The Compounding Dangers of the Virus and Natural Disasters

As Hurricane Laura intensified into a Category 4 storm, public officials had to make decisions about evacuation during a time of sheltering in place. Researchers at Texas A&M University developed a risk index to guide decisionmaking processes.

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August 28, 2020, 5:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery


Darwin Brandis / Shutterstock

Ali Mostafavi, associate professor of civil engineering, is working with a team of researchers at the Texas A&M University UrbanResilience.AI Lab to examine the relationship between "urban infrastructure and people and systems in disasters."

Mostafavi's recent article in The Conversation describes the team's research on compounding risk factors like COVID-19, wildfires in the West, and storm preparation and the potential need for evacuation in the South. The research aims to understand which areas are the most vulnerable to these commingling events through a compound hazard risk index. 

The research and risk index are meant to help public officials make data-informed decisions about evacuation and hazard mitigation. "Our research shows that compound disasters have complex ramifications. At the intersection of a natural hazard and a pandemic is a decision process fraught with contradictions," writes Mostafavi.

Mostafavi continues by explaining that "using data on social vulnerability, pandemic risk and hazard probability, my lab created an interactive map that pinpoints sources of vulnerability. The goal is to enable disaster response managers and decision makers to recognize the compound risks posed by the confluence of the pandemic and any natural hazard."

As officials prepare for and respond to natural hazards, Mostafavi's team continues to contribute to the conversation and highlight the areas that are most at risk.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 in The Conversation

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