Eagles Win Fellowships to Make Evacuations Safer, Faster

A senior in Embry-Riddle’s Civil Engineering program, Fanny Kristiansson was one of five Eagles who recently earned a Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship to study traffic patterns as a way to improve emergency evacuation procedures. During her soccer career, she was named Female Student Athlete of the Year, and she won the Eagle Excellence Award two years in a row. (Video, shot pre-pandemic: Embry-Riddle)

In the summer of 2018, Embry-Riddle undergraduate Fanny Kristiansson watched as wildfires threatening her native city of Stockholm burned as far north as the Arctic Circle. It wasn’t the first time she became aware of such danger, having followed the news of increasingly devastating fires occurring in such places as California and the Amazon as a dangerous result of global climate change.

Two years later, Kristiansson is researching how to better protect people affected by wildfires, and her project has earned her a $31,500 grant, including tuition assistance and a monthly stipend, from the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship program.

“I want to help to better plan for and respond to evacuation efforts during wildfires,” Kristiansson said. “Research can truly help make the world a better place, and I am determined to use research on evacuations during wildfires to help keep people safe.”

Eisenhower Recipients

One of five Embry-Riddle projects awarded grants from the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship program this year, Kristiansson’s study will look at traffic data gathered during wildfire evacuations in California and hurricane evacuations in Florida. This roadway data, which is regularly collected, can be used to create an analysis to identify trends, patterns and relationships between events. Developing such an analysis will answer questions about the effectiveness of the evacuation plan, about how evacuees move over time and about the amount of time that was required for the evacuation — and help to avoid the dangerous problem of gridlock that can result in an evacuation.

Scott Parr, assistant professor of Civil Engineering, added, “It has generally been accepted that fundamental differences exist between the way people evacuate from hurricanes and the way they evacuate from wildfires. This is only natural, considering the vast time and spatial scales that differentiate these events. Fanny’s research seeks to show how and where, and hopefully why, these differences occur, using observations from prior evacuations.”

Having such an analysis will also help in planning faster, safer evacuations in the future, Kristiansson said, adding, “Instead of guessing what’s happening, we want to look at the data and see. Looking at the numbers from evacuation events can inform policies going forward and help agencies like the Florida Department of Transportation to be better prepared for a massive evacuation by creating a set of aggregate evacuation parameters that can be used to calibrate planning.”

Two other Embry-Riddle grantees of this year’s fellowship program who are doing projects related to transportation systems and emergency response won $5,000 each. Emily Hiebner will explore the application of light emitting diodes (LED) for emergency warning lights on first responder vehicles — and their effect on nighttime drivers. Erika Shellenberger will build a model of the Florida Keys in a transportation modeling software, and will run simulations of residents evacuating before a hurricane to test various evacuation techniques — such as transforming a two-way road into a two-lane one-way road or limiting access points to encourage higher speed — to provide recommendations on how to create more efficient evacuation plans. Julian Jesso, who also won $31,500, will leverage big data to enhance road safety. Parker Brooks, a $5,000 winner in the fellowship program, will use optical fiber sensors to monitor the performance of bridge structures.

Soccer to Civil Engineering

Kristiansson came to the United States to play soccer and attend college. When she heard about Embry-Riddle, she said, her dream of studying abroad became focused on the university.

“I love the palm trees, I love the beaches, but it was the academic programs that sold me,” she said.

I have always wanted to be involved in projects that improve the lives of people and that help communities. That is why I picked transportation engineering.
Fanny Kristiansson, incoming Civil Engineering graduate student

Now a four-year Honor Roll senior in Civil Engineering, entering a Civil Engineering master’s program in the fall, she has won the Female Student Athlete of the Year, and two years in a row she earned the Eagle of Excellence Award.

She attributes her success to Embry-Riddle faculty, especially Parr.

“Dr. Parr’s engagement in the success of students has been amazing,” she said. “And even the faculty I don’t know very well are always asking how I’m doing and how my family is. That’s the main reason I am where I am today.”

Kristiansson has logged more than 100 volunteer hours as an Embry-Riddle first responder. She is also the president of Engineers Without Borders, and is helping to orchestrate an engineering project to provide clean drinking water for 1,800 people in Nicaragua and 800 in Guatemala.

She has already passed the Fundamental Engineering exam, earning the official title of Engineer in Training, and has the intention of one day owning her own engineering firm.

“By owning my own firm, I can make a direct impact on road safety and efficiency through transportation engineering,” Kristiansson said. “I have always wanted to be involved in projects that improve the lives of people and that help communities. That is why I picked transportation engineering. You’re really there helping people every day.”

Posted In: Engineering | Research