LAFAYETTE — A research center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has received a $1.3 million grant to build a tool that will help educate property owners about the potential for flooding or other risks of an area and how to mitigate them.
The university’s National Incident Management Systems and Technologies Institute recently received the grant from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to create a one-stop, data drop for information related to disasters — natural and otherwise.
The Louisiana All-Hazard Information Portal is intended to improve disaster planning, mitigation and recovery efforts among state and local agencies, residents and business owners, according to Ramesh Kolluru, NIMSAT director and UL-Lafayette vice president of research.
“We’re developing this technology to make it available to John Q. Public, so someone can look at a geographic location and get information to see on a scale of 1 to 10 what is the hazard risk associated with the location,” Kolluru said.
The research is designed to educate the public about ways to reduce their risk of property damage, Kolluru said.
“If a property scores 5 out of 10, we’re not saying that you don’t build a home there or establish a business there,” Kolluru said. “We just want to make sure that there’s information available so they can make a decision and choose ways to mitigate risks.”
Historical data on weather trends, disasters and whether vulnerabilities still exist or have been effectively mitigated will be used to develop the digital tool, he said.
Part of the data-gathering mission involves visiting communities across the state to speak to property owners and local government officials about past incidents, and to ensure is up up-to-date documenting any steps that have been taken to mitigate disasters —such as levees, flood walls, or elevated construction requirements.
The project will be under development for the next three years.
“We hope that this becomes a national model,” Kolluru said. “We want to go to FEMA, but that’s a couple of years down the road. They have this information available nationally that could benefit stakeholders across the nation.”