Completed Research Projects

On April 20, 2010 the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and started burning in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. The rig eventually sank, leaving a breached wellhead that released an estimated 185 to 205 million gallons of crude oil in the months before it was capped and permanently sealed. Under direction from the Federal government, BP set aside $20 billion to pay damage claims. However, the claims process became a bureaucratic and legal quagmire, as well as a source of contention and stress in coastal communities. This RAPID project supported research on how settlement and litigation processes in the aftermath of this technological disaster are influencing social and psychological recovery in the State of Alabama’s coastal communities.

The purpose of the SAFRR Tsunami Scenario Project was to foster the use of science in decision-making associated with tsunami events. The Hazards Center team conducted the evaluation of this extensive effort, which engaged multiple partners at local, regional, and national levels. The evaluation activities for the Tsunami Scenario Project provided feedback and information to the USGS and its partnering agencies to support the development and successful implementation of the project. Specifically, the evaluation focused on three key elements of the project: I) the engagement of port and harbor decision-makers in selected California cities; II) interagency coordination; and III) intra-agency coordination.

In 2011, the nation experienced a record fourteen, billion-dollar weather-related disasters. The next year, Superstorm Sandy, the focus of this study, caused an estimated $68 billion in losses, making it the second-costliest storm in our history. This study explored one dimension of resilience—dynamic economic resilience—by examining how affected businesses in the New York City area coped following Sandy and the extent to which they were able to recover.

The primary goal of this project was to document how the distribution of punitive damage awards in the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS) case affected communities, groups, and individuals in the renewable resource community of Cordova, Alaska. This study had three main objectives: 1) to expand and continue a line of inquiry on human impacts of the EVOS that began in 1989; 2) to examine how prolonged EVOS litigation was associated with chronic stress, social disruption, and diminished social capital; and 3) to explore how and to what extent resolution of the long-term litigation influenced renewable resource communities and groups.

This study was the first systematic and scientific survey of preparedness of community-based and faith-based organizations that constitute the critical civic infrastructure. The study provides detailed information on the level of awareness of the threat of natural, technological, and terrorism-related hazards among key personnel in a stratified random sample of community-based organizations (CBO’s) in San Francisco. It also explored their understanding of how earthquakes, natural disasters, industrial accidents, and terrorist attacks will affect both their operations and their clients and provides detailed data on preparedness measures that have been undertaken by CBOs serving at-risk populations.

This evaluation research supported the USGS SAFFR division’s HayWired Scenario Project and its mission to foster the use of science in earthquake-related decision-making. The overarching purpose of the evaluation activities was to provide information to the USGS and its key stakeholders regarding the development, implementation, and immediate outcomes of the Haywired Scenario.

This project supported NOAA’s Tsunami Program by using social science methods to identify strengths and weaknesses in Tsunami Warning Center (TWC) products and the TsunamiReady Program (TRP). Findings of this research provided guidance for improving products and education; developed ways to monitor and assess progress; and provided contents for a repository for social science research findings. The rationale for this social science research was that findings would support NOAA’s mission to provide reliable tsunami forecasts and warnings and promote community resilience.

A 2005 FEMA-sponsored study, Natural Hazards Mitigation Saves found that “brick and mortar” disaster mitigation projects save $4 for every federal dollar spent. This research focused on the returns to investment in community-based efforts such as disaster preparedness, outreach, partnership building, and public education—so called “whole-community” activities that are more difficult to quantify.

Despite its importance, relatively little attention has been paid to the temporary housing phase of disaster recovery. This study involved multiple trips to Haiti to track the progress of temporary housing activities, with an emphasis on decision making and planning by international agencies, the Haitian government, and non-governmental organizations.

The goal of FEMA P-1000 was to develop a companion guide to FEMA’s Guide on Developing High Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (U.S. Department of Education, 2013). P-1000 provides additional information specific to natural hazards to help schools be better prepared and better able to respond, recover, and mitigate future natural hazards. This Guide focuses on operational guidance (what to do before, during and after an event) as well as physical protection (what can be done to the structure and facility to improve safety). It was developed with input from design professionals, emergency managers, school administrators, teachers, representatives of concerned parent groups, and other relevant entities.

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