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26 BIG Ideas

The city's leaders in health, science, politics, food, and culture share their game-changing ideas for San Diego in 2016.


Published:

(page 12 of 26)

Let’s streamline our response to natural disasters.

Jo Ann Lane, Co-director, USC Center for Systems and Software Engineering

Floods, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis... Mother Nature could strike here at any moment. When San Diego native Jo Ann Lane was getting her PhD at USC, she studied historical crises like these—and the oftentimes lagged and insufficient responses that followed. With focus, she says, we could prepare better. Lane envisions adaptable and flexible systems, like a network of smart roads to change the direction of traffic flow in case of evacuation. And we should be able to reroute resources—divert water that is flooding, or restore power in areas where it is lost. “El Niño is the potential issue that’s on our doorstep.” She cautions that we will probably struggle with poor drainage, overloaded sewers, and other infrastructure in flood-prone areas. “When systems like that break down, it can affect water supply, our health, and more.” One of Lane’s research areas is “systems of systems,” or how we look at groups of individual systems, whether they’re electronic or bureaucratic. The key is communication and interoperability between agencies so we don’t rely on just one source, which could get overwhelmed and shut down. She recommends studying past mistakes. Looking at how we’ve responded to wildfires, she believes we should use the military sooner. “The marines were sitting there. They wanted to go fight but they weren’t allowed, because it was political.” One system needs to work with another, she says, and we need to improve our “situational awareness”—understanding what is happening and when. Only then we will be a Smart City.

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