Columbia Present in Launch of Latin America’s First-Ever Disaster Resilience Institute

August 29, 2019

International disaster and resilience experts met in Santiago mid-August at a seminar to inaugurate the Instituto para la Resiliencia ante Desastres (Institute for Disaster Resilience, or Itrend), the first ever of its kind in Latin America.

During the seminar, which featured Columbia University Associate Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Malo Hutson, as one of the keynote speakers, Itrend announced 14 tasks to reduce the country's losses due to earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, volcanic eruptions, fires and extreme weather events, for the next 20 years. Itrend is jointly run by Universidad Católica’s Engineering Department and Universidad de Chile’s Mathematical Modeling Center, funded by Chilean development agency Corfo and mandated by the Ministry of Interior and Public Security. It is charged with bolstering the country’s disaster resilience through the creation of public goods and the articulation of R&D&i efforts.

Hutson, who is also PhD Director in the Urban Planning Program and Director of Project Development at Columbia World Projects, celebrated the creation of this institution. “Itrend will serve as a depository of data, with open access through modeling processes. In the US most modeling is done by the insurance companies, and they just focus on one aspect of disaster loss. You need to look at the broader perspective – the humanistic side, not just the financial loss. How do you put a price on a child’s education getting interrupted?”

“I’m struck by how much Chileans put humanity first,” he said. “You talk about the science, you talk about the risk management, you talk about the costs. But at the end of the day, it’s about the people.” Hutson has had a close relationship with Chile for the past six years, having worked with authorities in Chile’s Maule region in managing and responding to disasters and increasing resilience. Last year Hutson and his colleagues received a two-year grant from the President’s Global Innovation Fund to study how Chile has responded to a large increase in natural disasters over the past ten years, including wildfires.

Itrend’s 14-step plan to bolster Chile’s resilience involves a US$45.7 million/year investment that would lead to US$106 million/year in savings from lower disaster-associated losses.

The 14 tasks are:

  • Research social resilience against natural disasters.
  • Evaluate the impact of extreme natural events on critical infrastructure, to define how to increase their resilience.
  • Support the development of pilot projects to understand and improve the resilience of communities.
  • Strengthen the state’s capacities to promote economic and social resilience.
  • Promote the development of high added value innovation based on R&D in new technologies, materials, processes, products and services.
  • Promote the development of solutions based on digital technologies that allow for planning ahead of extreme natural events.
  • Build comprehensive threat and exposure scenarios to be able to estimate the physical and social impact of extreme natural events.
  • Develop research and technological capacity to estimate risk associated with the different types of losses caused by disasters.
  • Develop R&D&i to assess the risk and resilience of public infrastructure and critical systems.
  • Support R&D&i to improve understanding of the processes associated with individual and multiple threats.
  • Promote a national monitoring system with networks and sensors for each threat.
  • Promote the development of national models and maps of natural hazards.
  • Develop early warning systems pre and post event for different types of threats.
  • Implement predictions about the operation of the different public and private systems faced with disaster.