A new computerized tool guides stakeholders in preparing for, and recovering from, natural and man-made disasters such as the cyclones in India that knocked out swaths of the Indian Railways Network. The method, developed by Northeastern University researchers, guides stake­holders in the recovery of large-​​scale infrastructure systems. Other possible applications include water-​​distribution systems, power grids, communication networks, and natural ecological systems.

The device, which has been filed for invention protection through Northeastern University’s Center for Research Innovation, also informs development of preventative measures for limiting damage in the face of a disaster.

"The tool, based on a quantitative frame­work, identifies the order in which the stations need to be restored after full or partial destruc­tions,” said Udit Bhatia, PhD’18, who is a student in Northeastern’s Sustainability and Data Science Laboratory, directed by associate professor Auroop R. Gan­guly.

"We found that, generally, the stations between two important stops were most critical,” he said, alluding to the network science concept of “centrality measures,” which identify stations that enable a large number of station-​​pairs to be con­nected to one another.

For the study, Bhatia mined open-​​source datasets on ticket-​​reservation web­sites to track the origins and destinations of trains running on the IRN — the world’s most traveled railway in terms of passenger kilometers per day. He then constructed a complex network, with the stations as nodes and the lines connecting those nodes as the “edges,” or links, between them, and over­laid it on a geographical map of the country.

The model gives decision-makers — urban planners, emergency managers, operations personnel — the ability to prioritize where to place mitigation measures, such as backup power, and other safe­guards, including computer-​​security, to make the overall system better withstand the risk of disruption.

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