The Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid-response Simulation (ADERSIM), based at York University, is a facility, as well as a suite of programs created by an interdisciplinary team of 30 outstanding researchers from across Canada. Building on expertise at York and our long history of operating Disaster & Emergency Management (DEM) programs, we will develop the latest modelling and simulation technology within a state-of-the-art DEM centre. This project leverages over $3 million in group training and infrastructure grants, a $1.4 million infrastructure investment by the university to renovate a heritage building on our Keele Street Campus, and the lab resources and project expertise of a Canada-wide network of senior researchers and industry partners. The goal is to evaluate and enhance disaster and emergency planning and rapid emergency response strategies by governmental, non-governmental and private sector organizations in Ontario, across Canada and around the world.

Strategic Importance: Ontario experienced two major disaster events in 2013 (a flash flood in Toronto in July, and an ice storm in Southern Ontario in December). These events once again highlighted the increasing trend in disaster risks, and challenged our Disaster & Emergency Management (DEM) systems in Ontario. Long-term solutions to such challenges must be based upon a body of knowledge that can accurately model and explain shifting risk patterns, human and social behaviour, institutional preparedness capacities and response functions in disaster scenarios where resources, information, and communication may be limited or disrupted. ADERSIM’s infrastructure, and the myriad research projects that will be hosted therein, will address the above challenges, enhance Ontario’s capacity to deal with emerging disasters and to mitigate future ones, and serve as hub of collaboration with international partners as well.

Facility: ADERSIM’s 12-room, multi-function infrastructure will mimic an advanced Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) found in many large organizations today. Uniquely, this EOC will be situated on a university campus to facilitate advanced research and training. The facility will be equipped with: web-based, agent-based software tools to develop large scale disaster simulations; unique 3D immersive virtual reality lab kit for mobile communications, augmented reality and image analytics; a robust communications and digital media system, next-gen distributed video systems on a converged network, an advanced vision system including IP Video Surveillance in a windowing process format, and digital signage. Importantly, ADERSIM will have a stand-alone power source (gas-powered) to remain fully functional during actual emergencies. It will be set up to provide real-time support to partners in times of emergency, if required.

Training & Research: ADERSIM will initially train 78 post-doctoral fellows and graduate students in disaster and emergency simulation, big data, data analytics, and disaster and emergency information management. The research team will also work with industry partners to develop custom projects for research and staff training. Research will involve the development of state-of-the-art technologies, computational approaches and tools for simulating disaster risks, disaster planning and operations. Areas of research and development will include Agent-Based Modeling, WebGIS, Data Mining, 3D Visualization, social and behavioral modeling, and dynamic and adaptive optimization.

ADERSIM researchers will develop and test state-of-the-art (advanced, user-friendly and customizable) disaster simulation technologies for organizations to improve emergency planning, training, business continuity processes and real time operations. They will also train a new generation of High-quality Personnel (HQP) to conduct disaster simulations and emergency management, contributing to Canada’s national capacity for rapid response. The ADERSIM facility and research program will improve the efficiency of Ontario’s emergency management systems, enhance Ontario’s investment environment, firmly establish Ontario’s largest DEM teaching and research program at York University as a global leader and contribute to the health and safety of Ontarians.

ADERSIM will develop technologies and tools for simulating major DEM planning and operational functions such as disaster mitigation and prevention, emergency exercises and drills, public education, emergency information and warning, emergency evacuation, rapid disaster impact assessment, search and rescue, disaster logistics and medical services, volunteer and donation management, emergency social and psychological services, debris management, and recovery and reconstruction.

Progress and Partnerships: ADERSIM will prioritize emergency management issues and topics that are of particular importance to Ontarians. Projects undertaken by research teams at ADERSIM, especially in early stages, will reflect the needs and interests of the industry and government partners that align themselves with the program and facility.