As we near the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, the hard reality is that many of the human deaths and injuries caused by this historic, devastating storm were likely preventable. Too many coastal residents either failed to fully understand the severity of the storm and the dangerous conditions it would produce, or chose not to evacuate in spite of the serious risks of staying in their homes.
With an award of approximately $1.8 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the Sea Grant programs in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut will fund targeted social science research and related technology transfer to improve the public response to coastal storm hazard information.
The objective of this research initiative, the Coastal Storm Awareness Program (CSAP), is to better understand the coastal storm hazards warning system, the information it conveys (what, when, how, and by whom) and the factors that affect whether recipients of this information decide to act on it. The goal of the program is to save lives and promote public safety by creating tools that will better inform people of the true severity of the danger from coastal storm hazards and increase the likelihood that residents who should remove themselves out of harm’s way actually do so and avoid becoming storm casualties.
The program will have a two-year duration, with research completed in the first 18 months. The final phase of the program will be spent in an intensive effort to introduce the program’s products and research results to the coastal storm hazard prediction and response community, working with its members to adopt and implement technologies, tools and procedures to improve coastal storm hazard prediction and the understanding and responsiveness of the general public to these warnings.
The National Sea Grant Office (NSGO) will make separate, equal and parallel awards from the funds provided it by NOAA to the New Jersey, New York and Connecticut Sea Grant programs to support CSAP. From these monies, each individual state program will fund selected research proposals and a portion of the collaborative extension and communication activities identified by the Sea Grant program managers and a Program Steering Committee comprised of professionals drawn from the National Weather Service and emergency hazard response community in the Sandy-affected area, as well as representatives of public communications media.
Additional Details on this RFP and its Related Process
The suite of research projects funded under CSAP will not be orchestrated from the top but will, rather, be assembled from the responses to the call for research proposals (RFP). However, it is clear that the urgency of the program’s purpose and the widespread interest in it, the expectations imposed on the program by its federal sponsors and the condensed program timetable will impose a substantial research administration challenge to the state Sea Grant programs that must be met if CSAP it to fully succeed. This will probably translate into more detailed and more frequent progress reports from funded investigators, mandatory participation for project PIs in annual program progress meetings and other assemblies related to the program.
Senior extension personnel and senior communications staff from the three state Sea Grant programs will be integrated into the research program in order to advise researchers about the communities being studied and to increase the probability of the research findings and products being implemented. Extension and communications professionals from the three Sea Grant programs will also formulate unified plans to, respectively, extend CSAP research to the coastal storm hazard and emergency response community (including public media) and bring the program, its objectives and findings to the attention of the general public.
The Program Steering Committee will to assure that the program of research and other activities funded through CSAP benefits from the advice and guidance of the community of professionals who will ultimately use the products, tools and information CSAP produces. The Committee will be involved in proposal selection, review of Extension and communications efforts, periodic program reviews and other landmark events in the CSAP timetable. Additionally, individual Committee members may serve as links between specific CSAP-funded projects and the program’s target audience.