Each year the U.S. Department of Defense, in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, dispatches a 10-member team of experts to a developing country to share expertise in natural disaster preparedness. Team members represent a wide range of disciplines and are gathered from around the country.
This year, Scott Wells and Robert Gillies, both of Utah State University, join a team bound for Bangladesh. Both will conduct training with local officials and review existing resources.
Wells, associate director for telecommunications and telephone services at Utah State, will examine the telephone infrastructure in Bangladesh and offer advice on how to prepare systems for earthquakes and tornadoes.
"We leave for orientation in Hawaii Aug. 28, then fly to Bangkok for meetings at the American Embassy," said Wells. "From there, we'll head to Bangladesh for 10 days of data collection before returning to Bangkok and Hawaii to wrap up our reports."
Climatologist Gillies, an associate professor in both the Aquatic, Watershed and Earth Resources Department and the Plants, Soils and Biometeorology Department, will evaluate the southern Asian nation’s preparedness for severe weather.
"I'll observe what infrastructure is in place there, and I can predict what could take place during a weather crisis," he said. "I'll come back and write a report, along with recommendations for what expertise needs to be developed and put into place."
Gillies said this is the first time he has been involved in an international effort of this kind.
"I will certainly bring back a more in-depth knowledge of tropical weather systems," he said. "I'll be able to share this knowledge with faculty and students, as well as the human perspective. It will be humbling and emphasize the contrasts between the resources we have here and what's lacking over there. I want to bring the human side back."
Wells echoes his colleague's thoughts.
"This will be a valuable learning experience, and I'm excited to be getting in there and helping out," he said.
Gillies and Wells hope their trip will strengthen ties between Bangladesh and Utah State, and plan to share information about the university with potential Aggies.
While this is his first foray into international humanitarian work, Wells said he hopes to be invited to join next year's team on their planned journey to Burma.