HOBOKEN, N.J. – The need for transportation systems to be more resilient to disaster emerged during Hurricane Sandy. That topic was the focus of a special forum at Stevens Institute of Technology co-organized with Northeastern University in Boston on Tuesday, June 25, which brought together public sector transportation leaders, emergency managers and experts from major coastal cities around the country as the kickoff event to a series of forums on Hurricane Sandy.
The symposium was designed to strengthen the nation’s mass transit, port, and aviation infrastructure to better withstand and more quickly recover from major disasters. The participants identified lessons learned from the Sandy experience that should inform a national agenda for building more catastrophe-resilient transportation systems in urban coastal communities around the country.
The June 25 event was the first of a four-part series called “After Hurricane Sandy: Lessons Learned for Bolstering Infrastructure Resilience,” supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Other symposia in the series will explore the capacity of energy, health service, and communication systems to withstand and recover from disaster.
“The nation is all too aware of the death, destruction, and economic disruption that Hurricane Sandy brought to the New York region. The storm’s negative consequences provide invaluable learning opportunities that would be reckless to overlook,” said Michael Bruno, Dean, Schaefer School of Engineering and Science at Stevens Institute of Technology and a co-organizer of the symposium. “Stevens’ maritime research centers and our firsthand experience battling through Sandy in Hoboken made us a natural fit to join this elite group of experts to collectively evaluate how transportation infrastructure can be made more resilient.”
“Major coastal cities such as Boston have much to learn from New Yorkers and New Jerseyans about how to be better positioned to prepare for and recover from extreme weather events such as Sandy,” said Stephen Flynn, Co-Director of the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security at Northeastern University and the leader of the project. “This is why partnering with Stevens in hosting this event made so much sense.”
Today’s transportation symposium began with three panel discussions offering federal, regional operational, and regional planning perspectives on the lessons learned from Sandy that inform bolstering transportation systems. Panel participants 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 opening panel featured the number two official at FEMA, Richard Serino, who led that agency’s response to Sandy. It also included Richard Reed, the former Deputy Assistant to the President who coordinated the White House’s response.
“This symposium will provide an important perspective on disaster preparedness and recovery,” said Mel Bernstein, Senior Vice Provost for Research at Northeastern University. “Hearing from panelists with such a varied range of expertise and experiences provides a solid foundation for mitigating transportation disruptions and their accompanying damages during the next big disaster. It will also aid in the recovery efforts that are still ongoing post-Sandy.”
In the afternoon, participants divided into working group sessions to discuss how the Sandy experience should inform national recommendations for ensuring the mobility of people and the mobility of goods in the face of major disasters.
“This was a very unique workshop which brought together a diverse group from the federal and private sectors along with emergency managers and the port authorities to think through the future of our coastal economies, communities and commerce," said Holly Bamford, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the National Ocean Service (NOS). "We didn't just look strategically at the issues of resilience for what the world looks like today, but ten years from now, so we can better prepare for tomorrow."
"It was an excellent idea to bring together experts from diverse areas of expertise to evaluate what worked, what didn't work and what policies need to change," added Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. "We can learn so much from a collaborative approach and this is something we should do on an ongoing basis. A huge thank you to Stevens, Northeastern and the Sloan Foundation for an outstanding forum."
There will be workshop reports generated for each of the four symposia that will be incorporated into a published report of findings and recommendations to be released in the fall of 2013, coinciding with the 1st anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and a final report in spring 2014.
About Stevens Institute of Technology
Stevens Institute of Technology, The Innovation University®, is a premier, private research university situated in Hoboken, N.J. overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Founded in 1870, technological innovation has been the hallmark and legacy of Stevens’ education and research programs for more than 140 years. Within the university’s three schools and one college, more than 6,100 undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with more than 350 faculty members in an interdisciplinary, student-centric, entrepreneurial environment to advance the frontiers of science and leverage technology to confront global challenges. Stevens is home to three national research centers of excellence, as well as joint research programs focused on critical industries such as healthcare, energy, finance, defense, STEM education and coastal sustainability. The university is the fastest-rising college in the U.S. News & World Report ranking of the best national universities, and it is consistently ranked among the nation’s elite for return on investment for students, career services programs, and mid-career salaries of alumni. Stevens is in the midst of a 10-year strategic plan, The Future. Ours to Create., designed to further extend the Stevens legacy to create a forward-looking and far-reaching institution with global impact.
About the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security
The mission of the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security at Northeastern University is to advance resilience in the face of 21st century risks. The institute fosters collaborative, use-inspired research aimed at expanding the capacity of communities, critical systems, and infrastructure to withstand, respond to, and recover from manmade and natural catastrophes. The Kostas Institute support innovative translational research conducted by private-public-academic multidisciplinary research teams. These teams include not just researchers in science, engineering, and technology fields, but also experts in the social sciences, law, and other public-policy spheres. In addition to research, the Kostas Institute will also serve a convening function for researchers, the university community, and practitioners in the fields of homeland security and emergency management.
Top Photo Caption (from left to right): Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer; Michael Bruno, Dean, Schaefer School of Engineering and Science at Stevens Institute of Technology; Stephen Flynn, Co-Director of the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security at Northeastern University; Brig. Gen. Kent Savre, Commanding General & Division Engineer, North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Holly Bamford, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the National Ocean Service (NOS); Richard Serino, Deputy Administrator, FEMA; and Richard Reed, Sr. VP American Red Cross & Former Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security.