Hurricane Thoughts, 9 September 2017

Superfund and Climate Change

Apologies to federal officials that have had their brains altered so as not to be able to read the words “climate change.” The political correctness on the right has gone too far.

Now, with Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the Texas coast and in Houston, we have renewed insight to the vulnerability of toxic sites being impacted by natural disasters. We surely need to have the EPA prioritize cleanup of coastal sites, of which there are many given the economic gravity of the coastline in deciding where to live and work. As seas rise and as storm surges and tidal flooding become more common, we will see more disturbances of cleanup sites.

Self-Driving Evacuations

As self-driving cars are soon to become reality, and as the electric fleet model will likely dominate the space soon thereafter, there is a need to understand how evacuations and pricing and (battery) charging events will interact. That is, if the normal demand of a city is one car per six people, during an evacuation scenario it will need to become one per three, or whatever the ramp-up is.

In all likelihood, phased evacuations will be needed, with limited ranges and limited charge capacity on the grid. Ground-zero evacuees will be shuttled up to zone-one, and one-to-two, etc. Meanwhile, a flow of excess vehicles from surrounding states will be flowing in to continue moving individuals away from the disaster.

All of this needs to happen as orderly as possible, and it needs to be lotterial, so all in risk areas have equal chance if the number of seats is too low to accommodate demand. In the near-term, pop-up traffic lights could be deployed as drones with some of the existing vehicle-vision technologies to places without existing lights.

The delivery-first commerce model will require other adjustments for the delivery of water and other preparedness items prior to a storm for those not being evacuated.

Social Rescue Communications

One of the stories that kept appearing during and after Harvey was the use of various social platforms to report and organize rescue needs. There needs to be more integration of social sites, or some better way for rescuers and dispatchers to cover the whole spread of such sites, to ensure that signals aren’t getting lost because of fragmentation in that space. Nobody should be left unrescued simply because they didn’t use the right social media platform.

The key issue there is likely portability across platforms. The ability to easily take a post from one site and relay it to the dispatcher or rescuer on another service with full information and return-contact ability needs to happen. Included in that would also be some requirement that sites not block unregistered or off-platform access (while maybe not requiring they specifically accommodate it). If you don’t have a smartphone, but have a laptop, and there’s important information on a smartphone-only service, that could be a real bummer. Sites need to recognize those situations.