Research Counts

The Research Counts series serves as a platform for hazards and disaster scholars to provide insights about research findings and the enduring lessons of disaster, as well as to raise new questions that are worthy of exploration. The pieces in the series are brief, drawn from a variety of disciplines, and intended for a broad audience.

By Lori Peek

The importance of getting disaster lessons into the hands of those who need it is more pressing than ever. Lori Peek describes a new Natural Hazards Center platform to do just that—Research Counts is dedicated to giving experts an opportunity to apply their knowledge to current disasters, as well as ponder new questions.

By Shefali Juneja Lakhina, Lenya Quinn-Davidson, Brandon Smith, and Daniel Godwin

Many U.S. communities are experiencing deteriorating forest health, fuel management issues, and increasing wildfire risk. Read this Research Counts to learn about a range of strategies for a sustained, diverse, and future-ready forestry and fire workforce.

By Jennifer Collins and Amy Polen

Concerns about contracting COVID-19 in a shelter environment can lead some to shelter in place, even when it’s not the safest option. Learn more in the latest Research Counts.

By Barbara Carby and Therese Ferguson

Inclusive planning that maximizes the skills and abilities of those with impairments can increase disaster resilience for the whole community.

By Oronde Drakes, Eric Tate, Jayton Rainey, and Sam Brody

Federal programs to help individuals after disaster don’t always provide equitable recovery. This latest Research Counts article looks at how some areas are underserved.

By Jeffrey Schlegelmilch, Jackie Ratner, Daniel Kushner, and Susanna Aguilar

Investments in electrical infrastructure can have big payouts for societal resilience, but more data is needed to help planners and policymakers make the case for funding. An exercise in Chicago offers a roadmap for how we can begin to quantify the benefits.

By Shefali Juneja Lakhina

Conducting research during these trying times will take all the foundational techniques at our disposal—and more. Read more to learn how conducting caring research can support both participants and researchers.

By Naim Kapucu and Fernando Rivera

Rural communities can have less resources to respond to and recover from disasters. Collaboration is key to expanding their capacity.

By Anaís Delilah Roque, David Pijawka, and Amber Wutich

A connected community is a strong community. Read how Puerto Rican’s extensive experiences with disaster have created social cohesion that makes them resilient.

By Anamaria Bukvic

To be more effective, programs and policies that help people relocate away from repetitive coastal disasters should consider what influences their willingness to leave their homes.

By Jennifer A. Horney, Colten Strickland, and Caroline Dwyer

We know that engaging all community members in mitigation planning is a best practice—now we’re learning how to do that equitably. Read more in the latest Research Counts.

By Jason von Meding and Ksenia Chmutina

Using the term “natural” in conjunction with disaster obscures the ways that risk is created. Learn more about the data behind why that matters.

By Tonya Haigh, Walter Schacht, Cody Knutson, Alexander Smart, Jerry Volesky, Michael Hayes, and Mark Burbach

Planning for drought might seem like an unnecessary expense to ranch managers—especially in moister years—but recovering from drought is more expensive. Learn more about cost-effective drought planning in this Research Counts.

By Kelly Klima and Ismael Arciniegas Rueda

While disaster recovery costs will always come with uncertainties, new trends in cost estimation can limit them somewhat and help rebuild faster.

By Susan Charnley

Reducing hazardous fuels can be effective in keeping wildfire manageable, but there can be many barriers to achieving mitigation goals. Read more about how obstacles can be overcome.

By Robin Dillon-Merrill

Learn how coming close to experiencing disasters can make people more likely—or not—to prepare for the next event.

By Jeffrey Schlegelmilch, Jackie Ratner, Shay Bahramirad, and Aleksi Paaso

A power outage alone can be a disaster and even more so when they accompany larger events such as floods or a heatwave. Microgrids could be the answer to ensuring that communities have access reliable electricity in times of emergency.

By Laura Olson and Ryan Alaniz

Drought response in the United States needs to change now or we may not be able to respond to future challenges. The lessons of California could prove as a bellwether for the nation. Learn more in the latest addition to Research Counts.

By Alessandra Jerolleman

Disaster recovery is never easy, but for vulnerable people and communities, built-in injustices can create recovery next to impossible. Learn how applying four principles can make disaster recovery more just.

By Paola Minoia and Johanna Hohenthal

Water scarcity is the result of numerous factors, and so the solutions that drive change will need to be multi-faceted as well.

By Nicole S. Hutton and Michael Allen

Legislation that ensures eldercare facilities keep the power on during disasters—preventing needless deaths from heat or equipment failure—are necessary, but they need to be thoughtfully implemented.

By Richard Olson

Mexico's incoming administrations, who ran on the platform that they were "not them," will have a lot to prove when it comes to the politics of disaster mitigation and response.

By Yared Abayneh Abebe, Neiler Medina Peña, and Zoran Vojinovic

In areas rich with cultural diversity, resilience isn't a one-size-fits-all prospect. A research team from PEARL shares lessons they learned about building back better after Hurricane Irma hit Sint Maarten.

By Sherri Brokopp Binder and Alex Greer

Are home buyout programs a mitigation effort or a recovery effort? The answer can vary—and that ambiguity topic can impact the programs' effectiveness.

By Sara Hamideh

Tourism-based coastal economies have different recovery needs following disaster. Learn more about what these communities need and resources available to restore them to their pre-disaster status.

By Liesel Ritchie, Carolyn Kousky, Kathleen Tierney, and Simone Domingue

Quantifying the return on investment in disaster mitigation was a powerful tool for sparking action. Now a recent FEMA project outlines how the same might be done for broader preparedness efforts.

By Elaina Sutley

Uneven disaster recovery can sometimes be the result of mitigation efforts. This Research Counts piece explains how it happens and how it can be avoided.

By Ian Burton

Disaster scholars often ruminate over why—when we have so much knowledge—we seem to make frustratingly little headway in stanching disaster impacts. In this Research Counts, longtime researcher Ian Burton puts forth a few thoughts as to why that's the case.

By Leah James and Courtney Welton-Mitchell

Depression, anxiety, or trauma related to past disasters can all play a role in how (or if) people choose to prepare for disaster. This Research Counts details an innovative intervention that takes mental well-being into account when helping people prepare for disaster.

By Lori Peek

Of all the threats that America's children must face to get an education, school buildings themselves could be the most dangerous.

By Courtney Welton-Mitchell and Andrew Riley

After suffering persecution in their homeland, many of the Rohingya that escape find their new lives come with an entirely different set of threats to their mental well-being.

By Tricia Wachtendorf and James Kendra

Early this year, a human—using a systems interface—mistakenly sent a false alert warning of an incoming missile threat. Here's why we should focus on the error, and not the human.

By Richard Olson

Although hazards may be natural, we've long known that the disaster aspect is human-caused. This edition of Research Counts examines how a seemingly innocuous turn of phrase impacts how the public thinks about disasters.

By June L. Gin

The needs and experiences of those who are homeless during disasters can be very different from other populations, yet often emergency planning doesn't account for their specific needs. A recently released toolkit will make it easier to address that gap.

By Michal Linder

Libraries play a central role in many communities; but when it comes to participating in disaster response, managerial outlooks might make all the difference.

By Kevin Simmons

Stronger building codes might be seen as costly, but for communities with the will to enact them, they save money in the long term.

By Kai Erikson

In this piece, Kai Erikson reminds us that lessons from Katrina are enduring and that the harm and suffering from the most recent disasters will trace a similar trajectory if we do not address the social injustices that existed long before the shock.

By Lynn Weber

In the rush to help people recover after disasters, inequitable systems are often put into place that promote injustice and discrimination. This piece examines how that happened after Hurricane Katrina—and how it's likely to happen again following Maria.

By Alexa Dietrich, Adriana Garriga-López, and Aman Luthra

Months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is far from recovery and in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. This piece looks at how U.S. territorial status has led to mounting woes before and after the storm that affect the welfare of its residents.

By Shannon Van Zandt

Helping policymakers understand the true stakes of disaster decision making is one way to really make sure research counts, and this transcript on housing considerations following Hurricane Harvey is one example.

By Susan Cutter and Christopher Emrich

As emergency officials attempt to allocate scarce resources following disasters, systematic measurements of social vulnerability—such as the Social Vulnerability Index—can assure help goes to those who need it most.

By Craig Trumbo

The decision to evacuate or shelter in place during disasters can sometimes seem black and white, but many elements are at play—not the least of which is how individuals perceive risk.

By Nicole S. Hutton

It's not necessary to rebuild buildings after a disaster to rebuild thriving city centers. Nicole Hutton explains how simple projects can create gathering spaces that help cities begin to hum again, even amidst construction.

By Katherine Browne

Recovery is not one-size-fits-all and emergency officials that incorporate a sense of place and community identity into recovery efforts can have a huge impact on the success of the people who live there.

By Samantha Montano and Paolo Cavaliere

Including the public in disaster recovery planning might seem obvious, but it's a step that's often not given enough attention. This article offers tips to make sure recovery is a participatory process.

By Steve Kroll-Smith, Pamela Jenkins, and Vern Baxter

The devastation caused by disaster can reverberate through people’s lives for years, causing a cascade of other problems. This article reflects on the elusiveness of true recovery.

By Rachel Luft

After disaster, communities talk about building back better, but often reconstruct problems of the past. This is true of social infrastructure, as well. Rachel Luft examines how we must rebuild from the intersection of race, class, and gender to create truly effective recovery.

By Stefanie Haeffele and Virgil Henry Storr

Most people want to return home after a disaster, but they need something to return to. Learn about how community leaders and entrepreneurs provide the seeds to regrowing communities.

By Alice Fothergill and Lori Peek

What do children need after a disaster? Drawing from lessons learned after Hurricane Katrina, Fothergill and Peek highlight six critical spheres in a child's life that need additional support when disaster strikes.

By Sarah DeYoung

Safe and contamination-free spaces in shelters for infant feeding can substantially improve the evacuation and displacement experience for families in disaster.

By Jacquelyn Litt

Recovering from disaster is hard enough, but when people are forced relocate—especially lower-income women—they can lose the help of family and friends who might make it easier.

By Laura M. Stough

After a disaster, people with disabilities face different challenges in recovery. Laura Stough looks at the myriad of resources and services that need to be rebuilt with an eye to future resilience.

By Marccus Hendricks

The area where vulnerable populations live often have equally vulnerable infrastructure. Marccus Hendricks examines how increased risk can be literally built into some neighborhoods.

By Michelle Annette Meyer

Long-term recovery work often falls to nonprofit and community groups. Good coordination at the outset can make all the difference in their success.

By Phil Berke

Even in a fast-growing city like Houston, there's much that can be done to protect residents from flood risk—and improve the urban experience in the process. Philip Berke gives examples in this follow up for Research Counts.

By Phil Berke

Lightening fast growth into wetlands and low-lying areas—with little attention to flood sensitive development planning—has left Houston uniquely susceptible to storm impacts.

By Elizabeth Fussell

During hurricane recovery, the focus is often on the work being done to rebuild. Elizabeth Fussell reminds us that those who do the work are often taken advantage of in the rush to return communities to normal.

By Betty Lai and Ann-Margaret Esnard

Disasters are understandably frightening for children, but there are steps that parents and teachers can take to ensure more positive outcomes.

By Kathleen Tierney

The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey left a special soup of petrochemicals, sewage, and other dangers lurking in floodwaters. Kathleen Tierney discusses what we know—and don't know—about what's in the water.

By Michael K. Lindell

Rebuilding after a hurricane isn't just a matter of replacing what was lost. Communities need to consider how to make sure homes and infrastructure are ready to withstand subsequent events, as well.

If you are interested in contributing to this series, please contact Natural Hazards Center Director Lori Peek directly at


Research Counts is made possible with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF Award #1635593) and supplemental support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-National Integrated Drought Information System (NOAA-NIDIS). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF, FEMA, NOAA-NIDIS, or Natural Hazards Center.