Wisconsin native and football fanatic Brian Gerber, assistant professor of public administration in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University, is not depressed because he has been researching natural disasters, terrorism and catastrophic events. Instead he is mourning the retirement of Green Bay Packers quarterback, Brett Favre. Wisconsinites take their football very seriously and Gerber is no exception.


The escape of a good football game allows Gerber to balance his life with the very serious nature of his professional research. Currently he is funded by two grants from the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety (WV DMAPS ) to develop the West Virginia Catastrophic Event Evacuation Management Project (CATEVAC). The CATEVAC Exercise, Planning and Training Platform is WVU and the states approach to planning for disaster evacuation events, with a focus on the receipt of, and care for mass influx of displaced persons.


After 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina, disaster preparedness became a major national issue. The disconnect between federal and state government on issues of disaster response was immense. CATEVAC simulates potential disasters and examines the effects of mass evacuation, specifically in West Virginia, to prepare the state,said Gerber, whose strategy is like an all out blitz on disaster issues.

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CATEVAC can be used as a pilot to develop joint, multi-state plans of mass evacuation for the mid-Atlantic region,he said.

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The CATEVAC platform will help the state of West Virginia by improving preparedness for mass ingress, simulating event exercises at low-cost and addressing a major national problem of regional communication and coordination for disasters and catastrophic events. Funding for the project, is provided by WV DMAPS grants totaling more than $845,000


Gerbers game plan for CATEVAC has two phases of research and development. Phase one defines the platform by identifying existing models and simulation tools to be used in developing exercises, training and planning applications. State and local government personnel such as first responders, emergency managers, non-profit organizations, and public health and local officials will be trained in crisis scenarios, particularly the mass ingress of evacuees, to enable state decision makers to plan more accurately.


Rather than creating new software; CATEVAC s phase two will integrate existing components including a GIS -based operating picture to characterize events occurring in the state, an analytic component that estimates real time travel and projected needs for evacuee reception, mass care and shelter, a decision making support system in response to protocol and scenario and existing data resources.

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The idea for the CATEVAC platforms simulation technique stemmed from work that DMAPS Cabinet Secretary James W. Spears did prior to his work in West Virginia. Spears worked with the State Departments African Crisis Response Initiative in which the U.S. provided funding, equipment, training and simulation exercises to military personnel to help them respond to peacekeeping crises.


With the help of experts at the Applied Physics Lab at John Hopkins University, the WVU GIS Technology Center and the All Hazards Consortium (AHC), a non-profit organization for the conditions of the surrounding mid-Atlantic area; Gerber will identify simulation model concepts, assess the states specific capacity and capability data, and analyze gaps to improve readiness efforts.


West Virginia took the initiative to solve a problem before it became a major issue and is now one of the strongest advocates in developing mass evacuation plans and in collaborating with the nations capital and surrounding states,said Spears.

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The CATEVAC platform has the same principles as consequence planningfor every decision there is not just one consequence, but manyand this platform simulates possible catastrophic scenarios to determine how to best serve the needs of the state.


Brian Gerber earned his bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, his masters degree from the University of New Mexico and his doctoral degree from Stony Brook University.


Prior to joining WVU in 2005, his post doctoral research in political science and public policy provided him with experience in environmental regulation and he took a fellowship with the National Science Foundation to do post Sept. 11 workshops on the nations interest in terrorism.


Currently, he is an assistant professor of public administration and also researching emergency evacuation and individuals with disabilities. He specializes in regulatory policy and environmental management, hazards management and homeland security, and public policy analysis.

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For more information on the CATEVAC platform, contact Brian Gerber at (304)293-2614 ext. 3154 or Brian.Gerber@mail.wvu.edu .