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New system unveiled to help predict disasters in Texas

Homes are surrounded by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey near Beaumont, Texas, on Friday.
David J. Phillip
/
AP
Homes are surrounded by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey near Beaumont, Texas.

TPR's Jerry Clayton recently spoke with Dr. Sam Brody, Director of Texas A&M's Institute for a Disaster Resilient Texas about the recently unveiled Texas Disaster Information System

Jerry Clayton:   A new computer modeling system aims to help predict the potential effects of disasters in the state and help Texans act accordingly. Here to talk about that new system is Dr. Sam Brody. He's the head of the Institute for a Disaster Resilient Texas. Thanks for being here.

Sam Brody: Thanks for having me.

Clayton: Give us an overview of the Institute for a Disaster Resilient Texas.

Brody: The institute was born out of the response to Hurricane Harvey in 2017, where my group participated in writing The Eye of the Storm report, which was the after action report that led to 43 different regulatory policies at the state level around flood resiliency being adopted by the legislation. One of those recommendations was to not just analyze data and use that data to support more resilient decisions just after a storm, but do it all the time. And then the institute was born out of that idea. And our vision is that Texas should be better prepared for disasters and more resilient when they occur as a direct result of the Institute activities, and that we aim to be the trusted source for Texas in converting data into knowledge, knowledge into action and decision support so that Texas in future disasters is more resilient when they occur.

Clayton: It was recently unveiled, and it's called the Texas Disaster Information System, or TDIS What exactly is it?

Brody: TDIS is our one of our cornerstone projects for the Institute, which really is about collecting, storing, integrating and analyzing data across agencies and different stakeholders to provide insight and actionable recommendations for decision makers from the state all the way down to the household level to have more disaster resilient behavior over the long term. And so it's really building this enterprise level data system, which is a set of services. It's a very large, long term project funded right now by the Texas General Land Office. And what we're doing is right now building the technological services, the core of the system in deep collaboration with the University of Texas Advanced Computing Center. And once we build the infrastructure of the system and ingest data into the system, we're going to be producing what we call decision support tools, which is going to spin off decision support to those who need it most.

Clayton: Can you give me a real world example of how this system can change the way that Texans predict, plan and prevent and respond to these sort of disasters?

Brody: Yeah, that's a great question. Imagine you're a decision maker at the Division of Emergency Management and you're wondering what happens in a month where we get a 25 inch rainfall event in a particular watershed in the state. What are the consequences of that rainfall? Which homes are most likely to flood? Which infrastructure systems are most likely to be impacted? Which roads are most likely to be flooded? And how is that going to impact my ability to allocate resources, respond to that disaster event? And then even more importantly, what mitigation strategies can I advocate or put in place now to prevent that impact happening in the future? And so this system will, with a click of a button, will identify given in this case, an amount of rainfall in a particular location, what the consequences will be and the impact will be down to the parcel level, and then provide information on what can be done to successfully mitigate and even respond to that event occurring.

Clayton: Dr. Sam Brody, this really sounds fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing with us today.

Brody: Thanks so much for having me.

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