Jonathan Glassman Supports Maui Search & Recovery Efforts

View of a waterfront neighborhood in Maui

October 4, 2023

Exponent emergency response expert and FEMA Urban Search and Rescue specialist assists with safely scouring buildings in Maui burn area

On Aug. 8, wildfires spread across Maui, killing at least 97 people in one of the worst fire disasters to ever take place in the U.S.

Searching the burn area, which comprises approximately 2,200 damaged or destroyed structures, took most of August and required the specialized capabilities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Urban Search and Rescue teams.

On Aug. 15, Exponent Senior Managing Engineer Jonathan Glassman, Ph.D., P.E., CRE, CSQE, joined dozens of search and rescue specialists in Maui as part of FEMA's federally coordinated response for technical search operations in Maui's historical town of Lahaina.

"When a disaster happens, you need specialists and engineers to stabilize buildings and create a working plan to bring a structure down safely so you can continue searching for people," said Dr. Glassman. "We carried out a search and recovery operation that few are equipped to do."

Dr. Glassman's role in Maui was to collect spatial data to map the incident and search for victims and to apply structural engineering knowledge to make damaged buildings safe for search and recovery operations.

Dr. Glassman spent most of his time in Lahaina working alongside teams specializing in search, rescue, hazardous materials, logistics, and planning. The rescuers included firefighters, doctors, structural engineers, and canine search teams. Blending on-the-ground experience with engineering expertise, Dr. Glassman assisted in deploying a specialized GIS system for natural disasters that ensures every segment of the impacted area is thoroughly searched.

As a member of FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue, Dr. Glassman responds to catastrophic incidents that overwhelm local, regional, and state resources. His technical specialties include structural collapse response, data analytics, communications, and mission planning and strategy, in accordance with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS). He was previously deployed with the same FEMA task force to Northern California for the 2018 Camp Fire and to Mammoth Lakes for search and rescue operations during the extreme snowfall events at the beginning of 2023. 

Early estimates place the scale of damage in Maui at $5.5 billion. As deadly disasters grow in frequency and magnitude, growing demands for search and rescue teams are forcing specialists to boost efficiency and improve their technical capabilities to conduct urban searches under demanding environmental conditions.

For more information visit FEMA's site for Urban Search & Rescue.