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Envisioning disaster planning and its influence on disaster management as a complex system-of-systems will allow researchers at ORAU and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop computer simulations to improve disaster planning in rural communities.

“Disaster planning and its influence on disaster management is remarkably complex, with many layers and contributing factors,” said Julie Crumly, Ph.D., MCHES, ORAU research and evaluation specialist and senior scientist.

The complex system-of-systems approach will enable researchers to apply advanced model-based systems engineering tools to build computer simulations that can provide insight into the potential effects of planning on a disaster event’s outcomes, including how corollary factors like primary health care play a role in those outcomes. Researchers are drawing on the resources of the UTK Applied Systems Lab to develop a hybrid computer simulation model that integrates disaster preparedness planning and rural health considerations.

Their work is funded through the ORAU-Directed Research and Development Program. ODRD is an investment program that provides a path for funding innovative research-based approaches or solutions that capitalize on the core capabilities of ORAU and the research interests of our member universities. This year, ODRD projects focus on public health, data science and analytics, and equity, inclusion and diversity studies.

“Our goal is to apply advanced model-based systems engineering methods to develop a proof-of-concept, multi-method computer simulation that incorporates factors such as policy, resources and operations that can be used to assess the efficacy of emergency planning on health effects for rural communities as a function of primary health care,” Crumly said.