Our Islands, Our Future
Pacific Disaster Center

Pacific Disaster Center

In one of its most informative sessions to date, Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) recently presented a Maui TechOhana meeting with guest speaker Dr. Erin Hughey, Director of Global Operations for Pacific Disaster Center (PDC), during which she shared about the extraordinary work that PDC does on Maui and globally. A 28-year-old applied research center now managed by the University of Hawaiʻi, PDC supports both governmental and nongovernmental organizations worldwide to help create a safer, more disaster-resilient world.

Hughey talked about her career journey as a recognized leader in global disaster management and risk reduction, including PDC’s involvement in the ongoing Maui wildfire recovery process. With a PhD in geography, focusing on natural and technological hazards, she has dedicated her life’s work to the creation and application of new science and technology for disaster management. Her goal is to empower practitioners and senior leadership alike with the tools and information needed to support data-driven decision-making.

“PDC’s DisasterAWARE software application is used by tens of thousands of disaster management professionals,” said Hughey. “It provides global multi-hazard early warning, hazard monitoring, and risk intelligence to support rapid and effective disaster response, preparedness, recovery, and mitigation. We partner with over 75 countries around the world, have over 300 projects, over 3 million downloads on our apps, and also partner with NASA for global coverage of floods, landslides and fires.”

Hughey continued, “On Maui, officials and community responders at ground zero needed updated maps and data to aid the wildfire search, recovery, and relief efforts. Days after the catastrophic wildfire event unfolded, PDC’s existing data, mapping expertise, and DisasterAWARE platform took on the support role to provide expertise and tools for the emerging needs. A lot of things went wrong with the immediate response to the fire; however, the extraordinary coordination of the community filled the gaps.”

PDC won the 2022 United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Risk Reduction, the only U.S. agency ever to win this award. Hughey added, “We have a small staff of 60 people. We offer paid internships and job opportunities, and we are working with MEDB to do outreach in the community to help keep home-grown talent on-island.”

Our mission is to take the best science and get it into the hands of the decision-makers so they can focus on what action to take, such as moving people and supplies quickly.
Dr. Erin Hughey, Director of Global Operations for Pacific Disaster Center