How Vulnerable Is New York?

Researchers to Gather in New York City to Discuss Terrorism and Disaster Protection

Release Date: December 28, 2007 This content is archived.


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UB faculty researcher Ernest Sternberg has organized a conference highlighting new ways to protect New York State from terrorism and disaster.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- How prepared is New York for another terrorist attack or major disaster? That's the question a group of researchers and disaster-response experts will discuss at a two-day conference addressing ways to protect New York City and New York State.

"The biggest threats to New York City today are terrorism, pandemic flu and coastal surge from an off-shore hurricane," says conference organizer Ernest Sternberg, president of Protect New York and professor of urban and regional planning in the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.

"The conference will highlight advances in protection and response for these scenarios and other potential disasters in New York City and throughout the state," explains Sternberg, who studies decision making during a crisis.

To be held Jan. 10-11 at the Levin Institute of the State University of New York, 116-120 East 55th Street in Manhattan, the conference is organized by Protect New York and sponsored by the New York State Office of Homeland Security and MCEER, From Earthquake Engineering to Extreme Events, headquartered at UB.

To help protect the city and state from tragic loss, the conference will promote the application of science and rigorous reasoning in public policy, journalism and business, according to Sternberg, who founded Protect New York in 2006 to foster research and teaching on ways to safeguard New York State from disaster.

For a full conference schedule and more information about Protect New York, go to Members of the media interested in attending the conference should contact John DellaContrada in the UB Office of News Services at (716) 361-3006.

More than 50 researchers, many from State University of New York and private New York State colleges and universities, will present their research. Experts and representatives from the FBI, Office of Homeland Security, Association of Fire Chiefs and the state Department of Transportation, among others, also will participate.

UB has identified "mitigation and response to extreme events" as a focus of its UB 2020 strategic plan for academic excellence. UB researchers across several academic disciplines are working collaboratively on ways to reduce risks from natural and human-caused hazards.

Conference sessions will address a wide range of security and disaster-response topics: transportation security in New York City, border security, behavioral screening at security checkpoints, securing the state's critical infrastructure, radiation emergencies, disaster-response ethics, hospital and emergency-medicine capacity during a disaster, security technologies, emergency logistics and training for all-hazard events.

Mark Frank, UB associate professor of communication, will lead a session on behavioral approaches to security at airports and other checkpoints. Frank's research on detection of deceptive behaviors in potential terrorists has been used by the Transportation Security Administration and was featured by the CBS Evening News, NPR and CNN. Frank will be joined by Venu Govindaraju, director of UB's Center for Uniform Biometrics and Sensors, who will discuss how biometrics can be used to gauge behavior.

John Kostanoski, president-elect of Protect New York and professor and chair of security systems at Farmingdale State College, will lead a session on new security technologies used to protect people and infrastructure.

Michel Bruneau, UB professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering and MCEER director, will lead a session on securing critical state infrastructures. Bruneau was part of a team of UB and MCEER engineers who investigated damage to buildings nearby Ground Zero in the days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Daniel Hess, UB assistant professor of urban planning, will lead a session on transportation security in New York. Hess investigated New Orleans' evacuation plans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Among the presenters will be James Ercolano, a pedestrian specialist at the state Department of Transportation. Ercolano will discuss pedestrian disaster preparedness and mass evacuations, a subject of heightened concern following the evacuation of New York City's financial district after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Jose Holguin-Veras, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, will lead a session on emergency logistics. Holguin-Veras researched emergency logistics in the response to Hurricane Katrina. Among the panelists will be Natalie Simpson, UB associate professor of operations management and strategy, and Philip Hancock, UB visiting assistant professor of operations management and strategy, who will discuss the managerial challenges of emergency response.

Steven Dubovsky, UB professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry, will lead a session on the emotional and behavioral dimensions of disaster response. An expert on post-traumatic stress disorder, Dubovsky studied the effects of Columbine, Colo., high school shootings on student survivors.

Sheldon Reaven, associate professor of technology and society at Stony Brook University, will lead the conference's concluding session on terrorism threats confronting New York State. He will be joined by Sternberg, who will discuss the risk of terrorism in New York City, and Hank Savitch, distinguished research professor at the University of Louisville, who will discuss terrorism's effect on public gathering spaces.

Additional conference sponsors are the University Transportation Research Center, Region II, City College of New York, and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, State University of New York.

According to Farmingdale's Kostanoski, the catastrophic risks that New York State faces from terrorism and other disasters will challenge us for generations. To create and disseminate knowledge on ever-better ways of protecting ourselves, New York must foster excellence in research, education and public service.

Founded at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in 2006, Protect New York is dedicated to helping New York State and New York City meet this challenge, Kostanoski says.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Media Contact Information

John Della Contrada
Vice President for University Communications
521 Capen Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260
Tel: 716-645-4094 (mobile: 716-361-3006)
Twitter: UBNewsSource