Columbia World Projects Issues Disaster Preparedness Report, Announcing Projects in Development

August 15, 2019

Columbia World Projects (CWP) on August 15 published a report on its recent Forum on “Disaster Preparedness, Resilience and Response,” and announced the projects selected by the experts at the Forum as potential candidates for development and implementation by CWP.

In June, around 35 experts came together at Columbia for a Forum to discuss key challenges in disaster preparedness, analyze their root causes and identify projects that CWP could implement to improve the lives of people affected by natural disasters and public health emergencies. 

The meeting was the fifth Forum held by Columbia World Projects. Forum meetings bring together experts with a variety of backgrounds from inside and outside the university to identify how Columbia University’s unique knowledge and expertise can be brought to bear on addressing fundamental challenges. Participants are asked to generate ideas for projects that can demonstrate measurable impact on people’s lives within five years by partnering Columbia faculty with practitioners in government, the private sector, nongovernmental and international organizations, and other entities.

The report describes the 16 project proposals that participants prepared in advance of the Forum and the feedback they received at the meeting from fellow experts. In addition, the report sets out five projects that received the greatest support from participants for further development by CWP:

The Roofs to Reefs Program would design and implement a comprehensive set of interventions to make homes more resilient in the face of both extreme wind events and the sustained impacts of climate change, such as roof fortifications and solar panels. At the same time, the project would seek to reduce the harmful ecological impacts of individual households. Pilots for this program will be explored in the Barbados and in the Dominican Republic. 

Addressing Inequities in Disaster Mitigation and Recovery Programs would work with state emergency management agencies, local communities and academics in the United States to identify biases in current disaster recovery and mitigation programs and develop programs and practices to seek to address them. The project would begin by piloting this approach in Virginia in partnership with the state’s emergency management agency, and would eventually expand to at least one other state.

Open-Source Catastrophe Models for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Adaptation would develop, test and implement an open-source catastrophe model to predict the risk of tropical cyclones and forecast the damage they would cause, with the idea that the model could eventually be expanded to include other types of hazards such as tornadoes, earthquakes and wildfires. This project would aim to address a number of problems with the current field of catastrophe modeling, including the lack of transparency, accessibility, and the failure to adequately account for climate change in most models.

Forecasting Influenza at Hospital Scale to Inform Decisions and Improve Outcomes would use real-time, probabilistic forecasts of the spread of influenza to inform operational decision-making in public health facilities in New York City. 

Training on the Front Line of Care would develop, deploy and evaluate a curriculum for frontline health care providers in countries most vulnerable to infectious disease outbreaks in order to enhance their ability to recognize suspected cases of epidemic-prone diseases, which is critical to preventing pandemics.

The CWP Advisory Committee recommended that three projects – The Roofs to Reefs Program, Addressing Inequities in Disaster Mitigation and Recovery Programs, and Open-Source Catastrophe Models for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Adaptation – proceed to the development phase, and CWP staff is currently working to take into account the Committee’s feedback on these projects. The development phase will include but is not limited to defining the project’s goals and deliverables, a precise timeline for implementation, a budget and a strategic framework for monitoring and evaluation, as well as identifying key implementing partners – all of which will be synthesized into a project design report for each project. These reports will be shared with President Lee C. Bollinger and the CWP President’s Council for final consideration and potential implementation.