The INTREPID project will use artificial intelligence, drones and robots to help make decisions during disasters – and a Millersville University professor is going to be helping with that project. Dr. Duane Hagelgans is the only U.S. citizen who will be working on the Intelligent Toolkit for Reconnaissance and Assessment in Perilous Incidents (INTREPID) project.
INTREPID is an international initiative funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. This three-year research and innovation project seeks to create a plan to better enhance emergency service responses in the wake of a disaster.
When a former Millersville student called Hagelgans to extend an invitation to join the INTREPID User Advisory Board, he had no idea he would be the only representative from the U.S. to serve on the three-year project.
Hagelgan’s former student, Maureen Donnely, graduated from Millersville’s Emergency Management Program. Donnely reached out to Hagelgans to ask if he would be willing to become a subject matter expert to offer his extensive emergency management experience to the INTREPID project. “All these various nations have different potential disasters – we’re looking at it globally, how can we put together systems that are safer for responders to go out and get the info needed to resolve an incident,” says Hagelgans.
Hagelgans brings four decades of experience in the fire service as a career fire chief in addition to his background in disaster management. In addition to sitting on the User Advisory Board of the INTREPID project, Hagelgans is an associate professor at Millersville University and currently serves on the South-Central Pennsylvania Counter Terrorism Task Force, the Lancaster County Emergency Management Agency, and Millersville University’s Incident Management Team.
The INTREPID project will use artificial intelligence, drones and robots to create systems in which certain aspects of decision making can be done without human input or harm. In times of disaster, this allows for experts and emergency service workers to be on the ground, eliminating tasks that could be delegated to technology in order to prioritize the skills of emergency professionals on the scene of a disaster. “The most important thing in any disaster is making sure that you have all of that information and giving the person in charge all the necessary situational awareness to make the right decisions in critical situations,” says Hagelgans.
Hagelgans is most looking forward to seeing how the available technology can improve disaster response. “Through the decades and the centuries, we’ve lost too many citizens and too many responders in disasters. With this technology and the ability to build it to keep people safe, not only the citizens but obviously responders,” says Hagelgans. “I’m very much looking forward to how we can build a system that can do the more dangerous jobs and take the process and analyze it so that we can make the correct decisions.”
Harnessing the capabilities of technology to improve disaster response will not only save lives but will also allow for more accessible learning opportunities. “As technology improves, the cost point goes down,” says Hagelgans. “It’s one thing if we develop this and no one can afford it, but I believe that it’s going to be developed and affordable that people will be able to use this in disasters.”
Hagelgans is the co-lead for the University’s Incident Management Team in response to COVID-19. “From the standpoint of a practitioner, it’s been the highest level of response, critical thinking and decision making; knowing that a lot of the decisions we make don’t always make people happy,” says Hagelgans. “We’re making the best decisions for what we feel are the best outcomes based upon the information that we have.”
“From the standpoint of education, I’m still teaching all of my classes, so my students have the benefit of learning about emergency management in the middle of the largest crisis in the last hundred years. We have real-world things that we can study and deal with on a day in and day out basis.”
Hagelgans encourages students who may be interested in pursuing a career in emergency management to volunteer with disaster relief services. “Go help the Red Cross or your local volunteer fire company. It will give you a little idea of what we do. It’s a great field, a growing field, it’s certainly not going to get any smaller after COVID.”
For more information on Millersville’s Emergency Management Program and Emergency and Disaster Management Certification, visit www.millersville.edu/programs.