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How To Survive Friday The 13th (with Engineering)

Disasters don't have to be disastrous – and luck has little to do with survival. Advances from NSF-funded researchers are enabling buildings and infrastructure to better withstand natural, technological and human-made hazards.

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1. Hide out in an earthquake-safe building

Paul M. Torrens, Geography and UMIACS, University of Maryland, College Park / Via geosimulation.org

In the last decade, more than 1,500 earthquake researchers have begun more than 400 projects that have changed the way engineers construct and retrofit structures in earthquake zones.

2. Compute the safest route to work in bad weather

Paul M. Torrens and Cheng Fu, University of Maryland, College Park; Sabya Mishra, University of Memphis; Timothy Welch, Georgia Tech. / Via nsf.gov

Not surprisingly, snow and ice affect people’s decisions about transportation. New tools driven by big data could help city and regional planners better prepare for snowfall and other disruptions.

3. Go off-grid with a floating wind turbine

Altaeros Energies / Via 1.usa.gov

A balloon-suspended wind turbine can reach 2,000 feet in altitude to catch faster winds, generating more than twice the energy of a similarly rated tower-mounted turbine.

4. Avoid wildfires (from boiling metal)

James Linwood Urban, Combustion and Fire Processes Laboratory, University of California - Berkeley / Via 1.usa.gov

In places where society meets nature, hot metal shards cast off by infrastructure can reach 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and start wildfires. Studies of the conditions that lead to ignition can protect people and plants in the future.

5. Drive over self-monitoring bridges and roads

Shantanu Chakrabartty, Michigan State University / Via nsf.gov

New self-powered sensors can be attached to or embedded inside bridges, pavement, vehicles -- almost anything. Future networks of these tiny devices could alert us to potential problems.

6. Heed early warning systems to avoid storm surges

"Hurricane Odile 2014 making landfall" by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Satellite Services Division - ssd.noaa.gov Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - commons.wikimedia.org / Via nsf.gov

More than half of those who die during hurricanes perish from drowning. A new experimental storm surge watch/warning system will show where and how high waves may reach, informing evacuation decisions.

7. Find firm footing

"Stromboli animiert 800x600" by Jens Bludau - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA http://3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - commons.wikimedia.org / Via nsf.gov

Mathematicians work with engineers and geologists to understand how materials in volcanoes, landslides and avalanches move. Predictive models can help people figure out where to build (or not build).

8. Outsmart drought

"Rub al Khali 002" by Nepenthes - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA http://3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - commons.wikimedia.org / Via nsf.gov

Drought is often called the creeping disaster. It develops slowly and is easy to ignore until it's too late, but engineers are helping communities take preventative countermeasures.

9. Communicate with Wi-Fi provided by drones

NSF / Via 1.usa.gov

Typical wireless communications have a range limit of about the length of a football field. New directional antennas on drones can extend the Wi-Fi reach to more than three miles, allowing you to reach help in a disaster.

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