FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino last week hosted an event at FEMA headquarters to recognize a new partnership between FEMA and the Science & Technology (S&T) Directorate. Acting S&T Under Secretary Daniel Gerstein joined Serino at the event where they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to celebrate a new working relationship between the two DHS components.
The MOU formalizes a partnership between FEMA and S&T’s Office of University Programs to strengthen links with academia through the DHS S&T Centers of Excellence. The centers will help to connect FEMA and emergency managers closer to another member of the whole community—academic researchers. The centers work with partners to develop research solutions focused on various DHS mission goals. In this case, the Centers will focus on tools, technologies, knowledge products, training, and talent that may be useful to the emergency management community.
FEMA and other members of the emergency management team are typically end-users of tools, technologies, and knowledge products developed by academia. Partnerships with those who fund and develop such tools, technologies, and products, like S&T and its Centers of Excellence, provide opportunities to engage in cooperative activities such as sharing research requirements and defining problems. Applying academic research to FEMA’s work can inform decisions and deliver a better-designed product to the end-user.
The new MOU will allow FEMA to strengthen its engagement with the Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence (CHC), currently led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss. The CHC conducts research and develops education programs to enhance the nation's ability to safeguard populations, properties, and economies from catastrophic natural disasters along the coasts. One success from the CHC was the DHS Impact Award-winning ADvanced CIRCulation Storm Surge/Flood Model, or “ADCIRC.” This software tool is now used by emergency managers to forecast where, when, and to what extent, flooding will inundate a coastal community. FEMA used ADCIRC hindcasts of storm water levels to help inform initial estimates of resources required for Hurricane Sandy response efforts.
This new MOU strengthens the “whole community” approach to emergency management and represents FEMA and the DHS S&T Office of University Programs’ commitment to ensuring academic collaboration will continue into the future. The MOU lays the groundwork to help ensure that the successful use of tools, technologies, and knowledge products, like ADCIRC, which was developed by academia and used by emergency managers, will become more commonplace.