Project RESCUE: Transforming Data Collection, Management, Analysis, Sharing, and Dissemination to Improve Crisis Response


Project: Responding to Crises and Unexpected Events (RESCUE)
PIs: Sharad Mehrotra, Professor, Information and Computer Science, UCI; and Ramesh Rao, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, UCSD, and UCSD Division Director, Calit2
Funding: National Science Foundation & Caltrans
Academic: Univ of Illinois, Univ of Colorado, Brigham Young Univ, and Univ of Maryland
Corporate Partner: ImageCat
Community Partner: Cities of Los Angeles, Irvine, and San Diego; County Partners: of Los Angeles; State of California
Start Date: October 1, 2003

Project Rescue

Recent firestorms in southern California - described in aggregate as the "worst natural disaster in southern California history" - have underscored the importance of being able to respond to natural or man-made disasters in a timely and effective manner. Doing so can reduce the number of deaths and injuries, contain or prevent secondary disasters, and reduce resulting economic losses and social disruption. Crisis responders need to gather situational information (e.g., state of the civil, transportation, and information infrastructures) and resource information (e.g., available medical facilities, rescue and law enforcement units). Clearly, there is a strong correlation between the accuracy, timeliness, and reliability of the information available and the quality of the decisions that are made.

"This project truly embodies the spirit of Calit2. It is a multidisciplinary, multi-organizational effort on a problem of national importance. Working closely with the first-responder community, we expect our research will transform the speed and accuracy with which information flows through disaster networks during crisis situations. Timely access to accurate and relevant information has the potential to significantly enhance the abilities of first responders to save lives and properties."
- Sharad Mehrotra, PI, UCI

The goal of Project Rescue is to radically transform the ability of responding organizations to gather, manage, use, and disseminate information within emergency response networks and to the general public. Using more robust information systems, response can focus on activities that have the highest potential to save lives and property.

This kind of radical transformation requires a multidisciplinary approach that applies the power of information technology based on understanding of how emergency organizations form and work together in crisis situations. Therefore, this program teams researchers with expertise in information technology, social sciences, organizational behavior, and disaster management. They will gain "ground truth" to support their research and ensure its usefulness by working closely with the first-responder community. For example, testbeds for evaluation will be deployed in partnership with the police departments of San Diego and Irvine, and the California Office of Emergency Services. The team is hopeful that their approach to building situational awareness using speech-to-text, data extraction, and notification could prototype the next-generation 911 emergency system and benefit the nation even under less traumatic conditions.

Contact: Sharad Mehrotra,, 949-824-5975; and Ramesh Rao,, 858-822-4572