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Universities Assessing Hurricane Damage Using Fulcrum Community

October 17, 2017

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria caused massive amounts of destruction in parts of Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Now, engineering faculty and students from several U.S. universities are turning disaster into a learning experience.

With grant (1,2) support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Fulcrum Community, the teams are conducting damage assessments in dense urban areas affected by the storms. They’re collecting “perishable data” — in other words, assessing the structural materials and integrity of buildings before they undergo reconstruction or demolition. View their community data here.

The team began assessing the damage even before receiving financial assistance via an NSF Rapid Grant. “It’s imperative to get out there before the damage gets too cleaned up so that we can learn as much as possible,” said David Roueche, Ph.D, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Auburn University.

“In our field of research, when we talk about disasters like these, we emphasize that they are created by a combination of hazard, exposure, and vulnerability,” he said. The data they collect with Fulcrum will be used to better understand the factors leading to the building damage they observe, and educate engineering students and local communities on building best-practices, with the hopes of preventing similar devastation in the future.

Faculty in the field

In addition to Auburn University, other schools involved with the study are Calvin College, Colorado School of Mines, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida International University, James Cook University, University of Florida, University of Illinois, University of Kentucky, University of Maryland, University of Notre Dame, and University of Puerto Rico.

All told, dozens of data collectors are capturing photos with metadata, damage levels, structural details, building attributes, notes, and observations. Many of them are working in disconnected environments without wi-fi or cellular service, but as soon as they reach wi-fi, the data they’ve collected in Fulcrum immediately syncs to the cloud.

“Fulcrum has been the perfect platform to collect all that data in one place,” David said.

Faculty in the field

If you’re part of a humanitarian or educational organization, nonprofit, NGO, or government entity, we invite you to view a demo, or apply for your own provisioned Fulcrum Community account.