Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Center: facing future disasters well prepared

News - 28 January 2021 - Webredactie Communication

In today’s edition of the TV show Jinek, Ernst Kuijpers, Marion Koopmans and Ahmed Aboutaleb presented plans for the Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Center (PDPC) developed by the convergence collaboration between TU Delft, Erasmus University Medical Center (Erasmus MC) and Erasmus University Rotterdam. In this centre, Rotterdam and Delft bring together top scientists in the fields of medicine, engineering (including AI), logistics and sociology. Their ambitious research agenda addresses the extent and the interrelated aspects of future pandemics and disasters. In the Netherlands and around the world, there is an urgent need to better prepare for pandemics and disasters such as the current coronavirus crisis. The knowledge that has been acquired in the Rotterdam area can be applied broadly, which means that the Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Center will be able to play an important role worldwide in preparing for future disasters and pandemics.

A personal idea

The plans for a Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Center grew from the wish expressed by the virologist Professor Marion Koopmans that our current vigilance should not wane once the pandemic is under control. At least fifty engineers, doctors and scientists from the participating institutes have by now joined the PDPC. The initiative has the wholehearted support of the City of Rotterdam. Researchers from Delft are enthusiastic.

Simulating disasters

Within the PDPC, Bas Jonkman is conducting simulations of various natural disasters and their effects. ‘In a simulation, the problems which might arise become apparent, such as stagnant water as an infectious-disease hot spot, or bridges and tunnels that get congested’, Jonkman says. ‘By working together with the Erasmus MC, we can get a better idea of the effects these things could have on healthcare.’ Serge Hogendoorn is interested in the role mobility plays in the spread of infectious diseases. His research group is working on test projects simulating, for example, the evacuation of the Randstad area. Research is also being conducted at TU Delft to map out the risk of infection at large events. All of these data will be made available to those responsible for making policy, and the question then will be: how do we prepare for this?

Monitoring and training

Tina Comes has high expectations of a ‘virtual watchtower’, an easily accessible information platform that makes up-to-date information available to doctors, safety regions and policy-makers in a well-structured fashion. To build this, new models based on artificial intelligence are needed to structure and correctly filter out information. Pieter van Gelder’s input will be comparing the effects of pandemics, floods, droughts and other disasters. Can we forecast the potential numbers of patients or the economic impact? A realistic laboratory will also allow training to take place.

This research builds on the considerable foundation of expertise TU Delft has with reference to disasters and societal resilience. The scientists involved all welcome the increased collaboration with doctors and virologists.

Rector Magnificus Tim van der Hagen is very pleased: ‘This initiative is an example par excellence of the science that society needs: working together in varied fields of expertise and pooling inputs from various disciplines to develop knowledge that benefits society.’

Read more on the Amazing Erasmus website (Dutch only)

179th Dies Natalis

Week of resilience

Carola Poleij

Science Information Officer Health & Care
TU Delft

Anouschka Versleijen

TU Delft

Greet Vink

Erasmus MC

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