Research Areas

Coastal Hazard Modeling

Engineering to Enhance Resilience

Disaster Response and Social Resilience

Planning for Resilience

Educational Curriculum Development

About Us

Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence at UNC - Research Lead
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
100 Europa Drive, Suite 540
Campus Box 7581
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
Tel:  919-962-0344
Anna Schwab, Program Manager

Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence at JSU - Education Lead
Mississippi eCenter
Jackson State University
P.O. Box 18159
Jackson, MS 39217
Tel:  601-979-1807
Thomas Richardson, Deputy Director

CHC fact sheet


Rick Luettich, Director of CHC at UNC
Robert W. Whalin, Director of CHC at JSU

Project Search

Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence

The Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence (CHC) performs research and develops education programs to enhance the Nation's ability to safeguard populations, properties, and economies from catastrophic natural disasters.

Center Activity

Project Spotlights

New Web Tools

CHC has developed two web tools that are now available online. CERA is a web tool that provides supplemental operational surge and wave guidance during coastal storms and generates 5 day forecasts based on the ADCIRC model and SWAN wave model. CERA is available for both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.

"Back to Basics" is an interactive web tool that features numerous examples and best practices in hazard mitigationto include everything you need to know to meet the basic requirements for approval by FEMA. In addition, Back to Basics draws on top available scientifc knowledge and informal knowledge from local residents and officials to create high quality mitigation plans.

ADCIRC (Storm Surge/Flood Model)

CHC developed ADCIRC, high-resolution computer modeling that predicts where, when, and to what extent flooding will occur. The U.S. Coast Guard used ADCIRC model results during Hurricanes Irene, Isaac, and Sandy to aid storm-related decisions, such as deployment locations and maintaining continuity of operations. FEMA is using ADCIRC models to update National Flood Insurance Program coastal inundation maps from New England to Texas and to re-evaluate coastal evacuation routes.


MUNICIPAL, or Multi-Network Interdependent Critical Infrastructure Program for the Analysis of Lifelines, is a tool developed to assist members of the emergency management community with making decisions regarding the restoration of critical infrastructure services. This tool is unique because of the emphasis that it places on interdependencies between multiple infrastructure systems, such as water, power, transportation, and communication services.

Disaster Response Intelligent System (DRIS)

CHC developed DRIS, a GIS-based decision support system for disaster response and recovery. It links to multiple emergency management tools (e.g., hurricane storm surge models, plume models, WebEOC, and live feeds for traffic earthquake, weather) with pre-populated datasets (such as local infrastructure maps) within a single, easy-to-use framework. State and local emergency managers deployed DRIS for several disaster response operations, including two Mississippi tornado events in 2010 and the Mississippi River flood in May 2011. It is presently used by several counties, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, and the Mississippi National Guard.

Analysis of Federal Mitigation Policy in the United States

CHC researchers have developed a method to evaluate the quality of state and local hazard mitigation plans. These plans help communities design and build homes, businesses, roads and other critical structures that are resilient to natural hazards. Existing plans were scored and weaknesses were identified. FEMA has used these results to guide planning and inform federal policy decisions.

In-Situ Scour Evaluation Probe

Scour, or erosion of soil around structures due to water flow, is responsible for a wide range of critical infrastructure failures — from unstable bridges to faulty levees. CHC has developed an in-situ scour probe, the first tool of its kind to measure scour potential in the field. In-situ analysis provides quicker, more accurate results compared to traditional processes that require excavation, sampling and lab processing.

CHC at UNC Current Projects

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the Research Lead for the Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence. Research is conducted in four closely-linked areas, listed below with Principal Investigator, university affiliation and title of the research project. A summary of research projects current up to academic year July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2014 can be viewed here. Currently active CHC projects are listed below.

CHC at UNC Research Areas
Coastal Hazards Modeling
  • John BaughNC State University – Downscaling Storm Surge Models for Engineering Applications
  • Rick Luettich, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Coastal Wave Surge Modeling with ADCIRC
  • Brian BlantonUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/ Renaissance Computing Institute - A web based application for AdcircLite-NC
  • Jessica Losego, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Improving the CERA End-User Manual
  • Jessica Losego and Carola Kaiser, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/ Louisiana State University - Improving the Communication of ADCIRC / SWAN and Other Storm Data to End Users
Engineering to Enhance Resilience
  • Mo Gabr, NC State University – Innovative Component Design and Retrofit of Critical Civil Infrastructure
  • Al Wallace, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Decision Technologies in Support of Emergency Operations Centers
  • Al Wallace, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – MUNICIPAL and SUMMIT
Planning for Resilience
  • Philip Berke, Texas A&M University – Local Resiliency Planning Scorecard and Enhancements to "Beyond the Basics" Hazard Mitigation Planning Website
  • Jennifer Horney, Texas A&M University – Measuring Post-Disaster Recovery: An Online Tool for Community Practitioners
  • Gavin Smith, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – The Role of the State in Disaster Recovery: A Comparative Analysis of Gubernatorial Leadership and Agenecy Engagement, Collaboration, and Capacity Building 
  • Sandra Knight, University of Maryland  – Building Blocks for a National Resilience Scorecard: Assessing the Applicability of Vulnerability and Resilience Tools in Coastal Communities
  • David Salvesen, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  – Do Floodplain Buyouts Lead to Aggregate Risk Reduction
Disaster Response and Social Resilience
  • Mary Lou Kelley, Louisiana State University – Psychological Adjustments Following Coastal Disasters: Identification of Risk and Protective Factors for Families and Web-Based Curriculum Development
  • Jennifer Horney, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill- Measuring Recovery Through Healthy Community Indicators
CHC at UNC Education
  • Gavin Smith, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Administration of Graduate Certificate Program and Course Delivery
  • Gavin Smith, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  – Speaker Series
  • Rick Luettich, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  – Career Development Grant
CHC at UNC E2E Project
  • Susan L. Cutter, University of South Carolina - Identifying and Analyzing the Driving Forces of Hurricane Recovery for Disaster Stricken Areas to Improve Long-term Planning


CHC at JSU Current Projects

Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, is the Educational Lead for the Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence and is developing curricula and degree programs at numerous institutions.

CHC at JSU Education
  • Robert Whalin, Jackson State University - Engineering Concentrations: BS & MS in Coastal; MS in Computational
  • Thomas Richardson, Jackson State University - STEM Bowl Scholarship Competition
  • Meherun Laiju, Tougaloo College - Disaster and Coastal Studies (DCS): An Interdisciplinary Minor in Sociology
  • Magdy Attia, Johnson C Smith University - Integration of Homeland Security Related Technology into the Core Learning Objectives for Computer Science and Engineering Programs, JCSU
  • Rachel Dowty-Beech, Louisiana State University - Program in Disaster Science and Management
  • Gino Lim, University of Houston - Master of Industrial Engineering (concentration in Public Safety Management), UH
  • Kwabena Agyepong, Alcorn State University - Integrate Emergency Management and Natural Disasters into Applied Science Program
CHC at JSU E2E Project
  • Thomas Richardson, Jackson State University - Expanding the Uses of the Disaster Response Intelligent System (DRIS)

Recent Publications

A list of publications can be viewed on the Coastal Hazards Center website here:

Student Opportunities at CHC

Students are an integral component of the Coastal Hazards Center’s mission.

CHC at JSU has developed coastal engineering curricula at the bachelor’s and master’s level. CHC at UNC employs undergraduate and graduate students as interns in research.

Every summer, CHC at UNC employs a student from one of the minority serving partner institutions to work alongside a Principal Investigator on a research project.

Additionally, the DHS Summer Research Team for MSI’s brings a faculty member and student intern team from a minority serving partner institution to one of the host centers.

Here you can read essays written by students who have worked on Coastal Hazards Center projects and have reflected on the value of the experience.

Technology Transition

  • Coastal Hazards Modeling (ADCIRC) – This modeling suite is the next generation of coastal hazard models for predicting coastal flooding. The models couple rain and wind forecasts with hydrologic, storm surge, and wave models to provide holistic coastal flooding predictions.
  • Beyond the Basics ( – This website features numerous examples and best practices drawn from high quality hazard mitigation plans. High quality plans combine the best available scientific knowledge with informal knowledge of residents and local officials. The website includes everything you need to know to meet the basic requirement for approval from FEMA.
  • Disaster Response Intelligent System (DRIS) – A GIS-based situational awareness system for regional and national disaster response and recovery that is scalable to the regional, state, county and local levels. DRIS integrates several tools including: Hurricane Storm Surge Model (SLOSH); Chemical Plume Model (ALOHA); At-Risk Population Model; WebEOC, Live Weather, Earthquake, Traffic Feeds; and Virtual USA Library Tool.
  • In-Situ Evaluation of Scour Probe (ISEP) – Technology that allows in-field measurement of the scour potential of soil without having to excavate or send samples to a lab. This facilitates rapid assessment of the stability of hydraulic structures, including levees and bridges, after a disaster.
  • MUNICIPAL- Post Disaster Infrastructure Decision Support Tool – A decision support tool that includes modeling capabilities, optimization software and GIS software. It allows users to visualize critical infrastructure systems and their interdependencies; visually assess the damage to these systems caused by an extreme event; and make mitigation, response, and recovery decisions that help ensure community resiliency.
  • Hazard Mitigation Plan Quality Performance Indicators – Tool to evaluate the quality of hazard mitigation plans, consisting of a set of performance indicators and procedures for applying these indicators.
  • Youth Coping Response Inventory (Y-CRI) – A psychometrically sound measure of psychological recovery in children and adolescents following coastal disasters. 

E2E Projects 

Expanding the Uses of the Disaster Response Intelligent System (DRIS) - CHC at JSU’s project builds on experience with the Disaster Response Intelligent System (DRIS). DRIS is an Esri-based GIS product that supports comprehensive emergency management planning, response, and recovery. It links to multiple emergency management tools (e.g., hurricane storm surge models, plume models, WebEOC, and live feeds for traffic, earthquake, weather) with pre-populated datasets (such as local infrastructure maps) within a single, easy-to-use framework.

Following Hurricane Katrina, JSU researchers developed DRIS as a tool for county-level emergency managers. The goal of this project is to extend the applications of DRIS and make it available to a larger number of end users. DRIS is scalable to cities, states, or regions, and can be adapted readily for specific applications, such as the private sector, universities, and medical facilities.

Identifying And Analyzing the Driving Forces Of Hurricane Recovery Post Sandy And Katrina - CHC at UNC has partnered with the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina in a study of Hurricane Katrina’s impact on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast to understand factors influencing the pace and progression of recovery in the region, the potential inequalities in the process, and those antecedent conditions that could give rise to a “recovery divide.” The research combines baseline geographic data on the social, built environment, and hazard vulnerability of the region, a historical narrative on past conditions that influence the current (pre-Katrina) settlement history, a statistical analysis of historical rates of settlement and demographic change in the region, and forecasts for the future trajectory of the region.

UNC Partners

Louisiana State University
North Carolina State University
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
University of Notre Dame
University of Oklahoma
UNC Institute of Marine Sciences
UNC Hazards Center
Renaissance Computing Institute at UNC
Appalachian State University
Texas Southern University
University of Houston at Clear Lake

JSU Partners

Alcorn State University
Center for Defense Integrated Data
Engineer Research and Development Center
Johnson C. Smith University
Lockheed Martin
Louisiana State University
Northrop Grumman Center
for High Performance Computing
Texas A&M University at Galveston
Tougaloo College
University of Houston

Federal Partners

U.S. Coast Guard
FEMA Hazard Mitigation Division
FEMA Disaster Recovery Division
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
National Weather Service
FEMA National Flood Insurance Program