Socially-integrated Technological Solutions for Real-time Response and Neighborhood Survival After Extreme Events
Lead PI:
Cynthia Chen

Situated on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean, the US Pacific Northwest Region and Japan face significant earthquake risks from similar geophysical conditions. The Pacific Northwest is considered overdue for a Cascadia Subduction Zone 8.0–9.2 magnitude megaquake. When it happens, the estimated direct fatalities for Oregon and Washington states are up to 10,000, with economic losses of more than $80 billion. For the comparably sized region of Japan facing a Nankai megathrust earthquake, estimated fatalities are 80,000–323,000 lives and about $900 billion in economic loss. In the immediate aftermath of a megaquake, most of the disaster response agencies and personnel, if not all, will be overwhelmed and many neighborhoods in the region will need to rely on themselves to maintain essential activities for a prolonged period. To support these essential activities, communications will need to be robust enough to function under highly uncertain circumstances, and to enable real-time and reliable information sharing for efficient resource allocation and matching. This proposal represents the US portion of a planning grant for a collaboration with researchers from multiple Japanese Universities as part of the NSF/JST collaboration for the Smart and Connected Community Program.

This planning grant builds the capacity of a partnership of engineers and planners on both sides of the Pacific Ocean (Seattle area and Japan) to developing these critically needed communications and information-sharing technologies. The joint team will partner with three communities in Washington State and the city of Nagoya in Japan, to ensure that initial technical prototype ideas have real, place-specific relevance and applicability. Focus groups and community workshops will identify specific community needs, values, resources and concerns, and provide a feedback loop for evaluating the prototypes. It is expected that by working with these communities, the technological tools to be developed will be socially integrated, not only helping communities to address the critical need to prepare for a possible mega-earthquake but also to enhance resilience in the face of a wide range of life uncertainties and disruptions, and to improve communities’ daily quality of life.

Cynthia Chen
Bio: Cynthia Chen is a professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington (Seattle). She is an internationally renowned scholar in transportation science and directs the THINK (Transportation-Human Interaction and Network Knowledge) lab at the UW. Cynthia has published numerous peer-reviewed publications in leading journals in transportation and systems engineering including Transportation Research Part A-F and PNAS. Her research has been supported by many federal and state agencies. She is an associate director of TOMNET (Center for Teaching Old Models New Tricks), a USDOT-funded Tier 1 University Transportation Center led by ASU, as well as a co-investigator of the new Center of Understanding Future Travel Behavior and Demand, a USDOT-funded national center led by UT Austin. Currently, Cynthia is an associate editor for Transportation Science, and is on the editorial board of Sustainability Analytics and Modeling.
Performance Period: 06/01/2020 - 05/31/2022
Institution: University of Washington
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Number: 1951418