Two UB experts will be doing important work on commissions
analyzing how New York State can strengthen its response to natural
disasters like Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed homes through wind,
flood and fire, and left millions of people without electricity,
transportation and other critical services for days or weeks.
The faculty members are Chris Renschler, associate professor of
geography, and Adel Sadek, professor of civil, structural and
environmental engineering. Both are faculty members in MCEER,
UB’s extreme events engineering research center, and on the
faculty advisory committee of the UB 2020 Strategic Strength in
Extreme Events: Mitigation and Response.
Renschler has been appointed as a member of NYS Respond, a
commission that will make recommendations for how the state can
better deploy people and resources during natural disasters, and
especially after a weather-related emergency.
Among other topics, NYS Respond will look at
disaster-information communication, one of Renschler’s areas
of expertise. He was appointed to the commission because of his
research on providing timely and reliable information in extreme
events, and helping officials and the public to rapidly identify
and meet such needs as shelter, food, water, electricity and
Sadek serves on a subcommittee of the NYS 2100 Commission that
is “tasked with finding ways to improve the resilience and
strength of the state’s infrastructure in the face of natural
disasters and other emergencies,” according to Gov. Andrew
Renschler, director of UB’s Landscape-based Environmental
System Analysis and Modeling lab (LESAM), has studied and responded
to a number of disasters, helping decision-makers obtain emergency
data quickly and efficiently.
Following Hurricane Sandy and the Haiti earthquake in 2010, he
and his students used aerial imagery to assess how individual
structures were damaged. This project gave disaster responders a
clear and rapid picture of which neighborhoods were hardest
After Hurricane Irene in 2011, Renschler collected aerial
imagery and topographic data of the flooded areas and led a
LESAM/MCEER research team that visited communities in the Schoharie
Creek watershed west of the Catskill Mountains to document flood
Renschler’s work on Irene, Sandy and the Haiti quake was
supported or facilitated by the Information Products Laboratory for
Emergency Response (IPLER), a National Science Foundation-funded
Partnership for Innovation project headed by the Rochester
Institute of Technology (RIT) and UB. Renschler is a co-principal
investigator of the project, whose activities include developing
technologies that can provide emergency responders with real-time
damage assessments during disasters.
“I am honored to serve on the governor’s commission
to contribute to enhancing the functionality of a rapid and
reliable flow of critical information for decision-makers,
including emergency responders, utility managers and impacted
individuals,” Renschler said.
Sadek, director of UB’s Transportation Systems Engineering
Lab, serves as chair of UB 2020’s Strategic Strength in
Extreme Events. His research focuses on traffic, which includes
everything from air pollution at border crossings to creating the
best evacuation routes during emergencies.
The NYS 2100 Commission subcommittee on which he sits consists
of roughly a dozen “SUNY experts” and was formed by
Timothy Killeen, SUNY vice chancellor for research and president of
the SUNY Research Foundation.
The subcommittee’s immediate job, Sadek said, is to review
all reports related to the state’s infrastructure, find any
gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed and make
recommendations that will improve the state’s bridges,
tunnels, roads and other infrastructure.
“Our task is to help make sure that transportation
infrastructure is more resilient in cases of extreme events like
Hurricane Sandy,” said Sadek, who studies the use of new
technologies, such as collision-avoidance systems, adaptive traffic
control and dynamic route guidance to increase safety and
NYS Respond and NYS 2100 are two of three disaster-preparedness
and response commissions that Cuomo’s office announced on
Nov. 28. Recommendations are due to the governor by Jan. 3. For
details on all the commissions and a list of appointees, click