COSAM News Articles 2023 July Congratulations to Miranda Silano featured as a Lee County Emergency Management Team Highlight

Congratulations to Miranda Silano featured as a Lee County Emergency Management Team Highlight

Published: 07/18/2023

By: Maria Gebhardt

Miranda Silano was featured as the Lee County Emergency Management Team Highlight last week. She is graduating with her master’s degree from Auburn University and is now interning with this critical service in Lee County.

“Being able to intern with the Lee County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) has been one of the highlights of my time at Auburn University. The tasks that I mostly involve using GIS (Geographic Information System) to shed light on tornado interactions with the residents of Lee County,” said Silano. “I have been able to apply skills that I have learned from the GIS classes I took through the Department of Geosciences to satisfy requirements for my Master’s of Science in Geography and for the GIS Certificate. These skills include knowing the basics of GIS and what information can be gathered from the maps produced by GIS.”

She is applying what she learned in the classroom in her role with Lee County.

“GIS can be used to calculate spatial statistics that I learned about in class, which I hope to use on some of my maps for the Lee County EMA,” explained Silano. “The observations seen in maps and the information received from spatial statistics can provide a lot of information into what is being seen in an area. It has been a great learning experience for me to be able to apply concepts learned in the classroom to large-scale scenarios, and I’m grateful that the GIS classes in the Department of Geosciences were able to aid in that.”

Those maps might be able to help first responders after a natural disaster. 

“In the wake of many natural disasters such as hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, and wildfires, geospatial data-driven technology such as GIS can be a true lifesaver for many vulnerable populations," said Ming-kuo Lee, chair of the Department of Geosciences. "Miranda’s work in Lee County and other communities located along the Gulf of Mexico show how the geographic tools and maps can help the emergency responders to quickly identify the worst-impacted areas in mitigation and recovering from a major disaster.”

Silano reflects back on the team at Auburn University who supported her.

“There are professors in the Department of Geosciences who are knowledgable in GIS and provided me with guidance and support through my coursework, and their help has, in turn, allowed me to help the Lee County EMA,” she said. “I also took a class called ‘Natural Hazard Risk and Disaster Resilience’ that helped me understand the impact of natural hazards on society, what we can do to mitigate these hazards, and how to create resilient communities. This class and the knowledge I gained is what inspired my thesis topic (titled ‘Tropical Cyclone Risk and Social Vulnerability in Small and Medium-Sized Cities Along the Gulf of Mexico in the United States’) and what sparked my interest in emergency management. For anyone interested in GIS or natural hazards, I suggest looking into some classes offered by the Department of Geosciences.”

She conducted research in urbanPRism lab with her advisor Chandana Mitra, an associate professor in the Department of Geosciences. 

"When an extreme weather event strikes a region, it does not spare any city, be it big, medium or small," said Mitra. "The impact is the same, though the magnitude may differ depending on the size of the city. Unfortunately, small and medium sized cities (SMSC), with their limited resources and lack of integrated services are impacted hugely by the extreme weather events and takes a longer time to recover and recuperate. Miranda’s MS thesis addresses the challenges SMSC face in the wake of a hurricane and associated wind damage. She assesses the social vulnerability of five SMSC along the Gulf Coast based on demographic information. Her research is very relevant currently as extreme weather events have become more intense in SE US, according to the IPCC report (IPCC 2023)."

Silano enjoys an array of things in her position.

“There are three major things that I have enjoyed while interning with the Lee County EMA. The first is realizing that I am capable of working independently and without any direct guidance, an aspect that isn’t taught in a classroom,” Silano added. “Working autonomously has helped build my confidence in my skills and knowledge. Next would be getting to work in a team. The other staff at the Lee County EMA have been fun to work with, and I have enjoyed getting to know them and help them in the work they do. They are supportive and also give me practice in communicating the work I am doing to a nontechnical audience. Finally, and probably the biggest one, is knowing that my work not only benefits myself and the Lee County EMA, but it benefits the residents of Lee County. In science, there is a disconnect between the research we do and how it plays into the broader scope of society. This internship has reminded me that my skills as a scientist can go beyond the academic world and are useful in the real world.”

Her expertise also helps her leave an impact on the entire community.

“It is fulfilling to know that my work for the Lee County EMA will help Lee County become more resilient to tornados and will aid them in tornado preparation,” she said. “Emergency management agencies are not who always come to mind when people are preparing or recovering from a hazardous event. However, these agencies, especially the Lee County EMA, along with the county’s other first responders, work hard to keep Lee County safe, and I am happy I have been able to contribute to that. I highly encourage anyone interested in emergency management and would like to add to their skillset to apply to intern with the Lee County EMA.”

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