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Tom Cova
Department of Geography
University of Utah
“Modeling Adaptive Public Warnings with Geographic Trigger Points”

Abstract: Disasters are highly dynamic events, yet we are only beginning to model them as complex coupled natural-human systems. This talk describes a framework for issuing public warnings that can respond to the dynamics of an environmental threat. The goal is to better match the manner by which emergency managers alter the population warned as a threat changes direction, magnitude, and speed. In this way, the decisions of who to warn, as well as what action should be taken and when, can vary. The approach is based on setting a series of protective-action triggers that are successively breached as a threat advances towards populated areas. In relying on a geographically-adaptive approach, the warned population can expand and the recommended protective-action can change as events unfold. An application is presented using a wildfire driven by erratic winds and the implications of this framework are discussed in terms of next-generation spatial decision support systems.

Bio: Tom Cova is Professor of Geography and Director of the Center for Natural & Technological Hazards at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Oregon and a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of California Santa Barbara where he was an Eisenhower Fellow. His research and teaching interests are environmental hazards, transportation, and geographic information science. He has published in many leading hazards, transportation, and GIScience journals, and is most known for work on evacuation modeling and analysis in fire-prone communities. He served as Chair of the GIS and Hazards Specialty Groups of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) and Program Chair for the International Conference of Geographic Information Science (GIScience ’08). He teaches courses on hazards geography, emergency management, and GIS.