Two Texas A&M University (TAMU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center projects are translating their research to help communities facing impacts and health risks from climate-related disasters, such as wildfires and flooding. These projects are improving community assessments and resilience planning in areas facing these challenges.
For example, their earlier work helped inform a recent guide for local municipalities called Climate Change, Health, and Equity: A Guide for Local Health Departments, produced by the Public Health Institute Center for Climate Change and Health. The guide cites a project led by Katie Kirsch and Jennifer Horney, Ph.D., of the University of Delaware. Kirsch and Horney are now members of the TAMU community engagement core (CEC), with Horney serving as the CEC leader.
The guide suggests actions that municipalities can take when wildfires occur, citing the team's findings from a Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) survey following a large wildfire in Bastrop, Texas in 2011. Their work showed how the CASPER survey quickly provides household-level information about community needs after a disaster at a relatively low cost and informs decision making for preparedness, planning, and recovery.
Horney also worked with another TAMU SRP researcher, Galen Newman, Ph.D., to help develop a Resilience Scorecard for the Department of Homeland Security's Coastal Resilience Center. Newman is an associate professor in the TAMU Department of Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning and a member of the TAMU CEC. They applied the scorecard in the Geodesign process to assess flood vulnerability and develop a resilient master plan for League City, Texas. Geodesign is an approach to community development planning that integrates several fields of science in strategies that anticipate climate-related impacts like rising sea levels. The scorecard uses projections for the 100-year floodplain based on the anticipated sea-level rise by 2100.
The TAMU SRP Center is developing and applying tools to address hazardous exposures during environmental emergencies to help communities measure impacts and prevent problems in the future. Specifically, it is focused on understanding how flooding during natural disasters might redistribute hazardous substances. These projects illustrate how the TAMU CEC is translating its research to help towns, cities, and community members better protect their health.