NPS Researchers Plan Resilient Infrastructure for the Next Disaster in the U.S. Virgin Islands - Energy Academic Group
NPS Researchers Plan Resilient Infrastructure for the Next Disaster in the U.S. Virgin Islands
Is your community prepared to respond to a Category 5 hurricane? Does your community know how to backup electricity and water systems when it is unclear which power lines and pipes will break? Does your community know where to store disaster relief supplies when it is unclear how to access them when roads wash out? Does your community know how to bring communication networks back online when it is unclear who will be unable to access the internet or cellphones? Even if your community has answers to these questions, is your community prepared to handle a second Category 5 hurricane just two weeks after the first? This is exactly the situation that the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) faced in September 2017, and a team at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) is working with experts across the territory and federal government to answer these questions for the USVI.
In September 2017, Hurricane Irma struck the islands of St. Thomas and St. John in the northern part of USVI Territory and Hurricane Maria struck St. Croix just two weeks later in the south. Together, these storms devastated local infrastructure and communities . Since this catastrophic event, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has funded a team led by Drs. David Alderson and Daniel Eisenberg of the NPS Operations Research Department and the Energy Academic Group to work with colleagues in the USVI Territorial Government, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. National Labs, University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), and territorial infrastructure providers to ensure communities are resilient to the next big storm. The project consists of three efforts to improve local infrastructure systems and build local capacity to future disasters:
- Modeling and analysis of interdependent infrastructure in the USVI to improve operational resilience, including electric power, water, transportation, and telecommunications systems;
- Support the development of a Territorial Hazard Mitigation and Resilience Plan; and,
- Develop a capacity building and workforce development program for resilient infrastructure.
Recent developments show the increasing impact of NPS work. The first year of this project focused on reporting the state of USVI electricity, water, roadway, and telecom systems, culminating in a technical report describing systems before and after the storms . Now, NPS researchers have curated enough data, built enough models, and produced enough assessments of USVI infrastructure to inform FEMA disaster planning, mitigation, and response. This hard work recently culminated with NPS researchers playing a critical role at the second USVI Hazard Mitigation and Resilience Planning (HMRP) Workshop held on the 2nd anniversary of the storms.
The HMRP Workshop was led by Drs. Gregory Guannel and Kim Waddel of UVI and prominently featured work by NPS professors and students on infrastructure resilience. Highlighted was a thesis completed by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Jeffery Good and German Army Captain Dominik Wille (students co-advised by Drs. Alderson and Eisenberg) on roadway supply chains  and interdependent electric power and water systems , respectively. As the outcome of this and future HMRP workshops will be incorporated in the USVI Hazard Mitigation and Resilience Plan, results from NPS experts and students will have a direct impact on future crises response within the territory.
The recent success working across the federal government and local communities now spurs more innovation and research at NPS. Since the HMRP Workshop, the NPS group has grown to include professors in computer science and students working on measuring the vulnerability of telecommunications systems to disasters. Future results produced by NPS students on electricity, water, transportation, and telecommunications systems are already planned to be discussion topic in the next HMRP Workshop in summer 2020.
 USVI Hurricane Recovery and Resilience Task Force (2018) Final Report. Technical report, Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, USVI, available electronically from https://www.usvihurricanetaskforce.org/, last accessed 8 July 2019.
 Alderson DL, Bunn BB, Eisenberg DA, Howard AH, Nussbaum DE, Templeton JC, Interdependent Infrastructure Resilience in the U.S. Virgin Islands: Preliminary Assessment, Technical Report NPS-OR-18-005, NPS, December 2018.
 Good, Jeffrey E. An Operational Model of the Critical Supply Chain for the US Virgin Islands. Master’s Thesis., Department of Operations Research, Naval Postgraduate School, 2019.
 Wille, Dominik. Simulation-Optimization for Operational Resilience of Interdependent Water-Power Systems in the US Virgin Islands. Master’s Thesis., Department of Operations Research, Naval Postgraduate School, 2019 (expected).