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LAFAYETTE, La. - A research center at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette has received a $1.3 million grant to build a tool to educate property owners about the potential for flooding or other risks in their area.

The Advocate reported (http://bit.ly/19BRlVu) the university's National Incident Management Systems and Technologies Institute was awarded the grant by the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to create a data collective for disaster information.

University vice president of research Ramesh Kolluru said the Louisiana All-Hazard Information Portal is intended to improve disaster planning, mitigation and recovery efforts for state and local agencies, residents and business owners.

"We're developing this technology to make it available to John Q. Public, so someone can look at a geographic location and get information to see on a scale of 1 to 10 what is the hazard risk associated with the location," Kolluru said.

The research is designed to educate the public about ways to reduce their risk of property damage, Kolluru said.

"If a property scores 5 out of 10, we're not saying that you don't build a home there or establish a business there," Kolluru said. "We just want to make sure that there's information available so they can make a decision and choose ways to mitigate risks."

Historical data on weather trends, disasters and whether vulnerabilities still exist or have been effectively mitigated will be used to develop the digital tool, he said.

Part of the data-gathering mission involves visiting communities statewide to interview property owners and local officials about past incidents, and to ensure is up up-to-date documenting any steps that have been taken to mitigate disasters - such as levees, flood walls, or elevated construction requirements.

The project is expected to be under development for the next three years.

"We hope that this becomes a national model," Kolluru said. "We want to go to FEMA, but that's a couple of years down the road. They have this information available nationally that could benefit stakeholders across the nation."

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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