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Stevens strengthens Dominican Republic's Early Warning System for Inundations

29.09.2008
Center for Maritime Systems will help improve DR's technology for hurricane detection

Stevens Institute of Technology's Center for Maritime Systems began a project to strengthen the Early Warning System (EWS) for Inundations in the Dominican Republic. The project is focused on developing the technology of DR's EWS and providing the most up-to-date equipment to improve accuracy in detection of hurricanes and prevent flooding on the island.

The genesis of the EWS effort began in 2007 when Dr. Harold J. Raveche, President of Stevens, was attending a meeting in the DR during which the topic of vast hurricane devastation came up. Dr. Raveche offered his help and asked Dr. Alan Blumberg, Director of Stevens' Center for Maritime Systems, and Dr. Thomas O. Herrington, also of the Center, to see how Stevens could offer assistance. They began collaborative efforts with Janet Kunhardt at Stevens Institute of Technology International (SITI), and together they established important relationships with leaders and engineers in the DR to establish the program.

Blumberg received more assistance for promoting the EWS project when Eileen Parra, a Stevens Civil Engineering student and a native of the DR, joined the team. Parra moved to the US from the DR when she was six-years old. She always had a love for math and her uncle, a civil engineer in the DR, inspired her to study civil engineering. During the summer of 2007, her uncle gave her an opportunity for hands-on experience doing management work for the construction of Aurora del Sol Hotel in Santo Domingo, DR.

Since moving to the US, Parra has returned to visit her country every summer and always looked for ways to give back. She feels that working with the EWS is the opportunity she's been waiting for. After familiarizing herself with the EWS project goals, she submitted a proposal to Stevens' Technogenesis program to further the work in the DR. The proposal was accepted and Parra traveled to the DR to continue project development from June through August 2008.

"Hurricanes have always been a concern in the DR," explained Parra, "but since the hurricanes in October and November of 2007, which took place during hurricane off-season, DR wanted to improve the method of monitoring hurricanes at all times." Stevens' assistance with improved technology and equipment will increase DR's ability to detect hurricanes on time, even during hurricane off-season and all year long. As accuracy in detecting hurricanes improves, so will the efficiency of transmitting the message to DR natives who live in both urban and rural areas. As a result, there will be increased prevention against hurricanes and flooding for the whole island.

Creating a more technological EWS will also increase employment opportunities in the DR and provide greater educational opportunities for engineers who will be involved with the EWS. Stevens plans to train Dominican engineers in the modeling and rehabilitation of the improved EWS and work jointly with them during the installation process. A mirror site to DR's EWS, which will be located at Stevens' Davidson Laboratory, will help oversee the work being done and serve as a back-up EWS if the DR's system gets destroyed in a disaster.

"The people in the DR are very anxious and enthusiastic about this project and are impressed by what we can offer," said Parra, "They believe it's possible and they want to start right away. They are also very honest and open to receiving help."

A proposal for technical advancement funding for the program was recently submitted by Stevens to the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) and a proposal will soon be submitted to USAID. "If this program is successful in the DR, it can be taken to other Caribbean countries," said Blumberg.

Five years from now, Parra hopes to see the new EWS in the DR up and running. She predicts it will take about one year to receive funding for the project, two years for installation of the software and equipment and a few more years to achieve a good record of storm prediction.

Stephanie Mannino | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stevens.edu

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