Sandia has extensive experience in helping cities design effective emergency response plans and processes. In the event of a disaster, these plans reduce negative impacts to citizens and minimize the downtime of critical buildings, utilities, and infrastructure. For example, Sandia is one of the world's leaders in designing evacuation plans for cities using its state-of-the-art optimization models.
Sandia also has extensive experience in designing and executing table-top exercises that test emergency response plans at the city and national levels. Sandia can help cities design, plan, and run exercises that give them insight into their preparedness.
Cities generally have three post-event time windows in which to accomplish critical tasks: in the first few days, the primary goal is to minimize loss of life; in the days and weeks that follow, it is to maximize public health and safety; and over the ensuing months and years, to minimize long-term economic and human consequences. A city's resilience to an extreme event is often determined by the actions it takes in the immediate aftermath as part of response and recovery efforts.
To be resilient to an array of disasters, cities need comprehensive emergency response plans and to be fulfilling city function already (preferably at a high level). These plans can minimize loss of life and interruption to critical infrastructure and ensure public health and safety, while giving people confidence that the city can respond adequately. With emergency response plans in place, cities can reduce the difficulty and level of emergency response required, as well as time and recovery costs.
Prioritizing emergency response resources can be very challenging in large cities where there are more critical facilities and a larger number of authorities with disparate priorities. Supporting infrastructure and services, such as access to roads, power, telecommunications, and water, must be prioritized in the context of specific areas within a city and even specific buildings. For example, for water to be restored to citizens, electric power is required, but to restore power, roads must first be cleared.
Another significant challenge to planning for emergencies is that the demand for emergency response and medical services typically far exceeds availability. Local emergency response often must coordinate with services in other regions to meet demands.
Cities have many opportunities to improve their preparation, mitigation, and recovery plans before an event occurs. In formulating a comprehensive emergency response plan, proper prioritization of critical functions, buildings, and resources is essential. Cities can prioritize the order in which critical functions such as water and electricity should be restored, where shelters should be placed, where emergency food and medicine stores should be located, and in what order roads should be cleared. Exercising this planning process over many different, credible hazards helps cities ensure that resources are being used efficiently.
Mitigation involves identifying risks and developing ways to reduce them. Cities should perform risk analysis to identify the threats and possible consequences of specific high-priority events. For example, by running models of the potential impacts of a hurricane, a city can position its shelters and emergency rations so that they are not in the hurricane flood zone.
Sandia can help cities assess their current emergency response preparedness, identify key vulnerabilities in their supporting critical infrastructure systems, and prioritize key resources. Examples of Sandia's capabilities include:
Holistic analysis of infrastructure and economic systems: As a foremost expert on infrastructure risk analysis, Sandia can assess a city's infrastructure interdependencies and help planners understand the risks that are outside their direct control. For example, Sandia has found that having mutual-aid agreements with nearby cities or regional authorities can minimize human and economic impacts.
Prioritization of assets and resources: Sandia has proprietary algorithms and models that can help cities minimize the downtime of critical buildings, utilities, and infrastructure after a disruption. Sandia can also design evacuation plans for cities using state-of-the-art evacuation models.
Exercise designs and planning: Sandia has extensive experience and expertise in designing live exercises to test emergency response plans at both the city and national level. Sandia can design, plan, and help cities run exercises that provide new insight and measure actual preparedness. These live exercises are essential to finding weaknesses in a plan that a computer simulation or table-top exercise may not uncover. Small details can make a big difference; for example, in one actual city emergency, pallets of food would not fit through shelter doors, so the pallets had to be broken down in the street and carried inside by hand. Live exercises reveal such gaps and can be used for training, ultimately saving valuable time and resources during a real emergency.