Disaster Recovery – Can We Be Prepared By Simulation?

| Yatin Trivedi, Editor-in-Chief, Standards Education E_Magazine

We often hear that government and non-government agencies conducting disaster relief work are unprepared for the scale of the task at hand. They are overwhelmed on many fronts ranging from how to start locating the survivors to getting food and medicine to them. Despite having access to advanced and expensive technologies, the disaster scene poses many challenges to first responders. For example, many of us are aware of the incompatibility of communication equipment and channels among the fire, police and other agencies during 9/11 attack. We frequently ask ourselves how we be better prepared for the use of technologies during disaster recovery. Similar to understanding the potential failure modes of any large-scale system, we would like an opportunity to conduct a simulated study in a controlled environment of what actually happens when the disaster strikes. Of course, this is a tall order because we cannot construct a large-scale disaster area and destroy it.

This is where one has to think outside the box and look for an unconventional approach. When the aging Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia was going to be demolished to make room for the new construction, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) team reached out to the authorities. This was a perfect case to simulate the disaster at a stadium. We can imagine full capacity audience (approximately 25,000) at a football game when the disaster strikes. Through controlled demolition stages we can study how several sections may collapse, what happens to the access routes, public announcement system, wireless access points, etc.

The NIST team specifically chose to study propagation and detection of radio signals before, during and after the implosion. Radio signals are the fundamental technology of the modern communication systems, along with the underlying standards such as the IEEE 802.11 family for wireless communication. They conducted experiments for radio-mapping, attenuation and debris-radiator. They anticipate the data collected through such studies will help develop better communication systems and technologies, including enhanced standards and safety practices, for disaster recovery efforts.

Having defined the scope of their study and how to setup and conduct such study, they set out to work with the demolition crew before, during and after the simulated disaster. Once they realized the benefit of a simulated disaster environment, they proactively sought out different types of building structures—an apartment building, an office building, a shopping mall, a warehouse, a hotel, and a convention center. Each of these simulated disaster environment studies were documented thoroughly, the results were analyzed and reports were published.

These reports are publicly available and can be accessed through the following links:

Propagation Measurements Before, During, and After the Collapse of Three Large Public Buildings

Radiowave Propagation in Urban Environments with Application to Public-Safety Communications

Radio-Wave Propagation Into Large Building Structures—Part 2: Characterization of Multipath

Radio-Wave Propagation Into Large Building Structures—Part 1: CW Signal Attenuation and Variability

Radiowave Propagation in Urban Environments with Application to Public-Safety Communications

Propagation and Detection of Radio Signals Before, During, and After the Implosion of a Large Sports Stadium (Veterans’ Stadium in Philadelphia)

Propagation and Detection of Radio Signals Before, During, and After the Implosion of a 13-Story Apartment Building

Propagation and Detection of Radio Signals Before, During, and After the Implosion of a Large Convention Center

I encourage you to read these detailed study reports and build further studies so we all can learn from them and be better prepared to deal with disasters, whether natural or man-made.

Yatin Trivedi, Editor-in-Chief, is a member of the IEEE Standards Association Board of Governors (BoG) and Standards Education Committee (SEC), and serves as vice-chair for Design Automation Standards Committee (DASC) under Computer Society. Yatin has served as the Standards Board representative to IEEE Education Activities Board (EAB) from 2012 until 2017. He also serves as the Chairman on the Board of Directors of the IEEE-ISTO. Yatin currently serves as Associate Vice President for semiconductor design services at Aricent Inc. Prior to his current assignment, Yatin served as Director of Strategic Marketing at Synopsys where he was responsible for corporate-wide technical standards strategy. In 1992, Yatin co-founded Seva Technologies as one of the early Design Services companies in Silicon Valley. He co-authored the first book on Verilog HDL in 1990 and was the Editor of IEEE Std 1364-1995™ and IEEE Std 1364-2001™. He also started, managed and taught courses in VLSI Design Engineering curriculum at UC Santa Cruz extension (1990-2001). Yatin started his career at AMD and also worked at Sun Microsystems. Yatin received his B.E. (Hons) EEE from BITS, Pilani and M.S. Computer Engineering from Case Western Reserve University. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE and a member of IEEE-HKN Honor Society.