Explainable and Network-based Approaches for Decision-making in Emergency Management

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Virginia Tech

Critical Infrastructures (CIs), such as power, transportation, healthcare, etc., refer to systems, facilities, technologies, and networks vital to national security, public health, and socio-economic well-being of people. CIs play a crucial role in emergency management. For example, the recent Hurricane Ida, Texas Winter storm, colonial cyber-attack that occurred during 2021 in the US, shows the CIs are highly inter-dependent with complex interactions. Hence power system failures and shutdown of natural gas pipelines, in turn, led to debilitating impacts on communication, waste systems, public health, etc. Consider power failures during a disaster, such as a hurricane. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) such as emergency management authorities may be interested in several decision-making tasks. Can we identify disaster phases in terms of the severity of damage from analyzing changes in power failures? Can we tell the SMEs which power grids or regions are the most affected during each disaster phase and need immediate action to recover? Answering these questions can help SMEs to respond quickly and send resources for fast recovery from damage. Can we systematically provide how the failure of different power grids may impact the whole CIs due to inter-dependencies? This can help SMEs to better prepare and mitigate the risks by improving system resiliency.

In this thesis, we explore problems to efficiently operate decision-making tasks during a disaster for emergency management authorities. Our research has two primary directions, guide decision-making in resource allocation and plans to improve system resiliency. Our work is done in collaboration with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to contribute impactful research in real-life CIs and disaster power failure data.

  1. Explainable resource allocation: In contrast to the current interpretable or explainable model that provides answers to understand a model output, we view explanations as answers to guide resource allocation decision-making. In this thesis, we focus on developing a novel model and algorithm to identify disaster phases from changes in power failures. Also, pinpoint the regions which can get most affected at each disaster phase so the SMEs can send resources for fast recovery.

  2. Networks for improving system resiliency: We view CIs as a large heterogeneous network with nodes as infrastructure components and dependencies as edges. Our goal is to construct a visual analytic tool and develop a domain-inspired model to identify the important components and connections to which the SMEs need to focus and better prepare to mitigate the risk of a disaster.

Critical Infrastructure, Urban analytics, Multivariate Time-series, Urban-Net, Explanations