FEMA Region 8
Rescue Creek Bridge washed away along Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park. ©Yellowstone National Park, 2022.

The Natural Hazards Center is pleased to announce eleven projects funded to study human and social dimensions of hazards and disasters in FEMA Region 8. These proposals were awarded as part of a special call for Quick Response Research. The purpose of this call is to expand understanding of the recent hazards and disasters experienced in the region, and produce actionable guidance for emergency managers in FEMA Region 8.

The projects funded to collect perishable data in the region will look at the state of emergency operations centers in Colorado, issues arising from the 2022 Yellowstone flooding event, wildfire adaption, preparedness, policy, and recovery, climate impacts on tribal communities, public housing, climate migration, and much more.

A full list of project titles and awardees follows. Project abstracts are available on the program’s recently funded awards page.

Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit: Unpacking Stakeholder Notions of Community Recovery and Resiliency in the Rural Intermountain West

Christina Barsky, University of Montana
Lauren McKeague, University of Montana
M. Blake Emidy, University of Montana
Josephine Hazelton-Boyle, University of Montana

Employing a Community-Engaged Participatory Research approach, this study explores the differential experiences of disaster recovery in Montana counties that received Public Assistance following the 2022 Yellowstone Flood. Using a mixed-methods approach, this project seeks to uncover how local government officials in study counties conceptualize whole community recovery and future resiliency, in their own words.

The Role of Collaborative Environmental Research Groups in Promoting Adaptive Capacity and Resilience to Natural Hazards

Madison Boone, Montana State University
Sarah Church, Montana State University

Collaborative approaches are used to address natural hazards, but there is little understanding of how collaboration builds adaptive capacity and resilience to such hazards. To clarify critical gaps in understanding about collaborative outcomes, we will conduct a case study on two collaborative research groups in the Judith River Watershed of Montana. We will conduct a ripple effects mapping workshop and interviews with participants to elucidate outcomes. Our findings will support the community's ability to deal with current and future natural hazards and result in much-needed information that agencies and decision-makers can use to enhance resilience.

Land Use-Based Wildfire Adaptations in Unincorporated Communities

Divya Chandrasekhar, University of Utah
Santina Contreras, University of Southern California
Donovan Finn, Stony Brook University
Tasnim Isaba, University of Utah

The recent increase in catastrophic wildfires in the United States has brought with it a concern about managing risk while still preserving the socioeconomic and cultural fabric of local communities. Unfortunately, most communities at risk of experiencing wildfires in the U.S. do not have any wildfire protection plans in place to prevent disaster, even as the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) rates grow. Using the case of the 2021 Marshall Fire in Colorado, this study explores the extent to which unincorporated communities adopt land use-based wildfire adaptation strategies and the challenges and opportunities for adopting such strategies.

Built Environment Policy and Recovery After the Marshall Fire

Katherine Dickinson, Colorado School of Public Health

The Marshall Fire destroyed 1,084 homes and damaged 149 more in the communities of Louisville, Superior, and Boulder County. In the aftermath of the fire, our research group coordinated an interdisciplinary, national team of researchers to survey residents of communities affected by the Marshall Fire. Our survey—which is being distributed to members of the affected community in multiple waves and through multiple recruitment channels—covers a range of topics related to the fire's impacts and recovery processes, including residents' risk perceptions, emotional and physical health impacts, evacuation, recovery decisions, and local government participation.

Inclusion of Manufactured Home Park Residents in Wildfire Mitigation and Preparedness in Lake County, Colorado

Julia Goolsby, University of Colorado Boulder
Hannah Brenkert-Smith, University of Colorado Boulder
Colleen Donovan, Wildfire Research Center (WiRe)
Carolyn Wagner, Wildfire Research Center (WiRe)
Patricia Champ, U.S. Forest Service
James Meldrum, U.S. Geological Survey

Wildfires pose an increasing threat to wildland urban-interface communities. Among the most vulnerable are manufactured home park (MHP) residents, who can face unique wildfire risks due to the combined effects of residents' high social vulnerability and their homes' high wildfire susceptibility. This project focuses on MHP residents in the mountain community of Leadville, Colorado. In partnership with Leadville/Lake County Fire-Rescue and the Colorado State Forest Service, the project team will survey MHP residents to identify key wildfire preparedness issues and find ways to support future preparedness efforts.

Public Sector Planning for Post-Disaster Public Housing Recovery in Communities With Near Experiences of Disasters

Sayma Khajehei, University of Utah
Divya Chandrasekhar, University of Utah

Public housing residents and subsidized housing renters face serious challenges in terms of housing in the aftermath of disasters, but cities with near experience of major disasters may have limited plans for how to house these socially vulnerable residents. Using Utah County, Utah as a case study, this research will look for pre-disaster policies to provide post-disaster housing to public housing residents. Findings will improve our understanding of whether cities are prepared to provide housing to public housing residents after disasters and how to help these socially vulnerable populations to recover in the long run.

Role of Business Support Organizations in Advancing Minority Owned Business Recovery after COVID-19 in Utah

Sua Kim, University of Utah
Divya Chandrasekhar, University of Utah

The role of business support organizations has emphasized minority owned small businesses' disaster preparedness and recovery since they deeply engage in local businesses and racial communities by providing business disaster recovery programs. However, the study of minority owned business recovery focused on linking social capital is lacking. This study tries to understand how business support organizations deal with minority owned businesses' disaster process and gives some actionable guidelines for minority owned business resilience. Around 20-25 policymakers and planners in organizations in Utah will interview and evaluate their recovery cations, investigation, and intervention through the business social capital framework.

The State of Emergency Operations Centers in Colorado

Peter Loebach, Arapahoe Community College

This proposal is for a descriptive study of the staffing, structure, and operations of the Emergency Operations Centers of emergency management public agencies across the state of Colorado. Federal guidance on the structure and operations of Emergency Operations Centers to date has been unclear and inconsistent, and the empirical studies on the structuring of Emergency Operations Centers and the factors that contribute to their following a particular model are limited. Through surveys and review of organizational documents, this study will fill supply an extensive description of Emergency Operations Centers across the state of Colorado and the potential influencing factors.

Climate Change Impacts on the Native American Type 2 Diabetes Epidemic of the Northern Great Plains

Shelby Ross, University of Colorado Boulder

A mixed method approach will be used to distribute two surveys to invite feedback from the healthcare workers who provide services to Native American individuals who are diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. The second survey invites feedback from all Native American adults in the Northern Great Plains. The collected data will undergo a descriptive statistical analysis. The surveys will place emphasis on understanding how Native American individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes—who are living in a reality of a diminishing land-based knowledge system under a changing climate—are experiencing climate change induced extreme weather events.

A Critical Approach to Climate-Related Migration Planning in a Rural and Arid West

Stacia Ryder, Utah State University

In FEMA Region 8, impacts of climate change are likely to lead to increased exposure to air pollution, reduced access to water, and increased risks of disease to crops and livestock. As the nation's second most rural region—and home to 28 Tribal nations—these risks have the capacity to greatly alter rural livelihoods, economies and cultural resources. This suggests a future likelihood of climate-induced mobility. However, how and when induced mobility might occur is unclear, and has potential implications for equity and justice. We analyze existing climate adaptation plans for inclusion of considerations of climate-related displacement and migration issues.

One in Five Hundred

Hugo Sindelar, Montana State University

One in Five Hundred will be a film project chronicling the devastating floods that affected Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding gateway communities in June of 2022. The flooding was a 1-in-500-year event, however, shifts in climate across the West are making events like this more common. Precipitation is falling as rain instead of snow, making rain-on-snow events, which often cause flooding, much more likely to occur. The film will delve deeper into how these changing weather and climactic patterns led to the flood event, how it affected both Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding gateway communities, and what can be done to both rebuild the park and surrounding communities and help them adapt so that future flooding events are not as catastrophic. One in Five Hundred will be shared with affected communities and the general public in as many ways as possible.


Please contact the Natural Hazards Center Team at: haz.research.awards@colorado.edu.

The Quick Response Research Award Program is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF Award #1635593), with supplemental funding to the Natural Hazards Center from FEMA Region 8. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF, FEMA, or the Natural Hazards Center.