BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Whether it's springtime flooding, an infectious
disease outbreak or a volcanic eruption, small or rural communities
affected by natural disasters often suffer additional hardship
because of their size, say organizers of "Natural Disasters in
Small Communities: How Can We Help?" a conference to be held by the
University at Buffalo on March 29 and 30.
The conference, to be held in the Ramada Hotel and Conference
Center, 2401 North Forest Road, Getzville, will be open to faculty,
students, researchers and all stakeholders in the consequences of
natural hazards. For more information, go to http://www.geohazards.buffalo.edu.
"In the U.S. and around the world, smaller communities, clusters
of less than 20,000-30,000 people, are generally less well-prepared
to deal with extreme natural phenomena than are larger
communities," said Michael F. Sheridan, Ph.D., director of the UB
Center for Geohazards Studies, which is organizing the conference.
"They often are caught by surprise by an event that probably has
been brewing for a long time.
"Small communities generally lack the more sophisticated
communication networks, hospital facilities, crisis rescue squads,
emergency housing and other resources that larger communities
have," he added. "They also are more remote, which means help takes
longer to arrive."
To address the disaster and emergency management issues specific
to small communities, the multidisciplinary conference will feature
presentations and case studies by researchers from across the U.S.
and the globe focused on a broad range of hazards.
Among the cases researchers will discuss are: beach closures on
Lake Ontario due to pollution levels; emergency response issues
specific to Erie County; a 2005 dengue fever outbreak on the border
between Texas and Matamoros, Mexico, and evacuation questions in
communities near Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano.
A cross-disciplinary group of geographers, geologists, computer
scientists, engineers, mathematicians and social scientists will
present data on planning, communication, modeling and assessment
tools, such as remote sensing, satellites, geographic information
systems and high-end computation.
Several presentations will focus on disaster communication and
management issues in small communities and will address the role of
relief agencies and how social networks can help a community
A key focus will be on a community's resilience in the aftermath
of disaster, Sheridan said.
"Resilience is the capacity to recover after experiencing a
large disaster," Sheridan explained. "Small, precautionary
measures, such as construction of a barrier to divert mudflows, a
plan to move to higher ground or the use of gas generators for
prolonged power outages, can make a great difference in survival
rates and overall resilience," he noted.
The conference is an outcome of UB's strategic strength in
mitigation and response to extreme events. Research in this area
has been identified in the UB 2020 strategic plan as one of eight
areas of strategic strength that, along with a commitment to
academic excellence, will be the foundation elevating UB to the
ranks of the nation's top public research universities.
In addition to Sheridan, UB faculty participating in the
conference include Marcus Bursik, Ph.D., professor, Eliza Calder,
Ph.D., assistant professor; Beata M. Csatho, Ph.D., assistant
professor, all in the Department of Geology; Hugh S. Cole,
professor of urban and regional planning; Bruce Pitman, Ph.D.,
associate dean for research, College of Arts and Sciences and
professor of mathematics; Christian S. Renschler, Ph.D., associate
professor of geography; and Natalie C. Simpson, Ph.D., associate
professor of management science and systems in the School of
Bruce McCombe, Ph.D., dean of the UB College of Arts and
Sciences, will make welcoming remarks.
Conference sponsors include the UB Department of Geology, the
College of Arts and Sciences and the State University of New York,
Conversations in the Disciplines.
Established in 2007, the Center for Geohazards Studies seeks to
reduce harmful societal effects of such natural phenomena as
volcanic eruptions, landslides, mudflows, avalanches, climate
change and groundwater contamination. The center's team of
scientists and engineers work together with social scientists,
urban planners and public health researchers to evaluate harmful
effects of hazardous geological phenomena. The goal is to integrate
analyses of the various impacts of geophysical mass flows from
natural disasters on lifelines, structures and the environment in
order to reduce property losses, bodily injury and mortality.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional