In communities across the world, we are facing increasingly complex, interrelated, and evolving risks. We are also facing critical decisions about how to best address these risks towards building a future in which we are more adaptable and resilient. The field of emergency management lies at the intersection of some of our most pressing social issues, and GSPIA’s Center for Disaster Management (CDM) serves as a resource for practitioners and students across disciplines to address these challenges through innovative research, collaboration, and education.
What do we know?
We know that disasters are happening more often. In 2015, the global insurer Swiss Re reported a record 353 catastrophes across the world—including 198 natural disasters, the most Swiss Re has ever reported in a single year. We also know that disasters are affecting more people as human populations are increasingly concentrated in urban and coastal areas. In the past decades, globalization trends have led us to better understand that many crises are blind to borders and we require global and national coordination to confront deadly viruses such as Ebola and Zika, agricultural crises spawned by drought, the causes and consequences of terrorism, and the impacts of our complex interactions with our natural environments.
While we recognize the necessity of global cooperation to build resilience to the risks we face, we have also witnessed a growing appreciation for local investments in emergency management and sustainable development. CDM is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—one of the 100 Resilient Cities of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Global Resilience Movement. As Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto writes in the City’s Resilience Strategy, “the challenges of globalization, our ever changing environment, and urbanization—once the causes of many of the City’s shocks and stresses, are now initiating a shift for the City; from managing population and economic decline to encouraging us to manage growth and prosperity.”
What are our Center’s priorities?
Provide Innovative Decision-Support Research
We are continuing the Center’s strong legacy of innovative decision-support research, focusing on practical frameworks for understanding risk and rapid decision-making in dynamic and often uncertain conditions. This includes Dr. Louise Comfort’s continuing research on an improved tsunami detection and early-warning system in Padang, Indonesia, and collaboration with engineering and architecture researchers at Pitt and Penn State on development of a decision-support framework for resilient and sustainable building design.
Understand Effective Leadership in Crisis
We are partnering with the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership’s new Hesselbein Leadership Forum on an exciting podcast project exploring the experiences of leaders who have led through a complex crisis. Recognizing the unique challenges faced by leaders in crisis, as well as the power of story-telling, this project considers the behaviors and attributes that are necessary to guide a team under stress, ambiguity, or even danger to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Educate the Next Generation
CDM’s primary goal is to support the next generation of public leaders with the knowledge and skills they need to be effective in fostering resilience and dealing with increasingly complex and dynamic emergencies and disasters. We do this in several ways:
Offering courses on emergency management and related topics, to include a minor in Civil Security and Disaster Management.
Connecting students with alumni and practitioners of disaster management, and to professional opportunities such as internships and career resources.
Engaging students in educational projects that explore particular dimensions of emergency management or particular hazards. For example, in 2017, CDM is sponsoring a disaster study group focused on earthquakes.
Our current and future challenges require us to have thoughtful approaches in understanding risk, an appreciation for the unique contexts leaders face in crisis, and the courage and skills to cope with and adapt in uncertainty. I invite you to further explore the ways in which CDM is working to build capabilities in these areas, and to reach out to us if you wish to become more involved.
Interim Director, Center for Disaster Management