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Reflecting on Fire Disasters: SDState Geography Professor Shares Insights to Help Evacuation Planning

Paradise Camp Fire 2019
Natural and Man-made disasters can happen at any time. State officials and experts weigh in on how to prepare for when they strike.

From the forest fires in California to the flooding conditions in the Midwest (Nebraska/South Dakota/Iowa), disasters can create unexpected challenges if not prepared. Across the nation, state officials and experts are reviewing ways to prepare communities for when the unexpected occurs. The alert pathways for residents, awareness of evacuation routes and establishing alternative plans with shifting conditions are some of the areas being reviewed. Researchers are also looking for potential solutions to aid in efforts of preparation. Here at South Dakota State University, assistant professor of Geography Dapeng Li uses disaster simulations for potential answers.

Dr. Li’s current research primarily focuses on wildfire evacuation modeling and simulation in the American west. Dr. Li studies wildfire evacuations by coupling fire spread and traffic simulation models to see how incoming flames can influence exit plans. Dr. Li indicates by using a traffic simulation model, towns and communities can estimate how much time would be needed for the community to evacuate to a safe place. By using simulations, emergency managers can look to build new evacuation routes and devise multiple evacuation plans from which to choose when a disaster occurs. With further research like Dr. Li’s, the prevention of life loss could greatly be impacted, saving communities and the people who inhabit them.

To read the full article about developing wildfire evacuating routes featuring Dr. Dapeng Li’s perspective, go to “In the Age of Fast-Moving Fires, What’s the Best Way to Get People Out?”

This research was included in the American Association of Geographers (AAG) SmartBrief (6/6/2019). The American Association of Geographers is a nonprofit scientific and educational society founded in 1904 whose members from nearly 100 countries share interests in the theory, methods, and practice of geography.