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Research and knowledge gaps assessment

The first year of the Center’s activity was devoted to a mapping of research and knowledge gaps (needs assessment) in the various relevant areas related to Emergency Preparedness. 

The data sources for the mapping were interviews with the 85 Center researchers; the scientific literature; interviews with experts and practitioners, and examination of internet sites of professional organizations and of disaster recovery websites and media reports.
Each research group undertook a disciplinary mapping – using the sources above, for all disaster types and time phases. Each group held meetings scoping the needs and identified what is important to do and what the group researchers want to do – culminating in in-group prioritizing. We then pulled out the trans-disciplinary topics and analogies across groups.
For a list of multi-dusciplinary research gaps for emergency readiness press here. For other research gaps in the different groups (in Hebrew) see here

This led to the Center’s internal calls for proposals, prioritization, and the research projects chosen for support:

On-going research 2018-2020

Robust preparedness against surprises in extreme events: Multi-site fires and earthquakes

Yakov Ben-Haim, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, with: Ronen Avni, Israel Fire and Rescue Authority` Adar Ben-Eliyahu, University of Haifa; Anat Gesser-Edelsburg, University of Haifa; Erez Sverdlov, Consultant and Rivka Yahav, University of Haifa

This project is a combination of policy orientation and scientific emphasis on basic questions.

Policy-orientation. Info-gap decision theory will be used for prioritizing action alternatives according to their robustness to surprise. The product is a decision support tool for planning and preparedness of emergency responders in two areas: multi-site fires and earthquakes. We use models from different fields of science, and identify defects in them and show how to robustify against these deficiencies.
Basic-science orientation. The research team is multi-disciplinary, combining field and academic personnel, employing the method of Mental Models in Risk Assessment. The product of the project is understanding in support of preparations to build personal and community resilience, and to prepare therapeutic teams for emergency response.

Insurance, thresholds and mechanisms for post disaster resilience

Eran Feitelson, Daniel Felsenstein and Itay Fishhendler (Hebrew University of Jerusalem).

This proposal proceeds beyond the classic conception of insurance-as-risk-mitigation and suggests that it is also an under-recognized indicator of post-disaster resilience. Hitherto this topic has not been addressed in the literature and this has serious consequences for practice and policy. If imperfectly-competitive markets do not allocate insurance resources efficiently this can mean serious drawbacks in the post-disaster recovery process and resilience of places and sectors. If institutional constraints do not allow for flexible insurance contracts this can lead to an unfair insurance burden on government (and the non-affected taxpayer). If institutions such as insurance companies, government disaster funds etc are over-exposed while adopting inappropriate insurance thresholds, this can have serious implications for public faith in post disaster recovery. If regulatory land use and planning practices are used as insurance mechanisms this can lead to market distortions and hamper post--disaster resilience .This proposal aims to fill this knowledge gap in Israel.

The key research questions relate to the demand, supply and institutional dimensions of insurance for natural hazards.
• What is the spatial distribution of insurance (mis)coverage? (demand side)
• Do insurance contracts and premia reflect natural hazards and risks? (supply side)
• What are the local and global regulatory constraints operating in the natural hazards risk insurance market? What are the risks of harnessing the regulatory land use planning system to hazard insurance and what is the optimal public/private insurance coverage mix? (institutional side).
The proposal uses both quantitative and qualitative methods. Demand and supply side questions will be addressed using by estimation spatial demand and supply functions for insurance (household, industrial, agricultural) using appropriate spatial econometric methods and GIS techniques to identify spatial mismatch. To ascertain how threshold conditions are fixed and made operative, a series of interviews with stakeholders will be conducted.

Research outputs include, comprehensive national mapping of areas and populations over exposed to hazards given their level of insurance, identification of pockets of 'insurance deprivation' and archetypes of thresholds pertaining to natural disaster compensation. These results are expected to have significance for government (thresholds), insurance providers (mapping mis-match) and exposed populations (generating local awareness and contributing to resilience)

Managing a nation and its citizens during a crisis: Interrelation test between government and public during emergency times

Eran Vigoda-Gadot with: (alphabetize): Adar Ben-Eliyahu,Nissim (Nessi)Cohen,Uri Hertz, Rotem Miller-mor Attias and Shlomo Mizrahi (University of Haifa)

The study examines government system management and preparation for emergencies, management of State functions in times of crisis, and the learning process following it. The public is at the forefront of dealing with emergency situations, is the first to be affected, and thus in need of developing ways of coping. The tool to be developed will examine the public views on a wide range of parameters which may affect the public and government ways of coping in emergency situations both on the theoretical and the practical level. To date, literature has examined only limited aspects of public-government relations in emergency situations. These studies demonstrate the significant role of citizens' trust in the existence of communication which is crucial in emergency situations (Wray et al., 2006). The important role of public trust is compounded in a security threat situation, where a low level of trust increases the public's willingness to waive civil rights, thus causing a threat to democracy (Silver, 2004). However, there is a significant lack of knowledge regarding explanations and models that shed light on changes in public trust, positions and behavior in times of emergency (Blendon et al, 2003; Davis and Silver, 2004; Hance et al, 1988; Peters et al, 1997; Wray et al, 2006). This research addresses this deficiency through examining questions which deal with the mutual relations between government and citizens related to issues of emergency and their implications for public attitudes and behavior. The study will examine what affects public trust in government systems during emergency times? Which areas have a greater impact and under what conditions? Are there changes in the public trust / positions / behavior considering the improvement in public systems management? Furthermore, is the change viable and durable? We will conduct a longitudinal study using quantitative research methods through surveys and experimental research design. The surveys will be conducted on the basis of the tools and insights accumulated by the researchers in previous projects dealing with the interrelations between public and government with regard to trust, satisfaction and effectiveness of the public sector. The survey data will present attitudes and behavioral tendencies of citizens at various points in time, regarding the performance of government emergency bodies, and behavioral tendencies in relation to emergency situations and preparedness for emergencies. In light of this data, computerized laboratory experiments and various simulation tools will be employed, aimed at an in depth examination of the specific issues related to public behavior in emergency situations.

Using Twitter for near real-time alerts and damage analysis of natural hazards in Israel and its close surrounding

Motti Zohar, Lea Wittenberg, (Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Haifa); Avigdor Gal (Faculty of Industrial Engineering & Management, Technion), Efrat Morin (Institute of Earth Sciences, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Ran Nof, (the Geological Survey of Israel).

During the last decade, the social network of Twitter has become a robust platform for distributing messages (tweets) among numerous subscribers worldwide. To date, Twitter is used by more than 300 million users worldwide. In Israel the growth of twitter subscribers is by ~100,000 since 2014 and to date consists of over 1,000,000 subscribers. The tweets, up to 280 characters only, can be sent via web pages, mobile devices or third-party Twitter applications. During and around the occurrence of natural hazards, people tend to over-tweet and consequently, the number of tweets raise significantly. While Twitter is already in use for near real-time alerts, processes for extracting reported damage from tweets and examining the resulted spatial distribution are still under development. In the proposed study it is suggested to acquire tweets made prior to and after natural hazards such as floods, fire and earthquakes that occurred in Israel and its close surroundings. It is planned to temporally and spatially analyze the fetched tweets in order to (1) achieve near real-time alerts; (2) analyze damage patterns and affected regions; (3) validate initial damage estimations and calibrate reference scenarios used for preparing the initial damage estimations and (4) inspect how this data can assist in management of cascading events during the first hours after a catastrophe occurs.

Developing urban community resilience and spatial planning schemes for emergency readiness: multi-disciplinary research comparing local level preparedness for emergencies resulting from war with those resulting from extreme weather conditions

Shlomit Paz, Hani Nouman, Maya Negev, Motti Zohar (University of Haifa) and Hagai Levine (Hebrew University)

Background: The frequency of extreme weather events in our region is increasing due to climate change. This is the greatest challenge of this century, effecting all aspects of human health and safety. The proposed research will focus on the preparedness of local authorities in Israel for extreme weather events in comparison to preparation for wars. The project will focus on the case study of Haifa as a city that represents heterogenous population. In addition, Haifa has a developed preparedness policy for war conditions, however, it is not adapted to climate change related emergencies. The war preparedness policy will serve as a basis for studying and comparing the preparedness for extreme climate events. 

Aims: The aim of this project is to improve adaptation and preparation of local authorities in Israel to extreme events, by developing community resilience at the city level, and through comparison of the preparedness to extreme weather events to preparation for war conditions. The project will focus on comparing and studying the adaptation gaps, and learning from past war situations to improve preparation for extreme weather events.
Project description: After reviewing the academic and practical knowledge regarding adaptation of local authorities to extreme events, we will: 1) map and characterize populations in high risk, 2) develop a GIS-based website of the study outputs, accessible to the public in routine and during extreme event, 3) examine the coordination capacities of the agencies responsible for taking care of the community before, during and after an extreme weather event, 4) examine policy processes and the involvement of functions and professionals in the local authorities (through in-depth interviews), 5). In questionnaires, examine the awareness and intentions of the public to prepare for extreme climate events, 6) In a participatory process (through workshops with the community), develop tools for enhancement and evaluation of community resilience for extreme events, with a focus on extreme whether events, 7) develop scenarios for assessing health impacts of extreme whether events for different resilience scenarios and different populations, 8) develop, adapt and make accessible extreme whether alerts for different populations, 9) develop recommendations for local authorities for practical preparedness for climate change in the short and long term.
Expected outcomes: 1) GIS based maps and digital information for the city of Haifa. The mapping will include sensitive populations according to age, socio-economic status, language, level of sensitivity to extreme climate, according to the geographical location in the city and unique characteristics of sub-populations. 2) develop GIS interface for data running and simulations, 3) develop preliminary policy recommendations for preparedness for extreme events (comparison between war and climate events) at local authorities in Israel, in order to improve the interface and coordination between the different agencies and the role descriptions, 4) develop recommendations for building community resilience in different populations in Haifa and guidelines and evaluation tools for community resilience at the local authority level in a diverse society.

Between emergency and recovery - the twilight zone following a destructive earthquake

Amotz Agnon, Eran Feitelson (Hebrew University) , Noah D Picard , Moshe Weinstein (Lev Academic Center), Eran Lederman, Mike Turner (Bezaleal Academy), Einav Levy (Israeli School of Humanitarian Action), Moshe Farchi (Tel Hai College)

This study will address the critical period after the onset of a major earthquake and before life can return to normal. A twilight zone (on the spectrum of short to long-term recovery) occurs after the diminishing of the waves from the main shock of a major earthquake and before quiescence rules. One of the most critical challenges for displaced and unrooted communities during this period is shelter that needs to be planned at an acceptable standard, sufficiently close to workplace, and with basic amenities. We term this as the provisional accommodation for uprooted communities - PAUC.

This research will seek to establish tools for turning the uncertain twilight zone into an opportunity for smoothing the transition between emergency and recovery, focusing on the challenges of PAUC. We comprise five teams from the following disciplines: sciences (geology and seismology), planning, technology, architecture & design, and psycho-sociology.  The study will be comprised of five inter-related tasks. 

  1. Estimation of the duration of the twilight period and preparation of guidelines for addressing the challenges specific to this time period. To this end we propose to use worldwide experience as well as local aftershock series for developing an automatic tool that will refine the prediction of the duration of the twilight zone during that period. This tool should be available for the planners in real time, to adjust the plans and eventually to release an all-clear harbinger for quiescence and recovery.
  2. Identification of sites for PAUC. The purpose of this task is to build the tools and set the principles for locating temporary housing for displaced persons after an earthquake. This task is comprised of two components. The first, in conjunction with the fifth task below, is a review of the experience of PAUC after the evacuation of Gush Katif. The second is will be to build a GIS-based approach to identify appropriate sites for temporary housing. This approach will bring together topographical features (slopes), land ownership, distances from the permanent houses destroyed or made uninhabitable, infrastructure availability as well as social and community variables.
  3. Technological solutions for PAUC. Technology allows fast deployment of pre-constructed PAUC, with minimal and even negligible infrastructures as electricity, water, sewage and communications. Our task is to identify solutions that are infrastructure-free, with pre-emptive and supportive systems.
  4. Architecture & design for PAUC. For future high-standard solutions to massive displacement following an earthquake PAUC have to be designed from an inter-disciplinary perspective. This task will review alternative strategies for the construction of temporary dwellings that will address specific situations depending on the time of need and the space available. These will take into account climate, mobility needs, culture and the timeframe in which the shelters will have to be used. On this basis recommendations will be made.
  5. Explore mechanisms for psychosocial and community recovery at PAUC. The overarching goal of the Psycho-Social component is to explore the natural social and psychosocial processes among IDPs in their new place of living. This will allow for the development of a theoretical and practical model of effective sheltering design and management in possible Israeli scenarios. Using a mixed-method approach this task will examine both the Gush Katif case and several cases abroad. It will feed into tasks 2 and 4 as it will provide insights regarding both siting and residence planning.

  6. nsurance, Thresholds and Mechanisms for Post Disaster Resilience

Towards an Israeli doctrine and legislative-regulative framework dealing with emergencies

Prof. Shlomo Mizrahi (Public Policy, University of Haifa) and Prof. Eli Salzberger (Law, University of Haifa)

During its short history Israel had gone through numerous emergencies, most of which were related to national security incidents. It is surprising, therefore, that Israel lacks a solid doctrine and comprehensive legislative and regulative framework dealing with preparation towards emergencies, handling and mitigating such emergencies and recovering from them. Furthermore, the legislation that does exist on the law-books is far from reflecting reality, creating a dangerous gap between the law in the books and law in action (e.g. The Home front Command which is currently the main body to deal with emergency is not mentioned in any legislation and the veteran Civil Defense Law 1951 does not reflect the actual decision-making and institutional structure addressing emergencies).
This research is meant to fill these lack and gap by:

  1. A comparative study of the emergency doctrines and legislative frameworks in other countries, among which are Japan, Canada, the Philippines and the UK – countries with different features regarding both the type of threats, as well as governmental structures (e.g. federation or a unitary country) and legal cultures (e.g. common law vs. civil law). We aim to analyze the different arrangements relating to various variables such as 1) whether the law relates to all stages of emergency – preparation and mitigation, management and recovery, 2) centralized vs. de-centralized emergency regime, 3) institutions and command structures during normality (preparation stage) and during emergency, 4) powers and authorities vis-à-vis the government, administration, local authorities, public entities, private entities and individuals, during normality and emergency, 5) enforcement mechanisms, judicial review and checks and balances during normality and emergency.
  2. Analyzing the Israeli current emergency management system and proposal of required reforms, which will involve also interviews with past and present key office holders in the emergency realm. We will use the methodology of policy research including the following steps: 1) identifying the main problems; 2) setting the main goals and specific targets; 3) identifying various alternatives regarding the regulatory and command structure that may minimize the problems; 4) evaluating these alternatives, prioritize them and produce recommendations. In doing so, we will integrate normative and positivistic approaches, namely we will apply both value-oriented evaluation and interest-based evaluation and integrate between the two.
  3. Producing a policy paper based on the findings from the comparative research and from the analysis of Israel.
  4. Translating the policy paper into a proposed legislative and regulative framework.