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Dr. Sarah Dunn “Infrastructure Resilience: Planning for Future Extreme Events” at GRI

On Friday, July 19, Dr. Sarah Dunn from the Structural Engineering Department at Newcastle University visited the GRI office and gave a presentation titled: “Infrastructure Resilience: Planning for Future Extreme Events,” which centered around her recent weather forecast consequence modeling research. Dr. Dunn’s research focuses on identifying fragile architecture and vulnerable areas to establish methods to protect the weakest areas from hazards.

A significant example Dr. Dunn used to examine weak systems was

Dr. Dunn explaining her fragility curve which places wind speeds against the average number of fault disruptions for estimated damage estimation.

the North American blackout that occurred in March of 2003. She discovered that U.S. power stations were extremely fragile against withstanding natural hazards and that the loss of only one power station impacted over 50 million Americans. As her research continued into the weakness of critical infrastructure systems, she found that communications systems, power grids, transportation systems, and water distribution systems were the most vulnerable to natural hazards when they were originally advertised as the strongest systems. This led her to testing of estimation strategies to identify infrastructure weaknesses against future natural hazards.

Dr. Dunn’s research resulted in the foundation of weather forecast consequence modeling, which she believes is the solution to determining infrastructure weaknesses to oncoming weather events. The forecast modeling is structured into six parts. The first part is identifying what the predicted weather event is. Depending on whether it is an event like high winds or flash floods, it is important to determine what is expected to hit. The next step is calculating the intensity of the weather event to estimate its severity impact. After that, information is collected on the exposure of critical infrastructure to the event. For instance, data is collected on the age, recent maintenance, and weakness of the buildings expected to be affected. Using the intensity calculation and exposure information the next step is damage estimation. This combines intensity and exposure to estimate how much damage can occur to the infrastructure. Then, the consequences are calculated to visualize the amount of damage and expose vulnerable areas. The last step is creating contingency actions for what can be done to limit the effects of the hazard. For instance, determining the number of damage recovery teams that need to be coordinated, and which sites need immediate attention can be calculated before the event occurs. This modeling can be used for all future natural hazard events to inform enhancing the resiliency of infrastructure as well as incident recovery approaches and speed.

Dr. Dunn has also conducted research in resource location efficiency. Her research has resulted in the relocation and addition of flood defenses and substation sites across the United Kingdom to better prevent flood damage. The increase of sites in areas less susceptible to flooding has decreased the response time for accessing these sites in the event of emergency and built up their resilience to future hazards.

Dr. Sarah Dunn and GRI Founding Director Stephen Flynn.

Other research areas for Dr. Dunn include: hazard tolerance air traffic networks and increasing resilience in those networks (specifically the United States and China); analysis of interdependent infrastructure systems; identification of specific vulnerable components in infrastructure systems; application of network theory to the vulnerability of pumping stations in Jakarta; and the modelling of honey bee nests with bee removal using network theory models.

Dr. Dunn is a significant partner of GRI’s Global Resilience Research Network because her work aligns closely with GRI’s mission of resilience. More specifically, Dr. Dunn’s research involving the resilience of exponential networks such as communications systems and power grids is beneficial to GRI’s infrastructure resilience projects. GRI and Dr. Dunn have the similar mission of improving damage recovery time and increasing the resilience of critical infrastructure to withstand natural hazards. There is a critical need for better risk management in interdependent infrastructure systems and new designs to embed resilience into networks and infrastructure. GRI is delighted to have hosted Dr. Sarah Dunn present her research and have her be a part of our Global Resilience Research Network! 

Watch the full presentation below:

For more information on future GRI events, click here.