Disaster Risk and Resilience in the Americas (DRRA)


The United States Agency for International Development, Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) awarded a three-year Cooperative Agreement (2019-2022) to the FIU Extreme Events Institute Disaster Risk and Resilience in the Americas program (DRRA).  The program focuses on disaster risk reduction in Latin America and the Caribbean, providing advanced training to higher education faculty and practitioners that will prepare them to help their communities by reducing existing risks, as well as identifying and confronting the driving forces that are creating new risks on an almost daily basis. The training teaches participants about numerical risk modeling and its practical applications.  The program addresses risks from multiple hazards, including earthquakes, tropical cyclones, landslides, floods, and droughts.  The program’s goal is to help communities reduce vulnerabilities, better manage risk, and build long-term resilience – taking at least some pressures off emergency response, relief, and recovery organizations, which are often overburdened and highly stressed.

Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas

Earthquake, Haiti 2010. Photo by the American Red Cross
Residents of Part-Au-Prince, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Sector Status and Trends Assessment (WASH) of Haiti projects performed in 2010.

Alliance for Disaster Risk-Sensitive Investments

Construction workers reinforcing a new floor on a house in Huamanga, Peru (2013)

Public Opinion and the Politics of Risk Reduction (POPRR)


Core disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies, such as building codes and construction regulations, crucially save lives and protect property. The success of these policies relies not only on engineers and civil servants but also on stakeholder participation and public support. Researchers at FIU’s Extreme Events Institute are modeling the dynamics of public support for disaster risk reduction policies and their effective enforcement.

Funded by two research grants from the National Science Foundation (one in collaboration with Vanderbilt University), the POPRR program is collecting data in the United States and in 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries on experiences with extreme events, perceptions of future risk, support for risk reduction policies and trust in the integrity of their enforcement. The program has a particular focus on (a) whether, why and for whom experiencing a disaster alters perceptions of risk and support for risk reduction policies; (b) the duration of any such changes in public support; and (c) the impact of public opinion on policymaking. Findings from the POPRR program are being shared with policymakers, stakeholders, and the public at large, with the goal of improving how these vital public policies are actually enacted and experienced. What is more, the data collected by this program serves as an open-access resource for practitioners and researchers around the world.

Wall of Wind (WOW)

The FIU 12-fan Wall of Wind ™ (WOW) is the largest and most powerful university research facility of its kind and is capable of simulating a Category 5 hurricane – the highest rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This level of wind speed testing (with wind-driven rain) at large scales is leading to performance-based designs that are making a significant impact on mitigating hurricane damage and influencing enhanced building codes. Full-scale experimentation results have already been applied to the Florida Building Code. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has designated the Wall of Wind as one of the nation’s major “Experimental Facilities” under the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) program as a distributed, multi-user national facility that provides the natural hazards research community with access to research infrastructure. The goal of the WOW facility as a NHERI-EF is to allow NSF-supported researchers to better understand wind effects on building systems and other structures and prevent wind hazards from becoming community disasters. Thus, the Wall of Wind is playing a critical role in advancing the understanding of hurricane impacts on buildings and developing and validating innovative damage mitigation products, thereby enhancing the disaster resilience of our communities and nation.

Wall of Wind

Wall of Wind™ at the FIU Engineering and Computing Center.

Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model

Hurricane Charley, 2004. Aerial image of destroyed homes in Punta Gorda, following hurricane Charley.

Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model (FPHLM)


The Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model is the state’s only certified and transparent method of determining annual expected insured and probable maximum losses as a result of a hurricane and helping to set windstorm rates. Florida will be the first state to combine wind, storm surge and flood risks in a single public model to determine the overall hazards of a storm. The model assesses hurricane risk and projects annual expected insured losses and probable maximum loss for specific properties or portfolio of policies by coverage, construction type, zip code, county, and region in Florida. The model consists of three major components – wind, vulnerability, and actuarial insured loss. The model can also be used to conduct stress test on insurance companies and quantify the economic benefits of hurricane mitigation. IHRC professors lead the team that includes specialists from the University of Florida, Florida State University, Florida Institute of Technology, Hurricane Research Division of NOAA, University of Miami, Notre Dame University and West Virginia University. These experts and the project will make the Extreme Events Institute the leading center for innovative hurricane risk and loss research.

Coastal and Estuarine Storm Tide (CEST)


The Coastal and Estuarine Storm Tide (CEST) model is used to estimate storm surge as low pressure weather systems, such as hurricanes and tropical storms, approach coastal areas. Storm surge and coastal flooding have become increasingly appreciated hazards, brought home so clearly by “Super Storm” Sandy. The research team is comprised of geoscientists, mathematicians, meteorologists, and computer scientists. The model takes into account the expected tide at landfall and the atmospheric pressure and wind characteristics of the weather system. It also takes into consideration major coastal topographic features such as coastal ridges and barrier islands. FIU’s research in partnership with the National Hurricane Center will be used to enhance storm surge models for future operational forecasts when a hurricane approaches.

Coastal and Estuarine Storm Tide

Key West residents fleeing Hurricane Wilma storm surge in 2005.