Pascal Van Hentenryck

Title of Presentation: Computational Disaster Management: The Role of OR/MS

2013 INFORMS Conference

Minneapolis, MN, USA

October 2013


The frequency and intensity of natural disasters has significantly increased over the past decades, and this trend is predicted to continue. Natural disasters have dramatic impacts on human lives and on the socio-economic welfare of entire regions. They are identified as one of the major risks of the East Asia and Pacific regions.

Dramatic events such as Hurricane Katrina and the Tohoku tsunami have also highlighted the need for OR/MS tools in preparing, mitigating, responding and recovering from disasters.

I will present an overview of some recent progress inusing OR/MS for disaster management and, in particular, in relief distribution, power system restoration, and evacuation planning and scheduling.I will argue that OR/MS has a significant role to play in all aspects of disaster management, from policy formulation to mitigation, operational response and recovery, using examples of systems deployed during hurricanes Irene and Sandy. Moreover, I will indicate that disaster management raises significant computational challenges for OR/MS technologies which must optimize over complex infrastructures in uncertain environments.

Finally, I will conclude by identifying a number of fundamental research issues for OR/MS in this space.


Pascal Van Hentenryck leads the Optimization Research Group at National ICT Australia (NICTA), the center of excellence for ICT research in Australia. The optimization research group at NICTA pursues fundamental research in optimization, simulation and algorithmic decision theory, as well as applied research focused on logistics and supply chains, energy systems and disaster management. He is also a professor at the University of Melbourne, where he teaches a massively online course on discrete optimization. Van Hentenryck is the recipient of two honorary degrees and is a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artifical Intelligence. He was awarded the 2002 INFORMS ICS Award for research excellence at the intersection of operations research and computer science, the 2006 ACP Award for research excellence in constraint programming, and the 2010-2011 Philip J. Bray Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at Brown University. Van Hentenryck is the author of five MIT Press books and has developed a number of innovative optimization systems that are widely used in academia and industry. His research on disaster management has been deployed to help federal agencies in the United States mitigate the effects of hurricanes on coastal areas.