This past Spring 2019 semester, a group of San Diego State University (SDSU) Homeland Security (HSEC) graduate students had the opportunity to collaborate with UABC Tijuana students on “Secondary Cities,” an international project funded by the State Department’s Office of the Geographer, in conjunction with the U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana, Mexico. The project is intended to generate mapping data from secondary cities (2Cs), which are described as “the fastest growing urban areas in developing countries, experiencing unplanned growth and development.” The objective of the Secondary Cities project is to “build resiliency and devise robust emergency management plans” from the respective imagery data collected and analyzed. This project encompasses binational efforts to mitigate devastating natural disasters, which can affect both neighboring countries.

 SDSU HSEC graduate students brought the experience and knowledge they gained from previous and concurrent coursework, thus putting into practice techniques learned in both HSEC 602 Science & Technology and HSEC 603 Emergency Preparedness & Response. Graduate student Rebecca Karbett had this to say about her experience in the course, “it was a great experience to be able to work closely with students in Tijuana and see things from their perspective, and have them learn from ours as well. I have personally observed Tijuana’s geography through this course and had the opportunity to visit incredible sites such as the Rodriquez Dam, the Tijuana Command Center (C2) and the Baja State Control, Command, Communications, and Computing Center (C4).  I appreciate the opportunity to learn from such great mentors as Dr. Frost as well as Dr. Navarro, who are both well respected in their fields, and are passionate about providing a quality education to their students.” Karbett, along with other HSEC and UABC students, presented the idea of utilizing Chevron Stadium, home of the Toros de Tijuana Mexican Baseball League team, as an emergency evacuation zone in the event of a local natural disaster. Utilizing open-source GIS platforms, infrastructure protection initiatives, and mapping, an adequate evacuation plan was developed which would greatly benefit affected residents in Tijuana and surrounding areas.

This branch of the Secondary Cities project is spearheaded by Dr. Navarro from UABC, along with SDSU HSEC Co-Director/Geology Professor Dr. Eric Frost, and UABC alumnus Mr. Carlos Acosta who is in charge of capturing aerial imagery data. As the leaders of this project, they proposed to involve students from both San Diego and Tijuana to bring them a valuable experience that highlights the potential benefits of the close proximity between our two cities, and help students build networking relationships.

As one of the 16 selected cities around the world, the State Department viewed Tijuana as an ideal location to gather crucial geography data to generate updated imagery, which in turn benefits emergency preparedness plans in an ever-growing city. SDSU HSEC students were able to contribute to this effort by enrolling in Dr. Eric Frost’s Geology 505 course which seeks to find solutions to problems faced by Tijuana and simultaneously benefits San Diego County.

Written by Christian Malfabon, edited by Micah Doiron and Taylor Ross