New Center Provides Tools for Assessing Disasters

"It really empowers many people in the research community to begin doing the kind of work that they weren't able to do before simply because they didn't have access to these tools," said Joseph Wartman, the facility's director and a professor in UW's civil and environmental engineering department.

A center housed at the University of Washington offers a new way for scientists to access state-of-the-art equipment to study the effects of natural disasters, UW News' Sarah McQuate and Kiyomi Taguchi reported recently. The RAPID Facility, which opened Sept. 1, is the first of its kind in the world, they reported, adding that it contains more than 300 instruments, including eight different drones, headsets to record brainwave activity, and a remote-controlled boat that uses sonar to scan what's happening underwater.

This equipment is available for researchers around the world to use, they explained. The RAPID facility also hosts staff members who support data-gathering missions either by training scientists to use the equipment or by helping with data collection and data analysis.

"It really empowers many people in the research community to begin doing the kind of work that they weren't able to do before simply because they didn't have access to these tools," said Joseph Wartman, the facility's director and a professor in UW's civil and environmental engineering department. "Our vision is to transform the natural hazards research field by helping researchers collect high-quality data that is useful across disciplines. We hope it will lead to a deeper understanding of the impacts of natural hazards so we can reduce their effects in the future."

Since opening, RAPID has sent equipment and/or researchers to help assess damage after several natural disasters, including hurricanes Michael and Florence, an earthquake in Japan, an earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, and landslides in Alaska and near Portland, Ore. The article says RAPID was initially funded in 2016 and is part of the National Science Foundation's Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure program.

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