Research and Practice Highlights

Gonzalo Bacigalupe, CIGIDEN

Emerging Technologies for Community Participation and Resilience in the Disaster Cycle

In the absence of suitable systems to capture information from multiple sources available on the internet, individuals and networks develop their own ways of collecting, archiving, analyzing and filtering information. A common information seeking behavior of collecting different pieces of information in different places has been characterized as information foraging, a process that is slow, tedious and its value is tied to the experience of those who conduct it. To meet these information needs, people rely on the tools they have at hand, which means with increasing frequency searching for information on social networks, while available tools are not necessarily accessible or unable to enhance citizen participation. Emerging technologies use during natural disasters requires the development of tools for people to utilize and to collect information. Emerging technologies include the use of drones and community mapping for participation in disaster reduction. With a multidisciplinary team in Chile, we are studying the role of social networks and robotics in fostering community participation in disaster risk reduction. 

Sherri Brokopp Binder, BrokoppBinder Research & Consulting
Alex Greer, Oklahoma State University

Home Buyout Policy: Assessing Policy Learning, Practice, and Participant Experience

Home buyout programs are increasingly used to encourage residents to permanently relocate out of areas considered at risk for future hazards, though research exploring the impacts of these policies is limited. In two recent studies, we presented a typology for organizing home buyout programs according to key design features and then examined how program design influences participant experience using a mixed-methods study of Oakwood Beach, NY, following Hurricane Sandy.   

Our first study (Greer & Binder, 2017) assesses buyout policy using policy learning theory, which suggests that policies should evolve and improve over time. Instead, a historical review of buyouts in the United States suggests that policy learning related to buyouts has been limited. Rather than showing evidence of learning from one iteration to the next, buyout programs continue to reflect unique objectives and features, lacking evidence of an iterative process. We propose a novel typology for organizing buyout programs and suggest actionable steps to improve buyout programs in the United States.

In our second study (Binder & Greer, 2016), we explored the implications of buyout program design and implementation for Oakwood Beach, New York, a community that offered a buyout after Hurricane Sandy. We found that design decisions made at program conception significantly impacted participants’ experience of the buyout, including their understanding of program goals and their progression through the buyout and relocation process. We conclude with recommendations for future buyouts, to increase inclusion of affected communities in the process of pre-event planning for recovery.

Lorita Daniels, Virginia Tech

Role Perception among Federal Emergency Management Agency Emergency Managers: An Exploration

The goal of this study is to examine how Federal Emergency Management Agency emergency managers perceive their role in the collaborative and decision-making processes. Scholarship has examined the effects of disasters on communities and organizations, both public and private, to elucidate the role of collaborating in emergency situations. While previous research has focused on the practice of collaboration and has highlighted how managers have been collaborating for some time, the literature has not adequately addressed the perceptions held by Federal Emergency Management Agency emergency managers about their role in the collaborative and decision-making processes, or whether their role is one of collaboration, or not. This paper seeks to explore this gap by examining the emergency managers’ perception and their expectations about their role in the collaborative process. These findings will help to develop a clear role definition that will enable Federal Emergency Management Agency managers to understand the scope of their work and how their perceptions may impact the outcomes of collaborative activities during emergency situations.

Maria Dillard, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Ken Harrison, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Community Resilience Measurement and Modeling at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Community resilience is a complex problem that relies on engineering, social sciences, and other disciplines to improve the way communities prepare for, resist, respond to, and recover from disruptive hazard events. Within the National Institute of Standards and Technology community resilience program, there are two important linked research efforts underway. The first is aimed at measuring a community’s resilience over time, while the second targets modeling to support resilience decision making. In measuring community resilience, a complex systems perspective is adopted to make linkages between social and physical systems. The methodology will assess resilience as a function of the social and physical systems of a community for the purposes of tracking changes and supporting decision making. The quantitative assessment of resilience over time will inform an understanding of the factors influencing recovery following a disruptive hazard event as well as those that contribute to resilience in the absence of a hazard. Modeling to support resilience decision making takes the form of an interactive, exploratory tool for the complex task of community resilience planning. The interactivity is achieved with simplified representations of the resilience system that permit quick identification of solutions meeting resilience and other goals, via a class of optimization algorithms. Decisions across the community are considered in a joint manner, linked by important system dependencies (e.g., home safety retrofits and emergency response provisioning). These research efforts, in coordination with the National Institute of Standards and Technology funded Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning, led by Colorado State University, will be applied to modeling the resilience system and supporting community resilience planning and decision making.

Simone Domingue, University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center
Christopher Emrich, University of Central Florida

Social Vulnerability and Procedural Equity: Exploring the Distribution of Disaster Aid Across Counties in the United States

Scholars have demonstrated that social characteristics are key determinants of disaster recovery, where the most vulnerable are often disadvantaged when seeking disaster aid. However, there has been no large scale study of disaster aid allocation across multiple regions and disasters within the United States. Additionally, there is a paucity of research specifically connecting social indicators of vulnerability to public assistance grants aimed at restoring infrastructure. Given these gaps, we inquire as to whether or not the distribution of disaster aid dedicated to restoring, rebuilding, and mitigating against future damages is characterized by disparate outcomes for counties with more socially vulnerable populations.  We address this question by analyzing the distribution of disaster aid according to the contours of socially vulnerability in U.S. counties in the years 2012-2015. We analyze the amount of federally dedicated public assistance spending dollars distributed to counties by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following major disasters, while controlling for the amount of damages counties sustained. Preliminary results indicate that the public assistance program operates well when accounting only for disaster losses, but the program produces inequalities when controlling for those losses. This study has important implications for understanding how recovery and mitigation spending relate to place based social vulnerability. Furthermore, this study provides a set of social vulnerability indicators that could be used to target counties in need of additional assistance following disasters.

Dana Fisher, University of Maryland
Lori Peek, University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center
Evan Schofer, University of California, Irvine

Society and the Environment Book Series from Columbia University Press

In 2016, Columbia University Press established a new book series on Society and the Environment. The series will encompass a range of social science research and advance scholarship on cutting edge global issues at the nexus of society and the environment. The series recognizes that the impact of humans on the natural environment is one of the most pressing issues of the twenty-first century. Key topics of concern include mounting natural resource pressures, accelerating environmental degradation, and the rising frequency and intensity of disasters. Governmental and non-governmental actors have responded to these challenges through increasing environmental action and advocacy, expanding the scope of environmental policy and governance, and encouraging the development of the so-called “green economy.”

The editors of this series are recruiting authors to write books that are rigorous scholarship with contemporary appeal and that transcend academic boundaries. The series editors are accepting one- or two-page proposals that summarize the book (its thesis, purpose, and methodological approach) and describe the intended audience. Proposals should also identify key questions or problems the proposed book will address or answer. For more information, please refer to CUP’s proposal submission guidelines:

June Gin, Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center
Richard Eisner, Independent Scholar
Claudia Der-Martirosian, Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center
Aram Dobalian, Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center

“Preparedness is a Marathon, Not a Sprint:” Disaster Preparedness in Los Angeles Community-Based Homeless Organizations

Community-based organizations (CBOs) that house and shelter homeless individuals are critical to supporting this population during disasters. However, they often lack adequate preparedness to sustain their service operations during disasters, and are often unable to prioritize disaster planning.

 A maturity model for CBO conceptualizing preparedness in progressively advanced steps can help address these challenges: 1) ensuring life safety for clients and staff; 2) continuity of operations; and 3) partnerships for community response. Using this maturity model, we assessed preparedness activities at six Los Angeles area CBOs providing homeless residential services. CBO staff members were asked to describe their organizations’ preparedness activities in these three areas.

CBOs reported being very prepared in implementing life safety measures. However, they had significant deficiencies in continuity of operations planning, including written protocols for prioritizing services. They had not communicated with clients how service delivery might change in a constrained environment. Two CBOs were integrated into community disaster plans, but the other organizations were unaware of collaboration opportunities.

These results underscore the importance of support for CBO preparedness from government partners. While CBOs can achieve life safety preparedness without substantial outside assistance, continuity of operations and collaboration often pose greater difficulty. The maturity model identifies specific areas where CBOs encounter roadblocks so partners can better target providing assistance. Funders and partners can promote collaboration, interoperability, and coordination with CBOs. Funding CBO business continuity training, including homeless providers in emergency response networks, and developing standardized templates for CBO preparedness will better equip CBOs for partnerships.

Lisa Graff, Illinois State Water Survey

Flood Vulnerability Assessment for Critical Facilities

The Flood Vulnerability Assessment for Critical Facilities (FVA) is a new tool that is available online to assist critical facilities, like hospitals, fire and police departments, and utility providers, evaluate their preparedness for potential future flooding events. At the heart of the assessment is a series of questions that will help a critical facility manager determine their facility’s risk based on factors like its proximity to a floodplain, past flooding issues, stormwater drainage structures, and the location of back-up generators, servers, and other critical systems.

After completing the assessment, users receive a report with specific recommendations for steps they can take to reduce the facility’s vulnerability to riverine and/or urban flooding and useful resources and recommendations to make those steps forward a bit easier.

The FVA was developed by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, the Midwestern Regional Climate Center, the Illinois State Water Survey, and the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The FVA is available as an online tool here: http://mrcc.isws.illinois/FVA

Lesley Gray, Joint Centre for Disaster Research

Preparing for the Big One: Morbid Obesity in Disasters

This is a new mixed methodology research project, taking a pragmatic approach, addressing the conspicuous invisibility of any empirical research concerning very large people in disasters. A handful of largely anecdotal reports previously described situations in which people categorized as morbidly obese, a body mass index of 40 and above, were negatively impacted in disasters because of their size, shape and/or weight. Given the paucity of research in relation to morbid obesity, this research is exploring the layers of potential and actual vulnerabilities, engaging with individuals and communities most likely to be impacted to identify disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies. What is important in DRR is the identification of strategies by, with, and for communities.

Kailash Gupta, The International Emergency Management Society-India

Pandemic Knowledge to Action

Time magazine proclaimed “Warning: We are not ready for the next pandemic” on the cover page of the May 15, 2017 issue. Inside, Bryan Walsh states, “Warning: The next global security threat isn’t what you think. On a hyperconnected planet rife with hyperinfectious disease, experts warn we aren’t ready to keep America-and the world-safe from the next pandemic.” Most countries rely on emergency response approaches that are ineffective, as evidenced during H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009 and Ebola Virus disease in 2014.

A dearth of knowledge about pandemics is not the issue; it’s the inaction. The European Commission funded the Action Plan on Science in Society Related Issues in Epidemics and Total Pandemics, abbreviated as ASSET, a transdisciplinary research project comprised of researchers from public health, vaccine and epidemiological research, social and political sciences, law and ethics, gender studies, science communication, and media.

A participatory governance strategy was developed and tested in a mobilization and mutual learning approach equipped with strategic and action plans. Consultations with about 50 citizens were successfully performed simultaneously on September 24, 2016, in eight European countries. Local initiatives are being developed in 12 cities. Experts thrice engaged face-to-face in a high-level policy forum discussion. The ASSET website ( develops a participatory dialogue with professionals, other projects, and the public. This is also done through social media.

Kailash Gupta, The International Emergency Management Society-India

The India Chapter of The International Emergency Management Society

The India Chapter of the International Emergency Management Society (TIEMS-IC) is a not-for-profit organization with about 275 members. Recent TIEMS-IC activities include:

•    Participating in UNISDR Global Platform on disaster risk reduction (DRR) held Cancun, Mexico in May 2017

•    Initiated and presented at National and Global Platforms on DRR Operation Resilience, a start-up that seeks to match demand and supply of goods and services

•    Co-hosted a Workshop on Higher Education in Disaster Management: Challenges & Opportunities in New Delhi on Feb. 10, 2017

•    Working to have Jaipur City selected as one of the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities

•    Conducting a disaster management course

TIEMS is a Brussels-based organization founded in 1993 and has 13 chapters in across the globe. The vision of TIEMS-IC is to make disaster resilience a mass movement. To do so, it promotes resilience at gatherings, such as kumbh mela, cricket matches, and local festivals. More information is available at or by contacting Kailash Gupta.

Kailash Gupta, The International Emergency Management Society-India

Crisis Participatory Governance

The concept of Crisis Participatory Governance (CPG) was developed as a part of the ongoing European Commission co-funded research project ASSET, or Action Plan on Science in Society Related Issues in Epidemics and Total Pandemics. CPG entails including citizens and civil society in risk communication and an organizing crisis response to engage citizens in policy-making and implementation.

Participatory governance is the backbone for equitable and sustained development. Participatory governance means including citizens in decision making that has implications for their wellbeing and for being transparent in decision making and implementation processes. CPG is important because people become both the providers and receivers of aid in a crisis. CPG enlarges the envelope of participatory governance.

CPG starts with effective risk communication that is contingent on identifying the cultural dimensions and priorities of the targeted groups. It is critical that identification is a result of a two-way communication process.

Research was conducted to address the challenges confronting policymakers and healthcare practitioners’ call for more inclusion of citizens and civil society in risk communication and organized response to pandemics threats in such a way that rumor will not be the main information channel and mistrust of authorities reduced. For future research, the question will be how to empower marginalized groups in CPG and why they would participate when they have higher priorities, for example of hand-to-mouth existence. Another research area is how to improve willingness and capacity of state actors in CPG.

Caroline Hackerott, Arkansas Tech University
Jeffrey Aulgur, Arkansas Tech University

Community-Based Adaptive Capacity and Resilience within Developing Societies

This project focuses on the role community-based organizations may have in enhancing community adaptive capacity and disaster resilience within Ecuador. Little literature exists regarding nonprofit disaster preparedness management, even less regarding organizations in developing countries. The ever present risk of natural disaster and man-made disaster pressures organizations to minimize losses (Dahlhamer & D’Souza, 1997). Nonprofit entities in disaster areas are critical to the response efforts and provide significant support not readily available through governmental efforts (Salamon, 1995; Kapucu & Wart, 2006; Vita & Morley, 2007). Specific disaster response efforts, in addition to the daily mission of nonprofit organizations, supplement material goods not provided by the government response (Salamon, Hems, & Chinnock, 2000; Steinberg, 2006; Weisbrod, 1977; Young, 2006).

The concept of community-based adaptive capacity provides a framework from which to consider community resilience. Partnering with the impacted public increases adaptive capacity and resilience (Comfort et al., 1999) and community-based organizations provide this vital link (Austin, 2012; Wisner, 2003). The emergence of nonprofit networks in Ecuador (Appe, 2013, 2016) may enhance disaster preparedness and mitigation. However, community-based organizations and civil sector preparedness in Ecuador may be influenced by political developments (Ortiz, 2015).

Ubydul Haque, University of Florida

Globally Increasing Deadly Landslides

Landslides are a major hazard causing large human losses worldwide. It is therefore important to identify primary causes of deadly landslides and evaluate emerging global landslide prediction efforts and public preparedness on the hazard. However, there is only a little information on the historical patterns of fatal landslides and spatiotemporal spread at the global scale that would provide a baseline. Thus, in the present study, the spatiotemporal distribution of deadly landslides and risk mapping is presented for 129 countries over the past 20 years (1995–2014). Initially, the internet search engine Google was used to examine worldwide fatal landslides. In addition, web sources were used to cross-check and update. Approximately 90 percent of the recorded events could be validated and adapted, if necessary. Spatial and temporal trends were evaluated in 3434 locations. An emerging hot spot analysis tool was used to analyze the daily record of deadly landslide locations. In the studied period, a total of 156,259 deaths, 13,732 injuries, and 7,537 missing were recorded resulting from 3,876 landslide events. In the northern hemisphere, deadly landslides were reported most frequently from June to October. In contrast, in the southern hemisphere landslides were mostly recorded in December to February. Significant increasing trends of fatal landslides were observed in many countries, however most dramatically in China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Austria, Italy, Sierra Leone, Brazil, and Bolivia. This study characterizes baseline information on spatial and temporal analysis of the fatal landslides at the global scale. 

Tracy Hatton, Resilient Organisations
Charlotte Brown, Resilient Organisations
Erica Seville, Resilient Organisations
Sawyer Baker, Global Disaster Preparedness Center
Omar Abou-Samra, Global Disaster Preparedness Center

Bringing Resilience to Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises: An App for Business Preparedness

Small- and medium-sized enterprises are prevalent in economies around the world, yet they often do not have the resources, or do not know how, to invest in disaster preparedness. The American Red Cross Global Disaster Preparedness Center (GDPC) has embarked on a project to make preparing for disasters easy, accessible, and engaging for SMES around the world.

A new mobile application called Atlas: Ready for Business, will soon be available to provide jargon-free, practical, action-oriented advice for SMEs. New Zealand-based Resilient Organisations and GDPC have partnered to create content that includes traditional business continuity planning advice, guidance to develop organizational resilience capabilities, and tasks that will help business owners and managers implement resilience.

Atlas: Ready for Business allows small business owners and managers to assess their level of preparedness for natural and man-made disasters. Integrating mobile gaming elements, the interactive tool then takes users through a series of modules to develop or improve upon their preparedness. These interactions ultimately create an easily accessible crisis and recovery plan for the small businesses that can be used during a crisis. It also provides employees with the proper training needed to address disaster situations appropriately and effectively.

The app will be available for both Android and iOS devices. For more information about when the app will be available in your country, please contact the authors.

Tracy Hatton, Resilient Organisations
Charlotte Brown, Resilient Organisations
Erica Seville, Resilient Organisations

Business Recovery from Disaster

Organizations play a vital role in the recovery of communities following disaster events. This study contributes to the growing body of knowledge examining the impacts on, and recovery trajectories of organizations following disruption. A survey, conducted in 2016, examines recovery trajectories of 206 organizations impacted by the 2010-2011 Canterbury, New Zealand, earthquake sequence. The survey was the fifth in a series of surveys carried out by the authors following the earthquakes.

This sequence of earthquakes created many challenges for organizations with a wide range of disruption profiles. Some organizations suffered significant damage and loss including stock and buildings, while others faced staff, customer, and/or supplier disruption.

Data from this longitudinal data set gives a unique opportunity to examine the relative importance of different impacts, preparedness measures, and post event adaptation measures at different time points in recovery.

Key findings of the study include:

• Recovery is a long process for many organizations, 40 percent of organizations were still recovering two years after impact.

• Sector is a factor influencing short but not long term recovery.

• Demand changes were a key factor in the recovery trajectory of organizations. This indicates a need to review current business continuity processes to ensure that both demand and supply side impacts are appropriately planned for.

Jennifer Helgeson, National Institute of Standards and Technology

National Institute of Standards and Technology's Economic Decision Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed the Economic Decision Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems (EDG), which provides a standard economic methodology for evaluating investment decisions aimed to improve that ability of communities to adapt to, withstand, and quickly recover and rebuild from disruptive events. This approach is applicable to resilience decisions on the community level ranging from retrofitting historical buildings, to new community bridge projects, and to assessing solutions to reduce losses in wildland-urban interface areas. The EDG is designed for use as a standalone guide or as a companion to the NIST Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems. Based on the EDG, the NIST is now developing the first generation Economic Decision Guide Software tool to facilitate benefit cost analyses of competing community resilience plans.

For more information see:

Pamela Jenkins, University of New Orleans
Liz Williams, Foundation for Louisiana

Planning in Partnership: Louisiana's Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments

Through a unique public-private partnership, Louisiana's Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE) attempts to build a model for adaptive strategies for risk reduction developed with sustained and broad community input. The pubic-private partnership is co-led by Louisiana Office of Community Development and the Foundation for Louisiana. The process, which will extend over a 10 month period, includes a series of community meetings where residents voice their concerns, their hopes, and their solutions. Each set of meetings, five sets in total, allows community members in six coastal Louisiana parishes to envision the future of their communities. The result of these intensive conversations will produce a long-term vision for each parish and recommend specific projects, program and policies. LA SAFE will develop six pilot projects across the parishes as an initial investment while working on other solutions and funding strategies. At the time of this conference, two rounds of community meetings will be completed. During the first round, nearly 500 residents attended, producing 2000 separate ideas, that were then categorized. In the second round of meetings, another 550 residents attended, refining their original ideas and placing them in a context specific to their locale. All meetings are documented using multiple methods including observational notes, photographs, and videos. Initial meetings show the tensions between structural and non-structural risk reduction strategies, the discussion of levees and diversions in a context of long-term change that includes non-structural dimensions such as elevation, retrofitting, and relocation. Other tensions arise between the immediate needs of the vulnerable coastal communities and the long-term planning for sustainability.

Sangman Jeong, Kongju National University
Hayong Kim, Kongju National University
Insang Yu, Kongju National University
Moojong Park, Hanseo Univeristy

Development of a Management System for the Landslide and Debris Flow Damage Mitigation in Urban Areas

Localized thunderstorms and extreme rainfall events, which are mainly caused by global warming and climate change, cause the degree of sediment disaster as well as its damages to be degenerated. A recent example of this is the landslide from Mt. Umyeon in 2011, which left 16 people dead and a total damage of approximately $100 million USD. Such incidents demonstrate the urgent need for the development of a sediment disaster mitigation system. In particular, one that would consider the specific characteristics of urban areas.

The main goal of this research is to develop a sediment disaster prediction model, its corresponding countermeasure technology, as well as, a tool for vulnerability, estimation, and evaluation. Ultimately, it aims to build an integrated management system which monitors the urban sediment disaster from its prevention up to recovery period. To build resilient cities, the research institute divided the study into four topics: (1) assessment of specific urban sediment disaster vulnerability (2) development of suitable sediment disaster countermeasures (3) development of specific urban sediment disaster prediction with 3D simulation technology and (4) improvement of legal and institutional systems. With the study currently on its final stage, the research institute intends to contribute in the advancement of the disaster related industry in Korea and protect its citizens from future landslide and debris flow disasters.

This research was supported by a grant (13SCIPS04) from Smart Civil Infrastructure Research Program funded by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) of Korea government and Korea Agency for Infrastructure Technology Advancement (KAIA).

Sangman Jeong, Kongju National University
Insang Yu, Kongju National University
Hayong Kim, Kongju National University
Taesung Cheong, National Disaster Management Research Institute

Assessment of Physical Risks of Flood, Wind, and Snow Disasters for Houses

The increase in magnitude and frequency of natural disasters intensifies the disaster damage in the world. In the case of Korea, damage coming from flood, wind and snow disasters were recorded as $4.2 billion USD, $1.8 billion USD, and $0.9 billion USD, respectively, as they represent 99 percent of the total natural disaster damage in the country. In order to mitigate such damage to houses and establish countermeasures scientifically, assessment of the physical risk by flood, wind, and snow disasters is vital. In this study, such assessment was applied for houses in Daegu, Ulsan, Gyeongbuk and Gangwon in Korea. Flood inundation, wind velocity, and snow-depth maps were developed under the scenario of design frequency for each house. Vulnerability functions for flood, wind, and snow were constructed and its property, for a total of 758, 209 houses. The results revealed the houses which were damaged by flood, wind, and snow, thus, their damages were estimated. Moreover, the physical risk for houses was classified according to damage. The resulting physical risk can be used for the identification of hazardous houses and determination of priority of investment for future disaster mitigation projects.

Margaret Kilvington, Independent Researcher
Wendy Saunders, GNS Science

Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities to Translate Science into Planning Practice for Natural Hazard Risk Reduction

The way in which natural hazards science is incorporated in local level decisions on land use is a complex process, influenced by numerous social levers and networks. Both research providers and policy and planning practitioners are aware of many of the challenges associated with enabling science to practice. However, efforts to improve the situation are sometimes misplaced and dominated by ideas about improved delivery and science communication that can place undue burden and expectations on only one component of a complex system. This paper provides a framework to explore the challenges and opportunities to improve the science to planning interface for natural hazards, with two examples: the inclusion of risk science into the replacement Christchurch District plan for land instability in the Port Hills; and for a plan change to intensify development in Petone, a community located in the most hazardous location in the Wellington region.

In this research we found that the availability of technical information alone is not enough to ensure that natural hazards science is able to contribute to any planning decision. Rather, a mix of factors act to facilitate and constrain this. These include the time limits of existing planning processes; the skills and resources of planners and policy makers; the availability of consultants or knowledge brokers who can interpret technical information into compelling and plausible planning options; and importantly, social and political pressure which shapes the decision context and directs it towards a specific planning outcome that may not accommodate natural hazard risk as a high priority. 

William Lovekamp, Eastern Illinois University
Cameron Craig, Eastern Illinois University

Nature's Fury and the Human Spirit

In the mid afternoon of May 26, 1917, nature thrust its vengeance against humanity in two very small communities in east central Illinois when the third deadliest tornado disaster on record swept across Illinois. Mattoon and Charleston in Coles County were the most severely impacted communities. In Mattoon, the tornado killed 53, injured another 409, destroyed 496 houses, and partially destroyed 124 homes, leaving 2,500 homeless. The path of destruction was 2.5 miles long by 2.5 blocks wide, and damage estimates near $1.2 million in 1917 dollars. This would be equivalent to approximately $22.5 million dollars in damage today. In Charleston, the tornado killed 38, injured another 182, destroyed 221 homes, and partially destroyed another 265. The path of destruction, which passed a mile north of the State Normal School, now Eastern Illinois University, was 1.5 miles long by 600 yards wide, with damage estimates of $781,000 in 1917 dollars. This would be equivalent to approximately $14.6 million dollars in damage today, a total of approximately $37 million dollars of damage in the county by today’s standards.

After the destruction, mothers, fathers, and strangers from other regions worked together to survive and rebuild a community that has become the foundation of humanity and companionship in Charleston and Mattoon. Two years of research and multiple interviews with community members led to the production of a documentary film called, Nature's Fury and the Human Spirit: The Charleston and Mattoon Tornado 26 May, 1917.

Allison Madera, University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center

“I Had to Try to Establish an Identity without a Business:” Business Interruption, Identity Disruption, and Innovative Recovery Strategies among Small Business Owners Following the 2013 Colorado Floods

Disaster scholars have researched and documented the many ways small businesses are more vulnerable to disasters than larger firms, citing such post-disaster challenges as limited resources, a lack of redundancy, and disadvantages regarding insurance. Much of this literature takes an organizational approach, and when scholars research business owners themselves, these discussions are often limited to correlations between an owner’s demographic characteristics and business recovery outcomes, such as whether an organization will survive. The literature lacks discussions on how business recovery may affect the owners themselves, overlooking personal consequences like changes in self-perceptions as post-disaster conditions challenge an owner’s identity.

I address this gap by examining small business owners’ experiences and perceptions following the 2013 Colorado Flood. Drawing on interviews with seventeen small business owners from Estes Park and Lyons, Colorado, I discuss business recovery experiences and the relationship between responses to post-flood challenges and personal identity. Participants described how they were troubled by their dependence on aid at a time when they were incapable of providing for others, which several valued as an element of their identities. Many considered business ownership and entrepreneurial traits to be central to their identities. Some were able to take advantage of opportunities that came out of challenges like business interruption to act in entrepreneurial ways, coming up with innovative strategies to meet financial and personal recovery goals. Additionally, some adopted methods they had improvised to meet business-related recovery goals, like mitigating financial losses, as long-term better business practices.

Julie Maldonado, Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network
Heather Lazrus, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Bob Gough, Intertribal Council on Utility Policy

Rising Voices: Collaborative Science with Indigenous Knowledge for Climate Solutions

The Rising Voices: Collaborative Science with Indigenous Knowledge for Climate Solutions program facilitates cross-cultural approaches for adaptation solutions to extreme weather and climate events, climate variability, and climate change. It was initiated to increase engagement among indigenous communities in the United States and indigenous and non-indigenous scientists by asking the question, “What are the elements of successful co-production of science and policy in the fields of extreme weather and climate change?” The goal is to address the challenges of understanding and responding to a changing and variable climate, extreme weather events, and research, and policy needs. The program has evolved into a movement of engaged indigenous and non-indigenous individuals, including leaders, environmental experts, students, and scientific professionals from across the United States, including Alaska and the Pacific Islands. Under Rising Voices, social and physical scientists work together and in full partnership with community members to follow cultural protocols and understand community needs and priorities. Research collaborations between climate and indigenous scientists and communities are pursued that would not be possible by physical scientists, social scientists, or communities in isolation. Rising Voices also emphasizes participation of indigenous students and early career scientists. This is an important step in rectifying the considerable under-representation of indigenous populations in atmospheric sciences, decision making, and policy efforts in the United States.

Tony McAleavy, Rabdan Academy

A Picture Says a Thousand Words: Linking Disaster Theory to Practice through Visual and Linguistic Metaphor

Disaster and emergency management theory has not traditionally informed practice even though, the academic-practitioner divide has lessened in recent years. Mechanisms for knowledge transfer between these stakeholders remains a work in progress. Academic language and culture differs significantly from that of practitioners, which is different from the natural language used by the communities we serve; this hampers collaboration. This practice does not yet fully embrace academia and is already accounted for in the works of distinguished writers such as Jensen, Neal, Quarantelli, Rubin, Smith and Wenger, and Tierney. What is needed is an effective communicative mechanism to transfer rich information between stakeholders in a timely and understandable format to promote dialogue and knowledge sharing. A study of how British and American emergency managers focused on how they understand, interpret, and make sense of their respective command and control frameworks was completed. Linguistic and visual methods were used to demonstrate a metaphor’s ability to stimulate timely and deeper knowledge exchange beyond the spoken word.

Qualitative data was collated via 30 semi-structured interviews with federal, state, and local emergency managers. Content, linguistic, and visual metaphor analysis were applied resulting in five conceptual metaphors inspired by organizational theorist Gareth Morgan. The resultant metaphors, Command and Control as a Candle, a Trivial Pursuit Pie, a Golden Thread, Spinning Plates, and Virus and Antidote, combine visual imagery and linguistic narratives to link existing theory to practice, forming an accessible communications mechanism that promotes understanding and critical dialogue, which can be readily applied to other disaster problems.

ConSandra McNeil, Jackson State University

Proposing a Research Study to Investigate the Impact of Major Disasters on Family Experiences and Implications for Crisis Managers and Other Professionals

Research that addresses the impact of major disasters on marital/intimate relationships, parent/adult child relationships, and fictive kinship is scant. Post displacement crises that impact the family are rarely discussed and documented in research literature. There is evidence to show that when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the coastal areas of Mississippi, recovery had multiple effects on residents of New Orleans, including employment, racial discrimination, loss of healthcare, post-traumatic stress disorder, and relationship dynamics.

This research project is in the early infancy and is seeking ways to determine what post-crisis issues led to or can lead to relationship discord and family separation after a major disaster. My presentation will focus on relevant literature, potential methodology approaches, and potential theoretical models and framework that can have implications on these types of family crises; and based on the findings, what are the recommendations for professionals (i.e., crisis managers) for successfully working with families of disasters in this county.

Scott Miles, University of Washington

DESaster: Discrete Event Simulation of Disaster Recovery

DESaster is a Python programming library for developing discrete event simulations of disaster recovery that has been designed to be open, modular, and extensible. The DESaster library is intended to support collaborative recovery planning activities. DESaster is a modular library for building simulations and so does not impose hard-coded progressions of or policies for recovery. Different types of recovery entities, resources, programs, and policies can be arranged in different ways by the user. One simulation can be built that requires a homeowner to submit an insurance claim prior to applying for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) individual assistance, while a different simulation can be built that allows owners to make both requests simultaneously and reimburse FEMA (if necessary). DESaster can represent some types of decision logic for entities. For example, an entity can be imbued with patience related to each resource request or search for residence (e.g., for a rental in the jurisdiction). If the duration of an event exceeds that patience (e.g., 90 days patience to secure a local rental), the current event is interrupted and a new event triggered (e.g., search outside the jurisdiction). Currently, the deployable codebase of DESaster exclusively represents housing recovery related to single family wood frame houses. As part of one National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project, DESaster will be expanded to represent a broader range of housing recovery entities, building types, resources, programs, and policies. For another NSF project, inclusion of utilities infrastructure is underway. DESaster is open source and available for use and contributions as part of its development:

Shalini Misra, Virginia Tech

Thinking and Decision Making in an Age of Divided Attention

We will investigate the challenges that digital overload poses for managerial thinking and decision making. We will interview emergency managers to identify the characteristics of their information environment and overload stressors. Then, we will pilot a survey to test the relationship between perceived information overload and the capacity for integrative/vertical thinking. We will also design an experiment examining the relationship between information overload, team level macrocognition, collaborative processes, and outcomes during high stress decision making contexts. The project will bring innovative psychological theories and methods to the literature on crisis and emergency decision making and public management. In psychology, we will innovate by analyzing the effect of digital overload on the capacity for attention and thinking of public sector professionals.

Melissa Parsons, University of New England

Cultural Worldviews and Natural Hazard Risk Perception

Perception of the risks of natural hazards is considered to be one of the precursors of desirable behaviors of mitigation, preparation, and resilience. However, the processes of risk perception are complex and are likely related to underlying cognitive factors associated with information processing. Cultural worldview theory suggests that people actively choose what to fear, and how much to fear it, in order to support their ways of life (Kahan, 2012). Aspects of these choices may include prioritizing public vs. private interests, choice vs. control, and differing levels of belief and/or adherence to egalitarianism, hierarchy, individualism, and communitarianism. To assess whether and how cultural worldviews relate to perceptions of risk to natural hazards, we recruited over 500 residents of New South Wales, stratified between urban and regional areas, who completed a cultural worldview questionnaire and a new questionnaire developed by the researchers to assess the following four aspects of natural hazards: 1) perceptions of the risk of natural hazards 2) perceptions of control over natural hazards 3) perceptions of responsibility for natural hazard preparation and outcome and 4) trust in different sources of information about natural hazards. Results indicated significant but varying relationships among cultural cognition types (i.e., egalitarianism, hierarchy, individualism, communitarianism) and the four aspects of natural hazard risk perception. Some consistency was found regarding how cultural cognition types predicted risk perception across four different types of natural hazards (bushfire, flood, severe thunderstorm, earthquake) but, this also varied by geographical location. Understanding the influence of cultural worldviews on attitudes toward natural hazards might lead to community engagement messages orientated to the views of egalitarianism, hierarchy, individualism, and communitarianism.

Lori Peek, University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center
Lubna Mohammad, Colorado State University

Cumulative Disaster Exposure and Coping Capacity of Women and their Children in Southeast Louisiana

The Women and Their Children’s Health (WaTCH) study ( is a five-year project launched in the aftermath of the 2010 BP Oil Spill. This research focuses on the potential physical, mental, and community-level health effects of the disaster on women and children who lived in the seven most affected southeastern coastal parishes in Louisiana.

The present study draws from the WaTCH survey data and delves into the lives of nine mother-child pairs who we deemed “exposure outliers” based on their multiple, repeated exposure to major disasters since 2005. These disasters negatively affected the child and the household and in all cases led to multiple displacements of the family.

We conducted in-depth interviews in 2016 to learn more about the social support and coping capacity of women and their children who experienced multiple disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Isaac and/or the BP Oil Spill. Results indicated that disaster experiences alone did not determine disaster coping and recovery, but rather it was how these exposures combined with secondary stressors that led to what we refer to as “problem pile-up” for the child and the household. Due to disaster frequency and regularity, the families in the study did not have sufficient time to recover. Each new disaster brought additional challenges for the household. In an era of more frequent and intense disasters, this project has important ramifications for thinking about recovery from multiple disasters and how that can best be supported over time.

Lori Peek, University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center
Jennifer Tobin, University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center
John van de Lindt, Colorado State University

Institutional Review Board Authorization Agreements: A Partnership between the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Colorado State University

Large interdisciplinary research projects involving human subjects require significant effort to coordinate Institutional Review Board (IRB) requirements across multiple universities. In an effort to streamline this process, it is becoming more common for one university to act as the lead on a project and establish an IRB Authorization Agreement (IAA). This Agreement, when signed, becomes part of each Institution's Federalwide Assurance (FWA) for the Protection of Human Research Subjects (Department of Health and Human Services, DHHS). 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) funded Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning headquarted at Colorado State University (CSU) has implemented an IAA between NIST, CSU, and 12 other universities involved in human subject’s research for this project. This five year study will include three-five field studies in post-disaster locations and the CSU-IRB has pre-approved a base protocol so that researchers can enter the field in a timely manner and not lose perishable data. In order to have this base protocol pre-approved, the lead researchers drafted not only the base protocol, but also all the supplementary interview guides, survey protocols, and other research instruments. This protocol was successfully used twice in 2016.

It is important that institutions can learn from this approach to protect human subjects while streamlining institutional approval across multiple universities and providing pre-approval for disaster field studies. This process can help reduce the time to entering the field after the disaster, while also increasing the time that teams have available to reflect on the research process pre-event. 

Victor Perez, University of Delaware

Environmental Justice, Climate Change, and Relocation

I have been involved in an ongoing interdisciplinary research project examining the potential for climate change impacts, such as sea level rise, to interact with contaminated properties in an urban, environmental justice community in South Wilmington, Delaware. The key thrust of this interdisciplinary project is the potential for soil and groundwater contamination to mobilize legacy contaminants as sea level rise contributes to higher tides and storm surges in coastal communities. The mobilization of contaminants, like arsenic or chromium, pose potentially serious threats to human and environmental health. As the sociologist on the project, I have been examining community perceptions of risk of sea level rise, flooding, pollution, and their perceived confluence on human health in the community. This work can help inform natural science and public policy colleagues about the most pressing concerns of the community; the embodied experiences of flooding; and the embodied health experiences of residents in order to help prioritize remediation efforts. One key finding to date, for example, is that the community is very concerned about sea level rise, but knows very little about it. Thus, their input on remediation is lacking and efforts to increase educational awareness and involvement in long-term hazard planning is needed. In addition, I am curious about the community’s perception of, and role of inequality in driving, more extreme climate change adaptation options like planned relocation. The work has many implications for environmental justice scholarship, community collaboration, public policy, and long-term climate change hazard planning.

Marla Petal, Save the Children

Child-Centered Disaster Risk Reduction and Comprehensive School Safety Research and Practice Linkages

Save the Children, internationally, with funding support from C&A and others, has launched at least a dozen research projects in the past two years to illuminate three areas that are considered vital to evidence-based practice in child-centered disaster risk reduction (C-CDRR) and comprehensive school safety (CSS). The topics center around three areas: the enabling policy environment, hazard impacts on education, and scalable solutions for risk reduction and resilience, especially in the face of urbanization and climate change. Project outputs are designed especially to meet the needs of field practitioners and technical advisors. The last of the projects in this suite  is intended to span the C-CDRR  and CSS policy-practice-research nexus, and we'll be looking at what we can do to make sure that evidence makes its way into practice and visa versa. 

The overall intention is to bring practitioners, policy-makers, and future researchers together into the discussion to more systematically and effectively bring evidence into practice, and to generate practice-based evidence. This includes:

1. Stimulating development and communication across a global C-CDRR/CSS community of practice of researchers and practitioners committed to helping to identify and bridge the gaps between research, practice, and policy.

2. Working together to develop strategic C-CDRR and CSS research objectives and developing a shared, stepped-logic and strategic road map/guiding model for a) developing and delivering theory- and evidence-supported C-CDRR and CSS frameworks and initiatives b) for monitoring and evaluating them c) for disseminating and implementing the initiatives that work at scale d) identifying research-produced utilization tools, will assist in meeting these main objectives.

If you are interested in being connected, please complete the survey found at:

Philip Schneider, National Institute of Building Sciences

Resilience Incentivization and Mitigation Saves

Resilience has come to occupy a place in public policy and programs across the United States. Yet, even in the face of growing losses and the deleterious effects of natural disasters, the nation’s capacity and appetite for continued funding of federal and state pre- and post-disaster mitigation efforts to create resilience is waning. A new approach is necessary; one focused on capturing all of the potential incentives provided by both the public and private sectors for pre- and post-hazard investment. The most cost-effective manner to achieve resilience is through a holistic and integrated set of public, private, and hybrid programs based on capturing opportunities available through mortgages and loans, insurance, finance, tax incentives and credits, grants, regulations, and enhanced building codes and their application. This focus on private/public-sector opportunities to induce corrective action is called incentivization. This approach calls for input, consensus, leadership, and action from a broad spectrum of stakeholders that represent the regulatory and economic processes that need to be developed and coordinated to make incentivization part of the nation’s economic fabric. Stakeholders need a level of confidence through benefit-cost analysis that using incentives to implement mitigation strategies to achieve resilience will justify investments, underwriting, and loan and grant programs. Those mitigating want the certainty that they can offset the cost of implementation. Thus, the private and public sectors will be motivated to undertake investments to support achieving resilience, not just because it is sensible, but because it is economically prudent.

Nick Shufro, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Angela Gladwell, Federal Emergency Management Agency

National Mitigation Investment Strategy: An Initiative of the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group

The National Mitigation Investment Strategy (NMIS), a national effort led by the Federal Interagency Mitigation Framework Leadership Group (MitFLG), is the result of a recent General Accounting Office report requesting that the federal government establish an investment strategy to identify, prioritize, and implement federal investments in disaster resilience.  The MitFLG seeks to develop a strategy involving all national stakeholders, not just the federal government.  Six outcome areas drive the NMIS:  a resilient built environment; coordination of disaster risk management among federal, state, local, tribal, territorial and private partners; sharing fiscal responsibility for risk reduction with the federal government; private sector involvement in resilience finance; provision of federal data and digital services to support resilience; and disaster risk communication resulting in increased awareness and risk reduction.  

Sanaz Sohrabizadeh, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences

Gender Analysis Factors in Disaster Risk Management: The Case of Iran

Disasters do not affect people equally. Gender is an important variable which can aggravate or decline the negative consequences of disasters. Gender shapes people’s responses to disasters and influence capacity as well as vulnerability in the face to disasters. The study's purpose was to explore the gender analysis factors after the major earthquakes and floods in Iran.

This qualitative field study was performed on three regions of Iran, including East Azerbaijan, Bushehr, and Mazandaran, all affected by the earthquakes and floods in 2012 and 2013. These disasters killed more than 300 citizens and caused the physical injuries to more than 3000 inhabitants. Survivors living in the destroyed regions as well as a number of key informants were approached for interviews (N=35). Data was collected using unstructured in-depth interviews. The conventional content analysis using Graneheim approach was used for data analysis.

The gender distribution of participants was 50 percent for both male and female groups. The age of the participants were between 18 and 70 years old. Four themes of health, livelihood, religiosity and capability were extracted from the data. Health included the categories of physical, mental and reproductive health; livelihood consisted of joblessness and homelessness categories. Positive and negative effects of religiosity were the categories of religiosity.

Gender can shape people's vulnerabilities in different aspects of health, livelihood, and religiosity as well as various coping capacities in disasters. Considering distinct roles played by men and women and their special needs, responsibilities and capacities in disaster management are highly suggested.

Edward Thomas, Natural Hazard Mitigation Association

Natural Hazard Mitigation Association Disaster Risk Reduction Ambassador Curriculum

The Natural Hazard Mitigation Association (NHMA) is a national organization of practitioners committed to disaster risk reduction (DRR) in the context of climate adaptation and mitigation. NHMA members are dedicated to helping our nation achieve the goal of reducing the devastating costs and impacts of natural hazards. Such a reduction improves public safety and health as well as community wellbeing, while reducing government expenditures, human misery, and environmental harm for the whole community addressing natural hazards while protecting underrepresented populations from disaster damage.

The goal of the DRR Ambassador Curriculum is to facilitate the DRR efforts of community representatives by: 1) Engaging in discussion of how disasters can be reduced through local action; 2) having exposure to local leaders and technical experts to enable the development of cross functional solutions; and 3) acquiring the best-available information, knowledge of best practices, and analytic tools to enable better-informed decisions before, during, and after disasters. Individuals who have completed the DRR Ambassador Curriculum will be better able to advocate for and support effective DRR in their local communities.

The DRR Ambassador Curriculum is designed:

• With a multi-hazard approach that encourages shared management strategies and unified responses in DRR plans and action

• To build a strong legal, ethical, and equitable basis for safe and effective development, redevelopment, and adaptation

• To be custom-tailored and updated for local needs to facilitate community progress

• As an initial set of self-study and training media that can be extended as new topic options are identified and developed

Jennifer Tobin, University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center

The 2013 Colorado Floods: A Case Study of Educational Continuity for Lyons Elementary and Middle/Senior High Schools

Schools are consistently identified as one of the strongest protective institutions for children’s well-being following a major disaster event. Schools support childhood development, education, health, and well-being. They act as community hubs, bring families together, and they build networks that strengthen the social fabric of a region. Yet, little research is available to offer guidance on how schools should plan for student displacement, what pre-existing social conditions make continuous education possible following a disaster, and how school continuity influences community recovery.

This dissertation is a case study that documents the displacement and educational continuity process for Lyons Elementary and Middle/Senior High Schools following the 2013 Colorado Floods. This event resulted in the near complete dislocation of approximately 2,000 residents in Lyons, CO. Although the elementary and middle/senior high schools were untouched by the floodwaters, the St. Vrain Valley School district had to devise a plan to continue educating 744 Pre-K through 12th grade students until they could return to their home schools. 

The Lyons case demonstrates how imperative it is that we learn from these experiences so that we can continue to strengthen our disaster planning for schools in the future. Findings from this research demonstrate the effectiveness of strong leadership at both the district and school level, the value of table top exercises and thoughtful disaster planning, and the importance of bringing key stakeholders together to make swift, yet informed decisions about educational continuity for displaced students. 

John van de Lindt, Colorado State University
Hussam Mahmoud, Colorado State University

Hindcasting the 2011 Joplin Tornado

The Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning, headquartered at Colorado State University, is a five-year Center of Excellence funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The main objective of the Center of Excellence is to develop a computational environment to be known as IN-CORE (Interdependent Networked Community Resilience Modeling Environment) to allow researchers to identify the attributes that make communities resilient to natural hazards. 

Joplin, Missouri, was heavily affected by an EF5 tornado in May of 2011. The field studies team visited Joplin from July 17-22, 2016, to begin a hindcast study. After developing a beta version of IN-CORE, the team is utilizing the 2011 Joplin tornado to assess the accuracy of the approach including many components within IN-CORE. This includes physical infrastructure, demographics, economic impact and the interconnected recovery.  The purpose of this study was to learn about the long-term recovery process in order to try to project recovery and resilience trajectories for other communities. 

The process involves a detailed construct of the physical and non-physical systems in Joplin prior to the tornado. This will include investigation of individual sectors, coupled sectors, and eventually the full IN-CORE architecture. This requires the development of tornado building and the sector damage fragilities, a computable generalized equilibrium model for economic recovery modeling, and demographic-based vulnerability models for population dislocation and other reseilience metrics.

John van de Lindt, Colorado State University
Bruce Ellingwood, Colorado State University
Therese McAllister, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Center of Excellence for Community Risk-Based Resilience Planning

Community resilience depends on the performance of the built environment and on supporting social, economic, and public institutions which are essential for response and recovery of the community following a disaster. The social needs of a community are not reflected in codes, standards, and other regulatory documents currently used to design individual facilities. A new approach is necessary, one which is interdisciplinary in nature and reflects the complex inter-dependencies among the physical, social, and economic systems on which a healthy and vibrant community depends. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology funded Center of Excellence for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning, (CoE) headquartered at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, with a number of partner universities, was established by The National Institute of Standards and Technology to advance the measurement science for understanding the factors that make a community resilient, to assess the likely impact of natural hazards on communities, to move toward a standardized data structure for resilience studies, and to develop risk-informed decision strategies that optimize planning for and recovery from disasters. 

The center has three major thrusts which include approximately 90 people focusing on the development of the Interconnected Networked Computational Environment for Community Resilience (IN-CORE), data ontology and tools, and resilience architecture validation. A beta version of IN-CORE is slated for release in 2017 and a new taxonomy is under development. A special issue of Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure was recently published which highlights some of the CoE’s recent progress by centering the analysis and methods around a virtual community known as Centerville.

John van de Lindt, Colorado State University
Derya Deniz, Colorado State University
Nathanael Rosenheim, Texas A&M University

The Lumberton, North Carolina, Flood of 2016: A Community Resilience Focused Field Study

The National Institute of Standards and Technology-funded Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning (NIST-CoE) research team conducted a quick response field study from November 27-December 4, 2016 in Lumberton, North Carolina. In early October 2016, Hurricane Matthew crossed North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane. The storm caused major flooding in Lumberton, with some areas receiving 15-18 inches of rain on already saturated land from previous heavy rains. The purpose of this field study was to explore the interconnectivity across structural damage to residential buildings, commercial buildings, roads, bridges, power, water, school closures, student and staff displacement, evacuation patterns, and household dislocation. 

An interdisciplinary team of more than 20 people assessed over 600 randomly sampled housing units, the teams completed nearly 500 damage assessments and 180 household interviews. A report will focus on the results of the damage inspections and interviews. The initial fieldwork was designed to establish a baseline for a longitudinal study to better understand socio-economic decision variables and their relation to population dislocation and recovery as a whole. 

The sampling strategy employed for this study helped to integrate engineering and social science methodologies. Future field studies within the NIST-CoE further refine the survey instruments and methodologies. This work will also provide objective information on the recovery process as documented by an outside research team to the relevant local, state, and federal officials.

Jamie Vickery, University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center

"Every Day is a Disaster:" Homelessness and the 2013 Colorado Floods

The purpose of this research is to shed light on the distinctive experiences and needs of a population that is poorly understood, particularly with respect to disasters and their effects. Although homeless populations are mentioned in studies of disaster vulnerability, discussions of their unique experiences, capacities, and vulnerabilities are often referred to tangentially. In an effort to address this gap in the literature, this research explores the experiences of pre-disaster homeless individuals and homeless service organizations (HSOs) during and following the 2013 floods in Boulder County, Colorado. My dissertation draws upon over 75 hours of participant observation at HSOs, 28 semi-structured interviews with community stakeholders (e.g., staff from HSOs and public officials), and unstructured interviews and focus groups with 28 homeless individuals who were present during the floods. 

This dissertation broadens the scope of knowledge on underserved and marginalized groups, specifically homeless persons, in the context of a natural disaster. Moving beyond social vulnerability studies that tend to homogenize such groups, I argue for a more holistic perspective that recognizes the intersecting characteristics and social processes that result in uneven disaster outcomes among homeless individuals. In so doing, I demonstrate factors that increase and decrease homeless individuals’ and HSOs’ disaster vulnerability and resilience. The broader implications of this research speak to the growing need to understand the structural factors that create risk and vulnerability while simultaneously hindering efforts to enhance community resilience.

Gregory Vigneaux, California State University, Long Beach
Shirley Feldmann-Jensen, California State University, Long Beach
Steven Jensen, California State University, Long Beach
Christine Rodrigue, California State University, Long Beach

An Organizational Perspective on U.S. Wildland Firefighting Operations: Opening the Black Box

The U.S. federal wildland fire management system continues to experience rising numbers of acres burned annually and increases in management expenditures. The upward trending of costs and acres burned is indicative of the dominance of positive, amplifying feedback and suggestive of a system propensity toward unsustainability. From the management perspective, existing research has identified the continuous suppression of wildland fires as a factor of considerable significance underlying the ascendancy of amplifying feedback and interrelated unsustainable trajectory. Although not ubiquitous throughout the nation, an expanse of research suggests suppression interrupts and constrains the historic and natural balancing processes of fire leading to conditions conducive to more severe and difficult to control fires. The recognized endurance of anthropocentric management has served as a significant attractor for scientific inquiry. Related research has identified several key factors contributing to the continued prevalence of suppression as a management strategy. Pervasive among the factors identified is the application of the incident command system. Although common, absent from the research is exploration of the incident command system relative to the elements and processes recognized as contributing to the dynamics of amplifying feedback dominance and unsustainable direction. This research explores the design of the incident command system in the context of amplifying feedback and unsustainability within the domestic wildland fire management system. In support of this inquiry, the actions of the single resources charged with carrying out wildland firefighting operations are approached as being inseparable from the conceptual space afforded to them by the incident command system’s design. 

Gary Webb, University of North Texas
Nicole Dash, University of North Texas

Hazard Exposures in Native American Communities

This research is part of an ongoing exploratory study of disaster preparedness among Native American communities in the United States (CMMI 1435178). The primary objectives of the larger study are to: identify and map the multiple types of hazards facing Native American communities in the United States, measure levels of community disaster preparedness, describe the different types of emergency management structures, and identify the various challenges faced by community leaders in their efforts to bolster preparedness levels. The study employs a triangulated, mixed method approach that integrates survey research, focus group interviews, and geo-spatial analysis. This research highlight previews findings from the first study objective, namely, identifying and mapping the various natural and technological hazards faced by Native American communities. Consistent with past collaborative research conducted by the lead PI, our mapping efforts reveal significant exposures of Native American communities to technological hazards, including petroleum and chemical processing facilities and environmentally contaminated sites. Additionally, Native American communities, particularly in Oklahoma, also face significant earthquake threats. The United States Geological Survey recently projected parts of that state to be at significant risk of damage from induced earthquakes that are associated with wastewater disposal at oil well and hydraulic fracturing sites. As our work shows, the impacts of these induced earthquakes will not be randomly distributed. Instead, communities with higher Native American populations, particularly in the North Central region of the state, will experience heightened exposure.

Kris Wernstedt, Virginia Tech

How Emergency Managers (Mis?) Interpret Forecasts

Emergency managers who work on floods and other weather-related hazards constitute critical front line responders to disasters. Yet, while these professionals operate in a realm rife with uncertainty related to forecasts and other unknowns, the influence of uncertainty on their decision making is poorly understood. We administer a national level survey of county emergency managers in the U.S. to examine how these local managers interpret forecast information, using hypothetical climate, weather, and flood scenarios to simulate their responses to uncertain information. We find that even emergency managers with substantial experience employ decision shortcuts and make biased choices, just as do members of the general population. Their choices vary depending on the format in which probabilistic forecasts are presented and whether outcomes are represented as gains or losses. They also appear to evaluate other emergency managers’ forecast utilization differently than their own. We suggest forecast producers who consider these decision processes when developing and communicating forecasts could help improve flood preparation and potentially reduce disaster losses.

John Wiener, University of Colorado Boulder

Resilient Neighbors Network

After all the publications on the importance of quick, credible, expert, and available help on a peer-to-peer basis, the Resilient Neighbors Network (RNN) has achieved lift-off. The RNN was started by members of the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association (NHMA) in order to bring together practitioners with a great depth of practical experience. The RNN invites interest and contributions and seeks to enable an increasing membership base that can help those in need.

Distinct from research on resilience and risk reduction, RNN performs the unusual role of deliberately remaining largely informal and informative. The cities and governments involved are often acknowledged for their successes. In these times of severe pressure on staff, funding, and new initiatives, RNN is a network rather than a more formalized organization.

The RNN is a volunteer organization, created in a set of charter communities.  The folks in this organization are interested in expanding the network and they invite your interest! Visit the website at and consider how your own experience and expertise might help a neighbor may need. Webinars and resources can also be accessed through RNN.

John Wiener, University of Colorado Boulder

Building Your Roadmap to a Disaster Resilient Future

Building Your Roadmap to a Disaster Resilient Future helps vital community stakeholders navigate the varied, and at times bewildering, array of pre- and post- disaster resources and programs available to reduce the impact of natural, technological, and human made events on the human-built environment. This document offers quick and effective access to resources, programs, and ways to build agreement on the pursuit of resilience, following the “whole community” approach.

This is the third-generation edition of a concept developed by Edward Thomas, who is the current president of the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association (NHMA), when he was working in Iowa as the federal coordinating officer following the Great Flood of 1993. The basic guidebook was written in 1994 and subsequent editions titled Planning and Building Livable, Safe, & Sustainable Communities and The Patchwork Quilt Approach (more commonly referred to as the Patchwork Quilt) were published by the Association of State Floodplain Managers in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009.

The successor to the Patchwork Quilt, The Living Mosaic: A Path Forward was produced by NHMA in 2015 to help engage and inform community members in constructive assessment and response. The Roadmap is a new work, supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, directed at getting past the problems of where to start with recovery and resilience work.

John Wiener, University of Colorado Boulder

Hide From the Wind: Tornado Safe Rooms in Central Oklahoma

This report provides a careful application and example of lessons learned and synthesized by Dennis Mileti on the value of consistent and repeated messaging from multiple respected sources. The current buzzword “normalize” is a shorthand idea for this wisdom. The report was produced by the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association with support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.   

The direct impact includes people in Oklahoma financing safe rooms through a zero interest loans from a community caring-based program managed by the Oklahoma Central Credit Union. We also have been told about lenders in the area advertising low cost loans for safe room construction. The safe room concept has rapidly spread. This sort of unified message (you need a safe room—we will show you how to finance it) delivered through multiple respected sources has led to enormous ongoing change in risk perception and protective actions, as Mileti hypothesized in his work on techniques to change attitudes and induce safer behavior. The report can be accessed at

John Wiener, University of Colorado Boulder

Alert on Waters of the United States Repeal and Environmental Injustice and Damage

The legal definition of Waters of the US (WOTUS) relates to the Constitutional Commerce Clause, the source of federal power to regulate pollution.  Reflecting claimed overreach of federal power, interference with property rights, and regulatory uncertainty, the administration seeks to radically decrease federal control, although there are already enormous exemptions for normal agricultural activities. State law may fail to help.

What is at stake may be far more than the sharply increasing degradation of water quality in many places with intensive high-input agriculture affecting the aquatic ecosystems below, and into, some hypoxic marine zones. In addition, many cities are faced with increasing water treatment costs. The Des Moines, Iowa, Waterworks sued but the defendant drainage districts are legally immune in Iowa. The legislature has not responded, though even in Iowa a majority of voters approved the lawsuit. 

Unexpected consequences beyond environmental damage may include (1) increased drinking water costs disproportionately affecting low-income families and smaller water providers;  (2) disproportionate impacts on users of water-based recreation and amenity values;  (3) increasing losses of fisheries; and (4) increasing exposures of pollutants from industrial wastes, oil and gas leaks, dumps, and wastes that may be permitted of not,  and pollutants mobilized by higher-intensity precipitation (e.g. North Carolina’s CAFO flooding), changed flooding, coastal conditions, vegetation, urbanization and conditions such as the fire-flood combination. 

The hazards community is urged to consider the impacts, and low-cost research opportunities. Learn more at

Molly Woloszyn, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
James Schwab, American Planning Association
Robert Dean, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

Incorporating Local Climate Science to Help Communities Plan for Climate Extremes

Communities across the United States are experiencing more extreme weather, leading many to ask how to more effectively plan for this and climate change. The American Planning Association (APA) recognizes that while more and better climate data are available to community planners, there is still a disconnection between data availability and how that climate data is applied in planning and decision making.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, and the State Climatologist Office for Illinois have partnered with the APA for a project to pilot test strategies on how to incorporate climate change information and data into the planning efforts of five communities in northeastern Illinois. The climate change vulnerability assessment will focus on interviews with the community, data collection around current hazards, exposure of community assets and resources to these hazards, project climate change impacts, and the adaptive capacity of the community.

At the conclusion of the project in summer 2018, the project will release three products. The first is a guidebook, which will provide the process for incorporating usable sources of climate change data into the planning process. A data analysis guide will provide a template to walk users through information they can use to understand future impacts of extreme weather on their community. Finally, it will release a set of case studies with successes and challenges from the five pilot communities.

This project is funded by NOAA-SARP (Sectoral Applications Research Program).

Guochun Wu, China Earthquake Administration

A Quantitative Study on Community-Based Recovery and Reconstruction in the Wenchuan Earthquake

Build Back Better (BBB) is one of the priorities in the Sendai framework, which includes integrating disaster risk reduction into development  and strengthening national and community resilience to disaster. The concept of BBB in community recovery and reconstruction includes not only social and economic recovery and reconstruction, but also promoting the capacity during the recovery phase to reduce future disaster risk. The recovery from the Wenchuan Earthquake was quick—the three-year recovery mission was completed in two years. Aiming to examine the communities’ recovery results, we did a survey in Defang, one of the most severely affected areas in the Wenchuan Earthquake. Surveys of 795 community leaders were conducted in October 2016. The results showed some achievement of BBB in the recovery phase. Compared to the reconstruction of housing and infrastructure, recovery of livelihood was not high. During the recovery, capacity, including disaster reduction planning and emergency exercises and drills, were developed. Overall, preparedness for disaster reduction were improved from previous earthquakes.