundrums, Summer 2006

Improving Public Safety Communications

Jon M. Peha

Today’s system puts the lives of first responders and the public at risk. What’s needed is a nationwide broadband network, and policymakers now have a perfect opportunity to act. At 9:59 a.m. on September 11, 2001, the first of many evacuation orders was transmitted to police and firefighters in the World Trade Center’s North Tower. […]

This article is in Domestic Security Revisited, Winter 2007

Perspective: A New System for Preventing Bridge Collapses

George C. Lee, Ernest Sternberg

On August 1, 2007, the eight-lane Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, collapsed catastrophically during rush hour, killing 13 people and severing a crucial connection across the Mississippi River. Before an investigation even had time to get started, the Minneapolis bridge failure had reignited an old debate about whether the United States was investing enough […]

This article is in Health Care Touchstones: Cost and Quality, Spring 2008

Restoring and Protecting Coastal Louisiana

Gerald E. Galloway, Donald F. Boesch, Robert R. Twilley

The challenges facing the Gulf Coast reflect a national inability to come to grips with the need to deal with neglected infrastructure, both natural and built. The sustainability of coastal Louisiana is critical to the nation. It is the location of a large part of the nation’s oil and gas industry and its largest port […]

This article is in Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle, Winter 2009

Changing Climate, More Damaging Weather

Robert Repetto, Robert Easton

By failing to account for the effects of climate change, long-term projections of extreme weather are providing dangerously inaccurate guidance for critical investments in infrastructure and public safety. The weather varies, but climate change affects the frequencies with which particular weather occurs, including the frequencies of extreme weather, such as heavy storms, heat waves, and […]

This article is in Better U.S. Health Care at Lower Cost, Winter 2010

People Get Ready

Howard Kunreuther, Erwann Michel-Kerjan

Natural catastrophes are becoming more common and more expensive, but human and financial losses can be greatly reduced through incentives to purchase insurance and install protective measures. In recent years, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the economic cost and human impact from hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters worldwide. Economic losses from […]

This article is in Perennial Agriculture, Fall 2011

Learning from Fukushima

Sebastian M. Pfotenhauer, Christopher F. Jones, Krishanu Saha, Sheila Jasanoff

Efforts to explain what went wrong in Japan’s nuclear disaster are doomed to fail if they seek to separate the social from the technological. Recognizing that all aspects of sociotechnical systems are intertwined is essential to developing wiser technology policies. Disasters prompt us to seek lessons. After the tragic trifecta of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear […]

This article is in Making Sense of the Adolescent Brain, Spring 2012

All Adaptation Is Local

William A. Stiles Jr.

Attention to the political context of coastal communities will be necessary if the United States is to improve on its current storm-by-storm approach to climate adaptation. Decades of climate science and years of public policy research came together last year on the losing side of a 4-1 vote approving a rural development along Virginia’s Chesapeake […]

This article is in The Military of the Future, Winter 2014