Mitigation Matters Research Program

Recently Funded Research

The following forthcoming Mitigation Matters Research projects were accepted as part of the October 2019 call for mitigation-related research. Final reports will be published online when research is completed. The next Mitigation Matters Research proposal application period will open in February 2020.

Reducing Disparity in Disaster Recovery by Modeling Social Vulnerabilities
Maura Allaire, University of California, Irvine
Romeo Ignacio, University of California, Irvine
Aishwarya Borate, University of California, Irvine

Flood losses continue to rise dramatically and can deepen wealth inequality caused by the uneven distribution of impacts and recovery aid. Crucial adaptation decisions must often be made without adequate understanding of social vulnerability. While a variety of vulnerability indices have been created, they are rarely validated. This study will develop validated metrics for social vulnerability using high-resolution datasets. By assessing temporal and spatial variation in these metrics, we can determine why some communities are more vulnerable than others. This can enable integrated risk analysis nationwide, reduce inequities in disaster recovery, and improve public investment decisions for adaptation to evolving hazards.

The Role of Insurance in a Tornado-Impacted Community
Ji Yun Lee, Washington State University
Guirong Yan, Missouri University of Science and Technology

The objectives of this research are to determine if sufficiently insured houses positively impact community resilience and to quantify the impact of insurance on tornado-impacted community resilience. An online survey containing in-depth, semi-structured interviews will be conducted with residents in Jefferson City, Missouri, which was struck by an EF-3 tornado in May 2019. The survey will investigate the explicit relationship between insurance policy and house recovery. The results will provide guidance on how insurance can be used broadly in resilience planning to achieve both short- and long-term community resilience goals.

Pre-Planning for Post-Disaster Rehousing of Public Housing Residents: A Case Study of Salt Lake County
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 little experience of major disasters may have limited plans for how to house these socially vulnerable residents. Using Salt Lake County UT 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.

From the Ashes: Mitigation Policy after Wildfire in California
Ronald Schumann, University of North Texas
Miranda Mockrin, U.S. Forest Service
Sherri Brokopp Binder, BrokoppBinder Research & Consulting
Alex Greer, State University of New York at Albany

This study investigates policy and practice barriers to wildfire mitigation in three California communities. How does recent wildfire experience affect housing recovery programming, land use planning, and requirements for household-level mitigation? We will address this question via stakeholder interviews, neighborhood tours, and policy document review. Wildfires that destroy whole communities are increasingly prevalent, yet there is need for more wildfire-centric research. California communities are struggling to facilitate an expeditious recovery that reduces future wildfire vulnerability. Absent federal wildfire risk governance standards, interactions between state and local policies become crucial to understanding how communities navigate this challenge.

Determinants of Hospital Disaster Mitigation Practice Implementation in the Dominican Republic
Nicole Errett, University of Washington
Ashley Morales-Cartagena, Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra

Mitigation practices can minimize hospital service disruption in the event of a disaster. Yet, absent formal requirements, it remains unknown how or why mitigation practices are implemented in hospitals worldwide. We will use the Dominican Republic—a disaster hot spot—as a case study to understand the factors associated with hospital implementation of mitigation practices, as outlined in the World Health Organization Safe Hospital Framework. Guided by the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research, we will conduct semi-structured interviews with hospital administrators in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana-Bavaro. Findings can guide policy development to facilitate hospital disaster mitigation practice implementation.

The Effect of Federal Recovery Funds on Mitigation Behavior
Maria Watson, Texas A&M University
Siyu Yu, Texas A&M University

Research and practice have increasingly acknowledged the importance of moving development out of hazardous areas. This research examines whether disaster recovery loans encourage or discourage residential or business mobility. We will employ a mixed-methods research design using quantitative data from local and federal agencies, as well as semi-structured interviews. Deeper knowledge on how recovery funding influences adaptive behavior can inform more effective approaches as practitioners reevaluate how federal assistance can conflict with local initiatives. This work can foster a more coordinated strategy between federal agencies and local communities.

What Drives Hazard Mitigation Policy Adoption? FEMA’s Property Buyout Program in Virginia
Qiong Wang, Virginia Tech
Yang Zhang, Virginia Tech
Kristin Owen, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

What are the drivers and barriers to adopting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s property buyout program in flood-prone communities in Virginia? Available data includes an online survey of approximately 296 local floodplain managers in Virginia, American Community Survey census data, and FEMA’s buyout database. Qualitative and quantitative methods will be applied to identify four categories of factors. Most hazard mitigation actions are subnational, therefore, understanding factors of hazard mitigation policy adoption at the local level will advance local policy innovation within a federally defined framework. This knowledge will help maximize opportunities for hazard mitigation and offer insights for federal program improvement.

Playing Strategically or Following Suit? Interdependence and Social Norms in Wildfire Mitigation
Hilary Byerly, University of Colorado Boulder
Hannah Brenkert-Smith, University of Colorado Boulder
Patty Champ, U.S. Forest Service
James Meldrum, U.S. Geological Survey

In the wildland-urban interface, wildfire risk is interdependent—determined by both a household’s mitigation and that of neighboring properties. Risk mitigation may also be influenced by neighbors through social norms or reciprocity. Yet, how households consider neighboring parcels in their perceptions and mitigation behavior is unclear. Through semi-structured interviews with homeowners, we explore perceptions of their parcel’s surrounding landscape—both biophysical and social—and its effect wildfire risk. We identify which neighbors’ behaviors and expectations are salient and their association with mitigation actions. Results will inform the design of a large-scale field experiment with a local practitioner to increase engagement in wildfire mitigation.

Safhaus: Affordable, Disaster-Resistant Housing
George Elvin, North Carolina State University
Reide Corbett, Coastal Studies Institute
Robert McClendon, Coastal Studies Institute
David Hill, North Carolina State University

Socially vulnerable households often live in low-quality, light-weight wood frame housing that is easily damaged during disasters. The Safhaus re-envisions light-weight wood framing in a way that maintains the benefits of affordability, sustainability, and familiarity, while significantly increasing its resilience in disaster. It offers protection from hurricane- and tornado-force winds, elevation levels that avoid flooding, and an enclosure system that reduces damage from wind and wildfire. This research will deploy and monitor a sensor network in prototype construction to determine if the Safhaus can provide enhanced hazard mitigation without increasing construction costs.

The Mitigation Matters program is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation (Award #1635593) through supplemental funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF, FEMA, or the Natural Hazards Center.