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UD Disaster Research Center to study Hurricane Harvey

Evacuees fill up cots Monday at the George Brown Convention Center in Houston, which has been turned into a shelter run by the American Red Cross to house victims of the high water from Hurricane Harvey.

As rain continues to fall in Texas and the city of Houston fills up with water, members of the University of Delaware Disaster Research Center plan to travel there as early as next week to collect data that can then be studied.

The center studies disasters to understand responses and recovery after a devastating event. Tricia Wachtendorf, director of the UD Disaster Research Center, said they don’t go to every disaster area. But Hurricane Harvey involves several issues they’re studying right now like records management, boat evacuations and community wellness.

“So we begin meeting," she said. "We begin gathering information and determining if this is something that we feel we can learn a great deal from in responding and deploying to the area and whether or not this might be something we can build a project around later on."

Another issue researchers are interested in is evacuation decisions. Houston officials decided against issuing an evacuation order ahead of Harvey. More than 100 people died in the mandatory evacuation of the city ahead of Hurricane Rita in 2005.

Wachtendorf said Houston has challenges evacuating people, along with aging infrastructure.

“What we want to do in these cases is really to learn as much as possible and hope that the lessons that we learn from those events actually get translated into changing policy and practice,” she said.

The center also studied the evacuation of 500,000 people from lower Manhattan after the September 11 attacks.

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