Research and Practice Highlights

Thomas Allen, Old Dominion University
Nicole Hutton, Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience

Old Dominion University (ODU) recently launched the Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience (ICAR), a national center for the science and practice of coastal resilience. ICAR leverages ODU faculty’s disciplinary depth and interdisciplinary breadth in leading research, education, and community partnerships to develop practical solutions to challenges faced by coastal communities.

ICAR builds on over eight years of investment and commitment by ODU to leadership in coastal adaptation and resilience. Focus areas include:

• Sea level rise & climate science

• Recurrent flooding & the built environments

• Social science & policy in coastal resilience

• Health dimensions of coastal resilience

ICAR advances the resilience of the region in conjunction with the Hampton Roads Adaptation Forum and Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency. Using an interdisciplinary collaborative approach, ICAR will:

• Conduct leading-edge science, engineering, and human dimensions research in coastal resilience  

• Educate professionals to become leaders in the industry addressing emerging challenges

• Advance practice by working across sectors—local, state, federal, and communities—to develop resilient solutions for complex challenges in coastal communities

Please visit the ICAR website for updates and information at:

Lisa Blake, NYC Emergency Management
Melissa Umberger, NYC Emergency Management

New York City’s 2019 Online Hazard Mitigation Plan and the Affiliation with New York City Emergency Management

In 2019, the New York City Emergency Management launched an online hazard mitigation plan ( —the first online plan for a local jurisdiction. In addition to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s required components, the plan included: a hazard, history, and consequence tool; a mitigation project tracker; a community toolkit, and an ArcGIS story map. The hazard, history, and consequence tool is an online database which contains both historic weather data and localized impacts from hazard events. The consequences include data such as school closures, beach closures, and inland flooding. The mitigation project tracker is an interactive map which displays different mitigation projects citywide. The community toolkit was developed following interviews with 10 community groups to better understand the needs of these stakeholders. The toolkit provides a roadmap for community hazard mitigation projects. It contains a list of hazard specific mitigation projects suitable for community groups, provides planning guidance, and suggests financial resources. The story map provides an existing conditions analysis of how features in the city’s natural, social, built, and future environment may amplify the impacts of hazard events in an interactive format.

Louise Comfort, University of Pittsburgh

The Dynamics of Risk: Changing Technologies and Collective Action in Seismic Events

Earthquakes are a huge global threat. In 36 countries, severe seismic risks threaten populations and their increasingly interdependent systems of transportation, communication, energy, and finance. Undertaken over a span of 16 years, 1999-2015, The Dynamics of Risk sets this global policy problem within the framework of complex adaptive systems to explore how consequences of sudden, urgent events ripple across jurisdictions, communities, and organizations in complex, interdependent societies, triggering unexpected alliances but also exposing gaps in social, economic, and legal structures. The book examines how 12 communities in nine countries responded to destructive earthquakes between 1999 and 2015. Many of the book’s lessons can also be applied to other large-scale risks. Networks of organizations that engaged in response operations are identified for each of the 12 communities to determine patterns of adaptation and collective action in recovery. The response networks are analyzed using centrality measures to assess points of strength and weakness in the evolving operational systems. Advances in information technology led to increases in timely communication and search and exchange of information, enabling communities to anticipate risk more easily and manage complex response and recovery operations more effectively. Risk increases as metropolitan regions expand in size, scale, and interdependence. Investing in a global information infrastructure to monitor and anticipate this risk before earthquakes occur would lessen the costs and problematic outcomes of dispatching humanitarian relief after the event. The study explores how to improve the way we prepare for and respond to earthquakes and other disasters in our ever-more-complex world. 

Louise Comfort, University of Pittsburgh
Taieb Znati, University of Pittsburgh
Lee Freitag, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Emile Okal, Northwestern University
Kathleen Carley, Carnegie Mellon University
Harkunti Rahayu, Bandung Institute of Technology
Febainr Ismail, Andalas University

Hazard SEES Type 2: From Sensors to Tweeters: A Sustainable Sociotechnical Approach for Detecting, Mitigating, and Building Resilience to Hazards

This project addresses the national challenge of defining and building resilience to hazards that would engage the ‘whole nation,’ including scientists, governmental agencies at all levels of jurisdiction, private and non-profit organizations, and communities. To meet this challenge, it is essential to define, design, and demonstrate an interdisciplinary, dynamic process that will transform societal understanding of risk and enable self-organized, collective action to support the resilient management of hazards. This study will identify and model the interactions among physical, engineered, and sociotechnical systems that occur in hazard emergence and response as a complex, adaptive system of systems to enhance resiliency in practice and enable communities to manage the risk of hazards within existing resource and time constraints. It will use the threat of near-field tsunamis (NFTs; i.e., waves generated within 200 miles of shore) in a location prone to this risk, Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia, as a case study to investigate methods of assessing accurately and efficiently the dynamics of NFTs generated by undersea earthquakes or landslides as they impact human communities. This process is an iterative search for information under evolving conditions to inform decisions at multiple levels of action in response to shared risk. This international, interdisciplinary project has successfully negotiated changes in design and implementation, and the prototype early tsunami detection system will be deployed in the Mentawai Sea in June-July, 2019. The project is funded by National Science Foundation grant #1331463 and a grant from the Swiss Re Foundation, Zurich to pay the Indonesian costs of deployment.

Lesley Edgemon, Argonne National Laboratory
Carol Freeman, Argonne National Laboratory
Carmella Burdi, Argonne National Laboratory
Jessica Trail, Argonne National Laboratory
Kyle Pfeiffer, Argonne National Laboratory
Karen Marsh, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Community Resilience Indicator Analysis: County-Level Analysis of Commonly Used Indicators from Peer-Reviewed Research

Commonly Used Resilience Indicators: The Community Resilience Indicator Analysis: County-Level Analysis of Commonly Used Indicators from Peer-Reviewed Research identified 20 commonly used indicators: 11 with a population focus and 9 with a community focus. The team also developed a process to combine all 20 indicators into one county-level aggregate resilience indicator.

Population Focused
Educational Attainment
Unemployment Rate
English Language Proficiency
Home Ownership
Household Income
Income Inequality
Health Insurance
Single-parent Households
Community Focused
Hospital Capacity
Medical Professional Capacity
Affiliation with a Religion
Presence of Mobile Homes
Public School Capacity
Population Change
Hotel/Motel Capacity
Rental Property Capacity
Connection to Civic/Social Organizations

These indicators are not a scorecard of resilience. The data does not factor in hazard risk or mission area capabilities. Rather, the indicators are community attributes that can help jurisdictions conduct targeted outreach and build resilience. The accompanying geospatial Resilience Analysis and Planning Tool (RAPT) includes the 20 community resilience indicators, as well as hazards and infrastructure data layers. This interactive map viewer allows emergency managers and local leaders to visualize and assess potential challenges to resilience and conduct targeted mitigation and outreach initiatives.

Frannie Edwards, San Jose State University

Practical Considerations for Ethical Research in Post-Disaster Communities

Post-disaster field research design requires considerations of methodologies that will best collect and summarize the disaster-related events and their impacts on human subjects and the natural environment. This research must take into account the ethical standards that will impact the designs that are used and how they are implemented in the field and in practical application. How do ethics apply to your post-disaster research when you interview first responders and survivors?

Universities’ Institutional Review Boards enforce general norms of human subject research in the social sciences as articulated by the Belmont Report. But ethical considerations for field research go beyond these norms. How do researchers avoid re-traumatizing participants as they relive the disaster? How are the experiences of first responders best captured? How do post-traumatic stress and critical incident stress disorders shape research approaches? What are the challenges of being a participant observer? What are the ethical issues in quasi-experimental designs? How does bias impact case studies through topic selection, research question design, and test subject selection? How does a researcher ethically manage self-selection bias to avoid false assumptions and findings? How do “incentives” influence participation and outcomes? These and other challenges will be raised and explored using surveys with disaster researchers, examination of disaster research methodologies, and case studies from field work in actual disasters.

Attendees at the Researchers Meeting will be invited to participate in a survey to collect their thoughts and experiences to contribute to the project.

Carrie Ferraro, Rutgers University
Robert Kopp, Rutgers University
Rebecca Jordan, Michigan State University
Jie Gong, Rutgers University
Clinton Andrews, Rutgers University
Jeanne Herb, Rutgers University
Lisa Auermuller, Rutgers University
Sally Bond, The Program Evaluation Group, LLC
Janice McDonnell, Rutgers University

Coastal Climate Risk & Resilience Initiative (C2R2): Training Students to Build Coastal Resilience

Cutting across disciplinary boundaries, Rutgers’ Coastal Climate Risk & Resilience Initiative (C2R2) seeks to prepare the workforce that will advance integrated, science-informed strategies to create resilient coastal communities. With initial support from the National Science Foundation and hosted at the Rutgers’ Institute of Earth, Oceans and Atmospheric Sciences, C2R2 is a collaborative effort of schools across the university with expertise in engineering, community planning and design, ecology and natural resources, environmental and biological sciences, communications and civic engagement, public policy, and climate science.

C2R2 currently offers programs that train research-based and professional discipline master’s and PhD students across a diverse set of disciplines focused on providing them with the breadth and depth of expertise that they need to lead the advancement of whole-systems, trans-disciplinary coastal climate risk solutions. Students are trained in the science and technical aspects of coastal resilience, the theory and applications of public policy, participatory processes and communication, and trans-disciplinary systems thinking. In addition to tailored coursework that complements their own disciplinary studies, students are given the opportunity to conduct research, be involved in fieldwork, engage coastal stakeholders and decision-makers, and participate in advanced professional skills development. The trans-disciplinary nature of the Rutgers C2R2 program, its mix of theory and applied coursework, its professional development components, and its strong focus on community-engaged scholarship and leadership make it a novel approach to training graduate students.

Lori Foley, Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Heritage Emergency National Task Force: Where Cultural Heritage and Emergency Management Intersect

Cultural and historic resources are held in the public trust by a range of cultural institutions that range from A to Z: from arboreta and archives to historical societies and houses of worship, from municipal offices and museums, to orchestras and zoos. These institutions hold the collective history of our communities, our states, and our nation. When disaster strikes, the recovery of these institutions and the resources in their care is essential for the successful recovery of a community.

The Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF) is a public-private partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Smithsonian Institution. Its membership comprises 58 federal agencies and national service organizations. Its mission is to protect cultural heritage from the damaging effects of natural disasters and other emergencies.

HENTF works with cultural stewards, first responders, and emergency managers to: provide education and training to better prepare them to work together to address disasters affecting cultural institutions, arts organizations, and historic sites; provide technical assistance to address disaster-related impacts to cultural and historic resources; coordinate the collection of incident-specific information before, during, and after an event; increase the incorporation of cultural and historic resources into disaster planning and hazard mitigation efforts at all levels of government; and provide information and guidance to the public to help individuals and families protect, stabilize, and recover treasured possessions before and after an event.

Lori Foley, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Todd McMahon, History Colorado
Anne Milller, Colorado Department of Local Affairs
Carl Stewart, University of Colorado Boulder
Amy Zimmer, Colorado Department of Education

Colorado Cultural and Historic Resources Task Force

The Colorado Cultural and Historic Resources (CHR) task force works to improve the state of Colorado’s mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery efforts for cultural and historic resources. The organization embodies the whole-community approach and advocates leveraging all available resources to effectively manage disasters. Working together, the cultural and historic resources and emergency management communities organize and strengthen our state’s assets and capabilities by:

• Building relationships between the emergency management and cultural and historic resources communities

• Advocating to incorporate cultural and historic resources into state plans

• Responding to disasters by coordinating the emergency support function

• Operating within the State Emergency Operations Center for disasters

• Drawing upon existing resources and subject matter expertise to provide assistance to cultural and historic resources during disasters

This is a volunteer-based organization and there are no dues or fees. Knowing one day you may be the one in need, you are encouraged to assist other CHR institutions during disasters by offering existing resources. Examples include: Sharing knowledge of cultural and historic resources in your community to aid in identifying those at risk during a disaster; engineering or architectural expertise related to historic buildings; vehicles to evacuate collections; secure storage space to temporarily house an evacuated collection.

The CHR task force also maintains a listserv for updates on current emergency situations and for members to engage in networking and discussions on topics related to emergency preparedness/response and the cultural heritage community. 

Sign up at: or visit: to learn more.

June Gin, Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center
Susan Schmitz, Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center
Claudia Der-Martirosian, Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center
Aram Dobalian, Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center

Promoting Disaster Resilience in Residential Non-Profit Organizations Serving Homeless Veterans

Disaster preparedness is essential for non-profit community-based organizations serving people experiencing homelessness. Yet many homeless service providers face challenges in preparing their organizations for emergencies and are at risk for disruption or even closure during emergencies. Non-profit service organizations often face divergent preparedness requirements, typically with limited resources or guidance to achieve them.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) grant and per diem (GPD) program, which funds community organizations to provide transitional housing or support services for veterans experiencing homelessness, instituted a written disaster plan requirement for its grantees. Grantee organizations do not currently have access to consistent written guidance or training to meet this requirement but are expected to develop their own materials. Nonetheless, many lack the technical expertise needed to evaluate and plan for disaster risks.

To address this gap, the Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center (VEMEC), with the support of the VA office overseeing the GPD program, is creating a disaster planning manual tailored to VA GPD-funded organizations. VEMEC is developing this manual through a review of literature and consulting with end-user stakeholders, including grantee organizations and the VA social workers who oversee them, to identify their preparedness needs and preferred content for the manual. The resulting manual will walk homeless service providers through the steps of creating a disaster plan. The project employs the experience of community-based practitioners in meeting the VA GPD’s requirements to inform an evidence-based manual to enhance disaster resilience in homeless service organizations.

Jonathan Godt, U.S Geological Survey
Lindsay Davis, Natural Hazards Center
Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center

Natural Hazards Center-U.S. Geological Survey Partnership for Landslide Risk Reduction in Puerto Rico

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) national landslide hazard program responded to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017. In the aftermath of the disaster, Puerto Rican officials expressed a need for application-based scientific products and accompanying educational materials related to landslide hazards that would guide residents, emergency managers, and planners in reducing landslide risk.

In 2018, the USGS answered this request by funding a research associate position at the Natural Hazards Center (NHC) to focus on this project. Specifically, the NHC would be responsible for gathering information on stakeholder needs to inform the USGS landslide team as they develop scientific products for the island, and to develop concurrent educational materials. The interdisciplinary and collaborative approach of this project aligns with USGS efforts to incorporate risk reduction into scientific product development, as outlined in the recent USGS publication, Science for a Risky World (Ludwig and others, 2018).

The NHC and USGS are working with a wide range of local institutions and agencies, including the University of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Planning Board. The primary objectives of the first year of the NHC-USGS project have been to provide technical assistance and oversight for the development of landslide educational materials for residents of Puerto Rico by local scientists and students, and to develop a comprehensive understanding of stakeholder needs. The second year will focus on meeting the identified needs through community-level disaster risk reduction in collaboration with local partners.

Laura Hanson, Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization
April Geruso, Hagerty Consulting

Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization: Regional Disaster Recovery Framework

Five counties in the Portland metropolitan region have collaborated to develop a regional disaster recovery framework to guide rebuilding, redevelopment, and recovery efforts following a natural disaster. The planning process was led by the Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization (RDPO) but was produced in partnership with a core planning team (emergency managers from each county), Hagerty Consulting, and a diverse group of stakeholders. The framework considers life after the disaster in order to tackle challenges and guide redevelopment to create a more resilient region. The framework provides a regional guide that reflects shared priorities and coordination but also provides guidance for individual counties.

The aim is for the regional framework to serve as a practical guide to recovery for more than emergency management professionals in the region. To this end, multiple stakeholder engagement techniques were utilized to manage the diversity of stakeholders involved in the framework development. The largest engagement technique was a two-day Regional Recovery Conference. During the Regional Recovery Conference, stakeholders were provided information about real-world post-disaster challenges, best-practices from similar disasters in other countries, and updates on recovery and resilience efforts in the region. After the conference, a separate workshop was held where initial conversations about regional governance and coordination took place. Both engagement techniques, while effective, lead to the understanding that additional work will be required in future phases; specifically, to further engage the private sector and support stakeholders to understand the challenge of setting up a highly adaptable regional recovery structure.

Hank Hodde, Smart Home America
Graham Green, Smart Home America
Ashlie Anderson, Smart Home America
Julie Shiyou-Woodard, Smart Home America

Gulf of Mexico Mitigation Guidebook

Planners, practitioners, and researchers require up-to-date information to create plans, education curricula, and studies that meet the needs of today's communities and their residents, as well as drive the decisions of tomorrow. Smart Home America (SHA) saw a gap in the availability of information about mitigation planning, policies, programs, resources, and best practices in the Gulf of Mexico region relating to wind hazards and sought funding to share lessons learned and best practices with others. After winning the 2017 Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) Gulf Star Award (No.GSG-121755) in November 2018, SHA began the research needed to compile the directory of federal- and state-level resources for the five Gulf states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas).

The guidebook was completed in early 2019 and is a comprehensive, excellently designed, and useful document for educational and outreach activities to community stakeholders, not only in the Gulf but across the nation. Furthermore, this guidebook provides local- and state-level staff ready access to resources for, and examples of, mitigation and resilience policy used elsewhere. The guidebook took hundreds of hours to compile and vet and will be available in limited edition both in print and online. It will also be updated periodically to ensure the information remains relevant, ensuring the guidebook becomes a go-to resource for experts from across diverse fields and industries for many years. Find the Gulf of Mitigation Guidebook on SHA’s website at:

Hank Hodde, Smart Home America
Graham Green, Smart Home America
Ashlie Anderson, Smart Home America
Julie Shiyou-Woodard, Smart Home America
Alexandra Cary, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
Tim Reinholt, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
Wes Shaw, Blue Urchin Consulting
Renee Collini, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Rob Galbraith, Accident Fund-Group
Autumn Lotze, SBP
Thomas Ruppert, Florida Sea Grant
John Ingargiola, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Nikki Pace, Louisiana Sea Grant
Linda Lampl, Lampl Herbert Consultants

The Homeowner's Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards

Natural hazards affect communities across the nation. The risks vary by location, yet one thing remains constant: planning, preparedness, and mitigation activities reduce damage and loss when a hazard becomes a disaster. The University of Hawai‘i sea grant college program created the first Homeowner’s Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards (Homeowner’s Handbook) in 2007. Since then, the handbook has been adapted and updated for many states across the nation.

In mid-2017, Smart Home America (SHA) was awarded a Gulf of Mexico Alliance grant to update the Homeowner’s Handbook for the Gulf region. The scope of the project required identifying the content common between each handbook (nearly 80 percent of each book), updating the content through research and input from subject matter experts, and providing new design and formatting recommendations. Once state staff completes the handbook, SHA will work with each state, with varying levels of involvement, to either complete the handbook or support translation of the handbook.

In December 2018, SHA delivered the updated Homeowner’s Handbook and recommended a fresh, modern redesign to the Gulf states. Feedback and reception have been positive for both the updates and the new layout. Once completed, the resource will be available online, and hundreds of copies will be printed and distributed in each state so that residents can have access to its valuable information to prepare for natural hazards.

Md Zakir Hossain, Krisoker Sor (Farmers' Voice)
Shaila Shahid, International Centre for Climate Change and Development

Reconciling Disaster Response Management Systems Through Earth System Data Compilation and Dissemination in Local Dialect Towards Building Community Resilience

Any change of the earth’s system begins at the local level. The same is true for social systems where researchers and policy makers at the local level depend on a sound, environmental atmosphere. Research initiatives often try to keep their outputs within the community of origin. The mainstream disaster response literature has not effectively explained how communities are perceiving information and early warning signals. Due to systemic and economic constraints, community members are not adequately included in disaster communication processes, which is a critical factor for effective resilience building. Therefore, this research will highlight the experiences of a community located on the disaster-prone coast of Bangladesh, which was declared a global disaster risk reduction champion by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in 2015. This community is translating the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction into the local dialect after experiencing the devastating impacts of Cyclone Sidr in 2007. Under the pursuit of a paradigm shift in the disaster management system, the initiative began by engaging youth volunteers and school children in the dissemination of weather forecasting to build awareness and disaster preparedness in the community. The research findings will highlight how models of earth system data are being transformed to reach the local people, thus driving social action.

Lisa Jackson, Emergency Management Victoria

Implementing Lessons in Real Time

Emergency Management Victoria, Australia has been implementing a lessons management approach for the past five years to develop a culture of sharing and ensuring lessons can be identified and learned, utilizing evidence to support decision-making. Over the past 12 months, a number of initiatives have been embedded into operational practice, particularly during the 2018-2019 summer emergency season where Victoria experienced extensive bushfire and heat wave activity. A dedicated unit has been embedded into the operational structure at the state level to oversee the sharing of past lessons and capturing current lessons, including the following functions:

• Deployment of real time monitoring and evaluation personnel to provide real time feedback to operational personnel at incident-, region-, and state-level tiers

• Provide advice to the sector on debriefing and reviewing processes

• Developing before-action reports based on previous events and reviews

• Monitoring the online lessons management information technology system, Emergency Management-Share (EM-Share), for trends based on operational personnel submissions on their experiences regarding areas that work well and those that could be improved across the entire state and all agencies

• Observing the functionality of the state control center and capturing areas working

During 2018-2019, more than six before-action reports were developed, four real time monitoring and evaluation teams were deployed, and more than 500 observations were submitted into EM-Share by operational personnel.

Kishor Jaiswal, U.S. Geological Survey
Nicolas Luco, U.S. Geological Survey
Emily Schnebele, U.S. Geological Survey
Nedal Nassar, U.S. Geological Survey

Assessing the Risk of Copper Supply Disruption from Earthquakes in South America

South America is one of the most earthquake-prone regions of the world. In the past 20 years alone, dozens of earthquakes of magnitude greater than 7.0 and many exceeding 8.0 have occurred in this region. These earthquakes have caused scores of casualties, disrupted local economies, and affected mining operations. The mining sector remains a vital component of both Chile’s and Peru’s economies, providing employment to hundreds of thousands of people. In 2018, Chile and Peru alone contributed an estimated 39 percent of global copper mine production. Through using the U.S. Geological Survey’s seismic hazard forecast for South America, we find that of the 101 copper producing facilities in South America, 76 are located within an area of high seismic hazard (>85 percent chance of Modified Mercalli Intensity VI shaking or greater over 50 years). Though the hazard model is readily available, there is a paucity of vulnerability data, so we make use of two candidate vulnerability models to demonstrate the hazard and risk integration process. Using the earthquake shaking forecasted at the location of the facility assuming rock site condition, its copper production, and the assumed vulnerability of that production to shaking, we evaluate expected annual disruption (EAD) of copper supply for each facility. Depending on which of the two illustrative models of the vulnerability is used, the total EAD across South America is 1.5 to 5 percent of its mine production, 1 to 3.5 percent of its smelter capacity (as a proxy for production), and 3 to 9 percent of its refinery capacity.

Sangman Jeong, Kongju National University
Hayoung Kim, Kongju National University
Christabel Jane Rubio, Kongju National University
Moojong Park, Hanseo University

Development of Technologies for Regional-Based Mega-Drought

Due to climate change, Korea has been experiencing continuous drought since 2012. As a result, it is imperative to establish a forecast and preemptive response system at the government level due to the increased possibility of mega-drought. Drought is a water shortage caused by a lack of long-term precipitation, leading to different types of drought overall. In Korea, the meteorological drought forecast and response is carried out by the Korea Meteorological Administration, the agricultural drought forecast and response is carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the hydrological drought forecast and response by the Ministry of Environment. To cope with the expected damage from this extreme drought, which was estimated using a drought index standard applicable to each ministry, an integrated countermeasure system at the government level is required. The Ministry of Interior and Safety, which has implemented the Disaster and Safety Management Act, has been awarded a project entitled, the technology development for regional-based mega-drought. It is composed of 73 researchers from 11 institutions and will be conducted over the next three years (2019-2021). The project aims (a) to estimate the extent of damages and develop an evaluation technology, (b) to develop a web-based national drought probability and regional drought risk, (c) to develop adaptation measures and an emergency response plan, and (d) to establish a model, forecasting the coverage of mega-drought, and a virtual drought training system.

Dave Jones, StormCenter Communications

Sensitive Information Sharing Across Platforms in Real Time for a Unified Approach to Situational Awareness

StormCenter Communications has debuted GeoCollaborate, a real time, cloud-based, cross-platform data sharing and collaboration environment that was developed under the federal government’s small business innovation research program and has been awarded phase III status, that of sole source, across all United States federal agencies. The All Hazards Consortium has adopted GeoCollaborate as its main platform for data sharing across public and private sectors. The first time it was used, GeoCollaborate displayed the movement of fleet utility vehicles across the nation as they responded to major disasters requiring mutual assistance for the restoration of power. GeoCollaborate provides the ability for sensitive information to be shared; however, partners do not take possession of the actual data, which can be used to improve situational awareness and decision-making, and it is not open to Freedom of Information Act requests. This is a very positive development for organizations that have been reluctant to share their sensitive data for concern that it might fall into unintended hands.

GeoCollaborate has been tested and used through major winter storms, hurricanes, and wildfires and is being piloted by the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C. Both private and public sector agencies and organizations are also using GeoCollaborate as a way to deliver data from disparate services directly into decision-making environments for a unified approach to situational awareness. Data can be shared immediately across computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices for rapid information dissemination. GeoCollaborate is putting data to work through innovative partnerships with the American Heroes Channel, the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners, the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center at Columbia University, and others to share sensitive data immediately.

Andrew Juan, Rice University
Pranavesh Panakkal, Rice University
Matthew Garcia, Rice University
Jamie Padgett, Rice University
Philip Bedient, Rice University

Integrated Flood Alert System and Road Network Accessibility Framework in Houston, Texas

In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey brought record-shattering rainfall to Houston, Texas, causing widespread flooding that crippled the city. The impacts of Harvey highlighted three major issues: (1) the vulnerability of the city’s infrastructure to both pluvial and fluvial flooding, (2) the inadequacy of existing flood control measures to contain the flood hazard, (3) and the dearth of reliable real-time flood warning information accessible to the public and emergency services. Recent research efforts by the Severe Storm Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters Center at Rice University attempted to address these issues. A pilot study was conducted at a highly urbanized, flood prone watershed, White Oak Bayou, to integrate a flood alert system (FAS) with a road network accessibility model (i.e., access to critical facilities or ACF model). FAS provides near real-time inundation estimates via pre-delineated floodplain maps based on radar rainfall and hydrologic/hydraulic models. Correspondingly, the ACF model provides valuable accessibility metrics including road link status, connectivity loss, and travel time to and from critical facilities such as hospitals and fire stations. A similar framework has also been applied to other flood vulnerable watersheds in Houston (e.g., Greens Bayou and Brays Bayou) to evaluate existing flood risks and identify potential mitigation solutions at both the watershed and neighborhood levels. Results from this versatile framework has been presented to various stakeholders (e.g., City of Houston, Houston TranStar, Texas Medical Center, and the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium), and could be used to support city-wide disaster mitigation planning and emergency responses, flood risk communication, and long-term resilience goals.

Karl Kim, University of Hawaii
Pradip Pant, University of Hawaii
Eric Yamashita, University of Hawaii
Jiwnath Ghimire, University of Hawaii

A Deliberative Community Engagement Process for Flood Mitigation Planning in Waimanalo, Hawaii

In April 2018, Kauai and Oahu, Hawaii experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall and flooding. A rain gauge in Waipa, Kauai recorded 49.69 inches over a 24-hour period, breaking the highest U.S. 24-hour rainfall record. Multiple thunderstorms over the islands caused severe flooding on the eastern portion of Oahu and on the North Shore of Kauai. The flooding resulted in a federal disaster declaration with damages to critical infrastructure, public facilities, and private property on Kauai and Oahu.

The State of Hawaii enacted Act 12 and appropriated funds to assist with the disaster. Subsequently, the Office of the Governor tasked the National Disaster Preparedness Center at the University of Hawaii with providing technical assistance to improve decision-making on disaster response and recovery activities. The result is a framework that can be used to better respond and recover from future disasters.

This research highlights a flood mitigation community planning process in Waimanalo, Oahu. Waimanalo consists of a steep mountain range followed by a flat coastal plain with a tendency for flooding. Historically, land use in the watershed was agricultural. Abandoned plantation irrigation ditches and the lack of proper outlets often exacerbate localized flooding. Four approaches for flood mitigation were identified: (1) infrastructure improvements, (2) green infrastructure, (3) drainage system maintenance, and (4) community-based watershed management and flood mitigation. After a deliberative community engagement process, a community-based watershed management approach was found to be the most sustainable approach to address the chronic flooding problem in Waimanalo.

Shefali Lakhina, University of Wollongong

Co-Learning Disaster Resilience: Engaging the Knowledge and Capacities of People from Refugee Backgrounds

This research examines how people from refugee backgrounds learn about local hazards and find safety as they settle into new homes, cities, and suburbs in Australia. People who have been displaced by disasters, conflict, and persecution are primarily looking for safety. In what ways do refugee welcome zones in Australia consider the safety of people from refugee backgrounds? Is safety assumed once people have been resettled? Further, how do people from refugee backgrounds draw on their past experiences and everyday practices to feel safe and secure?

Research in the Illawarra region of New South Wales demonstrates how diverse local agencies can collaborate across silos to systematically inform, engage, and partner with people from diverse refugee backgrounds for disaster resilience. The findings have led to the development of the State Emergency Services’ first multicultural liaison unit comprised of liaison officers from refugee backgrounds. In future work, researchers should assess adopting a person-centered approach to co-learning disaster resilience with people from diverse refugee backgrounds. This can be achieved through the design and implementation of collaborative, accountable, responsive, and empowering (CARE) programs and services.

More information on the research project, findings, and recommendations can be accessed at:[1].pdf

Yolanda Lin, Nanyang Technological University
David Lallemant, Nanyang Technological University
Susanna Jenkins, Nanyang Technological University
Gordon Woo, Risk Management Solutions

Natural Disaster Risk Re-Assessment of Extreme Black Swan Events in Southeast Asia Through the Lens of Counterfactual Analysis

Southeast Asia can be, and has been, impacted by natural hazards of almost every kind, including earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, and climate-change-related extreme weather. Although Singapore is largely sheltered from these hazards, it may in the future be impacted by lower probability, natural black swan events (events that are difficult to predict but with disastrous consequences). Typically, in disaster risk management, we assume that past activity is indicative of future activity, often viewing them as static events. However, even minor shifts in environmental conditions (e.g., wind conditions) or status of the system (e.g., occupancy levels) can drastically, and sometimes catastrophically, change the consequences of an event.

The project will provide new tools to identify events with the potential for catastrophic impact on cities. Counterfactual thought experiments are a novel approach used to characterize how the circumstances and probabilities for a natural hazard disproportionately result in disaster. Counterfactual thought experiments alter a past event in order to consider an alternate version of the present (e.g., if winds disperse volcanic ash over populated areas, rather than the sea). By identifying such alternate versions and quantifying the network of paths and feedbacks through which a natural hazard event becomes a disaster, we can turn black swan events into more manageable grey swan events (rare, but manageable events).

These case studies focus specifically on Singapore, an extremely dense urban island city-state, considering multiple hazards, including earthquake, volcanic ash, and extreme wind.

Sabine Loos, Stanford University
Jamie McCaughey, ETH Zurich
Nama Budhathoki, Kathmandu Living Labs
Ritika Singh, Kathmandu Living Labs
Feroz Khan, Earth Observatory of Singapore
David Lallemant, Earth Observatory of Singapore

Post-Disaster Informatics for Equitable Recovery Planning

Within weeks of a disaster, the national government, international agencies (e.g., United Nations, World Bank), and non-governmental organizations must make influential recovery plans that decide the entire recovery trajectory of that affected country. These recovery decisions rely heavily on ad-hoc information about the overall impact to the affected country. For example, the post-disaster needs assessment focuses on the economic losses of infrastructure damage as the primary metric of impact and broadly describes populations that are expected to be vulnerable during the recovery process. By equating impact with physical damage, standard impact estimates are inherently biased to value invulnerable populations with more assets to lose.

The informatics for equitable recovery project is a research collaboration that brings together engineers, social scientists, and civil society organizations to improve post-disaster information systems to support more equitable recovery planning. Using geostatistical, quantitative, and qualitative data on the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake in Nepal, the project aims to: (a) improve rapid physical damage estimates by fusing multiple post-disaster data sources, (b) establish empirical relationships between short-term impact information and long-term recovery outcomes through a detailed household survey (upcoming); and (c) develop a holistic set of disaster impact metrics that combine physical and socioeconomic characteristics (i.e., building damage, accessibility, income level).

This project will highlight how we can develop improved post-disaster informatics, even in countries with seemingly limited data, so we can begin a conversation with policymakers on how to develop more equitable recovery plans.

Carson MacPherson-Krutsky, Boise State University
Brittany Brand, Boise State University
Michael K. Lindell, Boise State University

Assessing How Natural Hazard Information, Core Perceptions, and Personal Variables Influence Household Emergency Preparedness Over Time

Over the last century natural disasters have increased both in frequency and severity, killing thousands of people and costing trillions of dollars. Despite the fact that natural hazard mitigation reduces fatalities and saves significant amounts of money, communities are still underprepared. Using two experiments, our research uses the protective action decision model (PADM) to investigate whether educational strategies are effective, change attitudes, and motivate household preparedness. The first study investigates how the use of natural hazard map best practices influences university students’ comprehension of risk. The second is a longitudinal study that investigates preparedness levels, perceptions of risk, and behavioral change among residents of the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area. This research will refine risk communication best practices and substantiate relationships between components of the PADM to better understand what motivates individuals to prepare.

Glen Mays, University of Colorado Denver

The National Health Security Preparedness Index 2019 Release: Steady but Uneven Improvement Across the United States

The 2019 edition of the National Health Security Preparedness Index was released on May 8, including six years of longitudinal trends. The index tracks the nation’s progress in preparing for and protecting against the health consequences of disasters, outbreaks, and other emergencies. Because health security is a shared responsibility across many stakeholders in government and society, the index combines measures from more than 60 sources and multiple perspectives to offer a broad view. Aggregating data from national household surveys, medical records, safety inspection results, and surveys of health agencies and facilities, the index produces composite measures for each U.S. state and the nation as a whole. The index reveals strengths as well as vulnerabilities in health protections, and it tracks how these protections vary across the United States and change over time.

Results show that national health security levels increased by an average of 3.1 percent in 2018 to reach 6.7 out of 10, continuing the steady progress noted in previous years. Since 2013, health security increased by a statistically significant 11.7 percent. Health security levels improved at a relatively slow and uneven pace for many states in 2018. At the current rate, the nation as a whole will require 10 additional years to reach a strong health security level of at least 9.0. If the United States as a whole were to improve at the rate achieved by the five fastest-improving states, this threshold could be reached in fewer than six years. Results are available at:

Scott Miles, Impact360 Alliance
Joseph Trainor, Impact360 Alliance
Kim Klockow-McClain, Impact360 Alliance

Impact360 Alliance: Facilitating Researcher-Practitioner Communication, Collaboration, and Co-Creation

The collective knowledge and experience about natural hazards and disasters currently exceed the capacity to address those challenges and resolve related problems. Reducing natural hazard impacts and disaster risk requires better integration of research and practice, as well as strengthened communication and collaboration between researchers and practitioners.

Impact360 Alliance (Impact360) is a new non-profit organization formed to serve professionals and organizations that focus on natural hazards and disasters. Impact360 increases the capacity of researchers and practitioners to solve problems collaboratively and creatively. To do so, they promote the integration of knowledge and approaches across relevant disciplines and fields. Impact360 aims to enable a collective, sustained cycle of knowledge and action that ultimately leads to more effective, scalable solutions.

As a startup non-profit organization, their goal is to elevate the interconnected nature of research and practice to activate integrative approaches for reducing impacts of natural hazards and disasters. Impact360 works to make traditional research-practice boundaries more permeable to foster increased collaboration between university, government, and private sector organizations and professionals.

Impact360 connects researchers, practitioners, needs, and resources to create problem-focused professional communities that can design scalable solutions. They facilitate creative problem solving that emphasizes human-centered cycles of knowledge and action focused on natural hazards and disasters. They are conveners and facilitators, working to amplify the expertise of researchers and practitioners who focus on natural hazards and disasters.

Lubna Mohammad, Monterey County Office of Emergency Services
Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center

Exposure Outliers: Children, Mothers, and Cumulative Disaster Exposure in Louisiana

Only a limited number of studies have explored the effects of cumulative disaster exposure—defined here as multiple, acute onset, large-scale collective events that cause disruption for individuals, families, and entire communities. Available research indicates that children and adults who experience these potentially traumatic community-level events are at greater risk of a variety of negative health outcomes and ongoing secondary stressors throughout their life course. The present study draws on in-depth interviews with a qualitative subsample of nine mother-child pairs who were identified as both statistical and theoretical outliers in terms of their levels of disaster exposure through their participation in a larger, longitudinal women and their children’s health (WaTCH) project that was conducted following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. During wave two of the WaTCH study, mothers and their children were asked survey questions about previous exposure to and impacts of the oil spill, hurricanes, and other disasters.

This exposure outliers project focuses on the qualitative interview data collected from the subsample of children and mothers who both endorsed that they had experienced three or more disasters that had a major impact on the child and the household. We refer to these children as exposure outliers. The in-depth narratives of the four mother-child pairs who told stories of multiple pre-disaster stressors emerging from structural inequalities and health and financial problems, protracted and unstable displacements, and high levels of material and social losses illustrate how problems can pile up to slow or completely hinder individual and family disaster recovery. These four mother-child pairs were especially likely to have experienced devastating losses in Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which then led to an accumulation of disadvantage and ongoing cycles of loss and disruption. The five mother-child pairs who had more material resources and social support, fewer disaster-induced displacements, and less extreme disaster losses showed adaptive capacity and ultimately recovered more quickly even after enduring multiple major disasters. This study offers insights about how families can begin to prepare for a future that is likely to be increasingly punctuated by more frequent and intense extreme weather events and other types of disaster.

Njoki Mwarumba, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Application of Global Health Data to Disaster Science: Integrating Global Social Vulnerability to Local Vulnerability Assessments

All hazards are local. Yet with the exponential growth of globalization, immigration, air travel, urbanization, and climate change, requisite baseline information at local level emergency management traverses the familiar to include unfamiliar complex social intersections.

Increasingly, global health awareness at the local level is becoming an imperative for comprehensive approaches to hazards, disasters, and emergency management. To meet this challenge, a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach for garnering and disseminating relevant data using novel methods is needed. Most recently, the challenges of emerging and re-emerging diseases have been central for response worldwide. The current measles outbreak in America, and recent Ebola, Zika, and H1N1 outbreaks are testament to the urgent need for integrated disaster health response. Beyond the call to public health and disaster management collaboration, the need to draw from historically detached fields such as air transport and governance is necessary for enriching data pertinent to disaster health.

Using the progression of vulnerability model as the conceptual framework, Mwarumba conducted a post-hoc study of 162 World Health Organization member states for social indicators of health, and their relationship to 2009 H1N1 pandemic mortality. The study reviewed conventional indicators for communication, education, population, economic development, and health. Additionally, indicators on civil air transport, perceived corruption, and human development as key pandemic resilience indicators were reviewed. Findings suggest the strong need for convergent scientific teams analyzing global health data for development of multi-faceted communication outputs relevant for local predictive applications of outbreak patterns.

Michael Nye, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

New Environmental Protection Agency Research on Decision Making to Improve Resiliency

The goal of this research area (which will encompass several unique projects) is to provide improved guidance for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency partners and stakeholders as they develop plans to increase community- and site-scale resilience. The 2019-2022 sustainable and healthy communities research program will perform a multi-scale analysis of current resilience planning approaches, practices, and information flows, and create evidence-based guidance, tools, methods, and other support that communities can use to develop more effective and workable resilience and recovery plans. This will include metrics and methods to compare how human-built, social, and natural features contribute to resilience, how these features benefit human health and well-being, and how these relationships shift over time. Key areas of emphasis are contaminated sites and flooding. 

Juan Ortiz, Austin Homeland Security and Emergency Management
April Geruso, Hagerty Consulting

Using After Action Reporting to Build Resilience: The Case of Flooding in the City of Austin and Travis County, Texas

In October 2018, the City of Austin and Travis County faced an extreme rain event that led to flooding throughout the Colorado River region. A portion of the water entering the Colorado River watershed contained a significant amount of silt, dirt, and debris as a result of the extremely dry conditions, resulting in water with high turbidity. That high turbidity impacted water treatment plant operations and reduced clean water production. As turbidity increased, it became difficult to produce enough water to supply the city and maintain water quality certainty. This resulted in the city initiating a boil water notice.

Through the after action report process, the City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Travis County Office of Emergency Management partnered with Hagerty Consulting to bring together a diverse set of community and government stakeholders to consider the response to this incident, as well as the unforeseen impacts from cascading impacts of hazards. While the after action report primarily focused on standard emergency management areas, there was an emphasis on resilience that allowed for discussions that might elevate resilience goals. This included thinking through alternative cascading impacts from natural hazards on utilities as well as considering how to mitigate the impacts of hazards on critical functions in the city. This also gave stakeholders the opportunity to network and understand what tools are being developed that could promote resilience in the city, as well as to consider ways to develop a citywide resilience initiative.

Hyejeong Park, Kyoto University
James D. Goltz, Kyoto University
Katsuya Yamori, Kyoto University
Genta Nakano, Kyoto University

Comparative Analysis of Human Behavioral Response to the 2011 Virginia Earthquake, the 2014 Napa Earthquake, and the 2016 Oklahoma Earthquake

This study is a comparative analysis of human behavior regarding response during earthquakes in 2011 (Virginia, magnitude 5.8), 2014 (Napa, magnitude 6.0) and 2016 (Oklahoma, magnitude 5.8) using data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) did you feel it? (DYFI) program. DYFI was developed by the USGS to generate earthquake intensity maps and to collect information from respondents who have experienced earthquakes, including the impact of an earthquake, the extent of damage, and behavioral response since 2004. The questionnaire items attempt to assess the respondent’s environmental and physical circumstances, as well as their behavior and emotional reaction during the earthquake. Although few researchers study human behavior in responding to an earthquake at the onset of ground shaking, existing studies have revealed that behavior is diverse. Some behaviors reflect the advice of seismic experts and others tend to place the actor in danger of injury or death. This project is unique in terms of its scope as it examines 12 major global earthquakes, seeking to understand human behavioral differences in terms of culture, economic development, and public awareness of earthquake risk. Thus far, we have identified differences in behavioral response based on location in which a person experiences the earthquake, cultural factors, emotional state, intensity of shaking experienced, and perception of the vulnerability of buildings. This comparative analysis will contribute to sociological knowledge of human behavioral response during an earthquake and contrast the U.S. earthquake response with the larger sample of global earthquakes, some of which that have very different cultures and levels of development. 

Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center
Tim Cockerill, University of Texas at Austin
David Frost, Georgia Institute of Technology
Tracy Kijewski-Correa, University of Notre Dame
Julio Ramirez, Purdue University
Ellen Rathje, University of Texas at Austin
Britt Raubenheimer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Joe Wartman, University of Washington

CONVERGE Rapid Response Disaster Research Briefing Sheets Series

Quick response research has the potential to illuminate the root causes of disasters and the consequences of their impacts on human, built, and natural environments. The CONVERGE Rapid Response Disaster Research Briefing Sheets Series is designed to provide background and context for hazards and disaster researchers who plan to collect perishable data in the aftermath of extreme events. 

With the support of the National Science Foundation and the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, the CONVERGE Briefing Sheets Series will offer good practice guidance for quick response research. The Briefing Sheets Series—which will be published in partnership with the journal Natural Hazards Review—will consist of a collection of short, widely accessible publications that are designed to guide researchers from social science, engineering, and other disciplinary backgrounds, emerging or early career researchers, and situational researchers in quick response disaster research.

The Briefing Sheets Series will be organized around the following thematic areas: (1) Preparing to Conduct Quick Response Disaster Research; (2) Ethical Considerations; (3) Logistical and Safety Considerations; (4) Methods and Approaches; (5) Using the Science of Team Science to Build Multi- and Interdisciplinary Teams; (6) Research with Vulnerable Populations in Disaster; (7) Deploying and Conducting Fieldwork in the U.S.; (8) Deploying and Conducting Fieldwork Outside the U.S.; (9) Leaving the Field. For more information about this initiative, see:

Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center
Emmanuelle Hines, Natural Hazards Center
Mason Mathews, Natural Hazards Center
Jeffrey Gunderson, Natural Hazards Center

Global Map and Listing of Academic Hazards and Disaster Research Centers

In 2019, the Natural Hazards Center released an update to their online listing and interactive mapping portal of academic hazards and disaster research centers (available at: As of May 2019, there are 354 university-affiliated hazards and disaster research centers on the Global Hazards and Disaster Research Centers Map. Centers are located across all major United Nations regions. The United States is home to the highest concentration of academic research centers, with over 150 identified so far. Users can read more about this effort and can also learn how to make recommendations to update the map here: This mapping project was supported by the National Science Foundation and launched in partnership with ESRI in an effort to increase connections, communication, collaboration, and access to emerging research both within and across nations.

Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center
Mason Mathews, Natural Hazards Center
Haorui Wu, Natural Hazards Center

Social Science Extreme Events Research (SSEER) Web Map

The Social Science Extreme Events Research (SSEER) is a National Science Foundation-supported network for social science hazards and disaster researchers. The purpose of SSEER is to advance ethically grounded and scientifically rigorous research through identifying and connecting social science researchers to one another, to interdisciplinary teams, and to communities at risk for and affected by hazards and disasters.

The SSEER web map is an initiative of the CONVERGE project headquartered at the Natural Hazards Center. The map is free to access through the following website: The map highlights the location of SSEER researchers by geographic location and includes information about them, including their organizational affiliations, job titles, disciplinary foci, methodological expertise, the types of hazards and disasters they study, the events they have researched, and other information. The map is designed to serve as a resource for connecting researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to advance ethically-grounded disaster research and move it into action. When disaster strikes, the map can also be invaluable in identifying locally-affected researchers to ensure that they are recognized and included in post-disaster research efforts.

While this is not yet a complete census of the global social science hazards and disaster research community, it represents a first attempt to map the geographic location of researchers and—as additional layers are added—highlight their wide range of skills and disciplinary expertise. If you are a social or behavioral scientist who studies hazards and disasters and are interested in joining the SSEER network, you can do so by following this link: to complete the seven-minute sign-up survey. The map is updated regularly, and the associated census of social scientists will be released annually:

Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center
Haorui Wu, Natural Hazards Center
Mason Mathews, Natural Hazards Center

2018 Social Science Extreme Events Research (SSEER) Census

The Natural Hazards Center recently released the results of the Social Science Extreme Events Research (SSEER) 2018 Census, available at: This represents an attempt to characterize the wide range of disciplinary skills and expertise among social scientists who study hazards and disasters. Moving forward, the Center will release the results of the SSEER Census annually. The 2018 SSEER Census report is organized into the following categories: 

• Discipline and Professional Expertise

• Education and Professional Status

• Status as a Hazards and Disaster Researcher (Core, Periodic, Situational, Emerging)

• Research Methods and Data Collection Approaches

• Disaster Types, Phases, and Specific Extreme Events Studied

• Researcher Demographic Characteristics

SSEER is part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) CONVERGE initiative, which supports social science, engineering, natural science, and interdisciplinary hazards and disaster researchers. If you are a social scientist who studies hazards and disasters, and you have not yet joined SSEER, you can do so by following this link: 

Rodrigo Ramirez, CIGIDEN

Practical Session: Do it Yourself Signs for Emergency

Do it Yourself Signs for Emergency is a hands-on creative session activity to explore the role of information design to communicate hazards through a prototyping activity. It is oriented to co-create a rapid information system using Guemil icons and predefined elements. Here, participants are on the creative side of message generation and facilitating open exploration and discussion about how to create meaningful information for emergency management. Tasks involve defining context and users, then collaboratively designing a graphic system and discussing the results. Beyond the finished products, the takeaway is a co-creative dialogue that has both context and user needs in mind, highlights the importance of observing and empathizing to communicate, and explores solutions and innovative approaches.

Guemil is a design and research initiative to promote and validate icons for emergency situations. The icons represent information for different stages of the cycle of risk (before, during, and after an event). The testing part of the project allows collection of performance data (meaning and differences), allowing for preliminary visualizations of the results.

Ellen Rathje, University of Texas at Austin
Tim Cockerill, University of Texas at Austin
Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center
Joseph Wartman, University of Washington

Publishing Data and Data Collection Protocols: A Partnership Between DesignSafe, RAPID, and CONVERGE

DesignSafe ( is the web-based cyberinfrastructure platform for the National Science Foundation Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NSF-NHERI) network. Headquartered at the University of Texas, DesignSafe provides a secure data repository and the computational tools needed to manage, analyze, and publish critical data for natural hazards research. The DesignSafe cyberinfrastructure supports cloud-based research workflows, data analysis, and visualization. Since its launch in 2015, over 3,000 researchers—predominantly from engineering—have taken advantage of DesignSafe functionalities, publishing almost nine terabytes of data across more than 100 datasets.

This year, DesignSafe research and development teams have partnered with the NSF-NHERI RAPID facility and the new NSF-NHERI CONVERGE initiative to develop a novel social science and interdisciplinary data model for natural hazards research. This data model—which will be released by November 2019—will, for the first time, allow social and behavioral scientists and members of interdisciplinary teams to publish legacy datasets as well as new qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods field research data. In addition, the data model is robust enough for researchers to publish data collection protocols, research instruments, and Institutional Review Board (IRB) protocols. Through expanding the potential for researchers to have a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) assigned to their datasets and data collection protocols, the vision is to advance the possibility for richer collaboration and more cross-geographic site, cross-disciplinary, and cross-hazards replication within the disaster social science and engineering fields.

Cynthia Rivas, University of Delaware

Long-Term Care Facilities at Risk Due to Current and Projected Flooding in Baltimore, Maryland

The number of Americans who are 65 or older is projected to nearly double over the next three decades. Recent statistics show that more than 1.4 million adults live in certified nursing facilities across the United States. The demand for such facilities will dramatically increase as the population of the elderly increases. These facilities, especially those located along the coast, will also have to deal with sea level rise. Coastal cities can be vulnerable to atmospheric (hurricanes) and hydrological (storm surge; coastal and riverine flooding) disasters and emergencies. Baltimore, Maryland was chosen as the focus of this study due to its vulnerability. This work uses a geographical information systems (GIS)-based methodology to develop and map Baltimore long-term care facilities exposed to the current and predicted 100- and 500-year coastal floods. The objective is to illustrate how sea level rise may affect future 100- and 500-year coastal floods in Baltimore, how these changes in future flood scenarios will affect long-term care facilities, and how these impacts might vary among neighborhoods. Sea level rise throughout the twenty-first century will result in increased flood exposure as current flood levels are achieved more frequently and new flood levels result in more widespread inundation.

Elizabeth Safran, Lewis & Clark College
Peter Drake, Lewis & Clark College
Erik Nilsen, Lewis & Clark College
Bryan Sebok, Lewis & Clark College

Using Novel Communication Tools to Understand and Motivate Earthquake Preparedness Behavior

Communication plays a critical role in motivating and guiding disaster risk reduction and preparedness, especially absent direct experience with a hazard. Communication strategies that reach large audiences tend to favor short, consistent, and repetitive messages, but one-size-fits-all messaging may undermine positive outcome expectations and self-efficacy toward preparedness behaviors for audiences who do not identify with the people, situations, or solutions portrayed. On the other hand, interactions tailored to the varied circumstances of diverse communities reach small audiences and tax emergency managers’ limited outreach resources. This interdisciplinary research group studies learning and behavioral impacts linked to disaster-related, entertainment-based media, especially how individuals choose preparedness actions they consider both meaningful and feasible and how social influences affect behavior adoption. The current focus is on video games as tools for both elucidating earthquake-preparedness behavior and communicating risk. Because video games inherently entail problem-solving and commonly support multiple solution pathways, they may avoid the pitfalls of single-prescription messaging. The focus is on preparedness for the Cascadia subduction zone earthquake among 18 to 29 year-olds in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area, as this typically under-messaged demographic has significant capabilities as well as vulnerabilities. Young adults also strongly favor digital information sources and have a culture of sharing that can be leveraged in mass media campaigns. We are collaborating with local emergency managers in city, county, and non-profit offices to share our results and to better understand the constraints and barriers to preparedness among various communities.

Kijin Seong, Texas A&M University
Clare Losey, Texas A&M University

To Remain or Relocate? Long-Term Mobility Decisions of Homeowners Exposed to Recurrent Disasters

The increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters dictates a broader understanding of the long-term mobility decisions of affected homeowners. Funded by a quick response grant from the Natural Hazards Center, the authors conducted 15 semi-structured interviews with homeowners in Lumberton, North Carolina who received hazard mitigation grant program (HMGP) assistance for property elevation, reconstruction, or acquisition following Hurricane Matthew (2016). The interviews addressed homeowners’ decision making processes to either remain or relocate and the changes to perceptions of their decision following a second disaster, Hurricane Florence (2018). The authors pose the overarching questions: What factors drive homeowners’ longterm mobility decisions to remain or relocate? How do recurrent disasters affect homeowners’ perceptions of mobility decisions made prior to the subsequent disaster? 

The authors supplement the interviews with quantitative analysis of demographic data at the census block group level to determine differences in the socioeconomic status of homeowners in each of the three HMGP categories. The authors found that wealthier homeowners were more likely to choose acquisition than either elevation or reconstruction, while socially vulnerable homeowners expressed concerns about the affordability of relocation. Age and duration of homeownership also played a significant role in homeowners’ decision-making processes; a majority of the interviewees, many of whom are elderly, had lived in their homes for several decades and expressed no desire to relocate. Research outcomes can inform disaster recovery policy of the factors that shape mobility decisions of homeowners affected by natural disasters and changes in the perceptions of those decisions in the wake of increasingly frequent recurrent disasters.

Shaila Shahid, International Centre for Climate Change and Development
Md Zakir Hossain, Krisoker Sor (Farmers' Voice)

Sharing and Learning: Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction in Asia

Bangladesh is recognized as a country at high risk of recurring natural and human-induced hazards, with an average of 10 million people who are affected every year. Frequent floods, cyclones, riverbank erosion, water-logging, drought, and tornadoes significantly disrupt Bangladesh’s economy and the lives and livelihoods of its population. Climate change has added a new dimension to the risk environment with global predictions suggesting that the country could expect more intense cyclones, storm surges, and flooding. Additionally, a rise in sea level could have a significant impact on the lives and livelihoods of up to 27 million people, as the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests.

The Bangladesh government has 20 years of experience with community-based disaster risk reduction (CBDRR). During this time, community risk assessment and risk reduction action planning guidelines have been highly significant outputs by the leadership. The findings from this project share the experience of a farmers research institute “Krisoker Sor” (Farmers’ Voice), which evolved at the community level, helping to build resilience through local ownership of risk-informed development as part of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This work also sheds light on building an inclusive approach to resilience, where women’s leadership in disaster risk reduction is encouraged and promoted within the CBDRR mechanism.  

William Siembieda, California Polytechnic State University

Key Assignments for an Undergraduate Hazard Mitigation Course

Teaching hazard mitigation to college undergraduates requires a balance of what the subject is about and how to do something about it. My upper division, mitigation planning, and design: towards resilient communities, ten-week course at California Polytechnic State University uses assignments that consider the neighborhood, city, and regional scales and examine how different laws, procedures, and practices contribute to identifying and reducing hazard risk.

Assignments one through three are for one student:

(1) Scoring a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved local hazard mitigation plan using a modified FEMA question set and scoring it again using published academic criteria for what makes a good plan. This establishes how hazard assessment is conducted.

(2) Assessing a city/county general plan’s land use and safety elements for wildland-urban interface fire risk reduction, examining how hazard assessment is built into the plan's land use and subdivision regulation section and then conducting a gap analysis. This links land use planning to risk reduction.

(3) Scoring a sea level rise adaptation proposal in the San Francisco Bay Area by choosing one of nine solutions from the San Francisco Bay Area Resilient by Design competition and scoring the solutions using a program objectives rubric. This provides a basis for climate adaptation.

Assignment four is for a small team:

(4) Proposing a recovery solution for an area damaged by recent hazard event by applying one or more of eight strategies to compose a recovery plan for that specific community. The core recovery principle for students is how to build back safer.

Brenda Silverman, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A Public Health Toolkit: Integrating a Community-Based Information Network to Support Risk Communication Messages and Dissemination Strategies Effective for the Whole Community

Before, during, and after a disaster, the goal of effective risk communication is to elicit a response that will minimize a person's vulnerability or risk; for example, how to stay safe, take shelter, or evacuate. Developing effective messages for the whole community includes planning for individuals with access and functional needs who may be at greater risk or disproportionately impacted. Integrating a community-based network of organizations and trusted leaders to support message and dissemination strategies is one approach for addressing access and functional needs considerations that should be in place before a disaster.

People can make informed decisions on actions needed when information is communicated in ways they can receive, understand, and trust. A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention risk communication toolkit guides public health planners through a four-step process to integrate a grassroots, community-based network to support risk communication planning and information-sharing. The toolkit provides a framework to organize planning for broad groups of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, recommended action steps, and noteworthy practices from the field. Each action step is supported with tools, templates, and worksheets useful for documenting efforts, identifying ongoing improvement opportunities, and institutionalizing practices. Together, these actions and resources can help jurisdictions more effectively carry out their risk communication planning to effectively meet the needs of the whole community.

Kenichi Soga, University of California, Berkeley
Mark Stacey, University of California, Berkeley
Louise Comfort, University of Pittsburgh

Collective Action in Communities Exposed to Recurring Hazards: The Camp Fire, Northern California, November 8, 2018

Wildfire now threatens California year-round, with escalating losses in lives and property, billions of dollars in damage, and social and economic disruption. This research collected baseline data from the November 8, 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, California to document existing conditions that contributed to the rapid spread of the fire and hindered the evacuation of the community of Paradise. This data will be entered in an advanced modeling platform to explore alternative sociotechnical models, given the technical and social constraints identified in the Camp Fire. The exploration of alternative methods of modeling and monitoring the interaction between organizations and jurisdictions is critical to enabling communities to envision sustainable methods of managing wildfire risk. The interaction among environmental, technical, and social conditions in which wildfire occurs is nonlinear, and modeling alternative approaches to managing wildfire risk using data from actual conditions will make a major contribution to understanding the dynamic progression and reduction of wildfire risk at the interface of wildlands with human communities.

The research addresses two basic research questions: What discrepancies between policy, practice, and available resources inhibit collective action in conditions of wildfire risk? What models of alternative combinations of sociotechnical systems facilitate or inhibit processes of collective action and learning in communities exposed to recurring risk of wildfire? This approach focuses on modeling a layered construct of a community-wide information system that includes different technologies of communication among key sets of actors in the pre-event, response, and transition to recovery phases of the disaster management process.

Marvin Starominski-Uehara, Sam Houston State University

How Structural Mitigation Shapes Risk Perception and Affects Decision Making

This article reviews the relationships between risk perception towards structural measures and individual decisions for protective actions when dealing with residual flood risks. These relationships are assessed in three levels: (1) perception over authorities’ ability to mitigate flood risks; (2) the role of flood experience in shaping risk perception; and (3) the ways structural measures shape decision-making for protective actions. The main finding emerging from this analytical framework, in contrast to what the literature commonly states, is that respondents do not suffer from the levee paradox, when a false sense of security results in complacency among at-risk communities. Most residents take precautionary actions to reduce residual risks to major floods. Undertaking these actions, however, does not mean that there is lack of trust on structural measures for reducing major flood risks. On the contrary, most residents agree on the necessity and efficacy of engineering structures to mitigate large flood risks. This support, however, does not carry over to the management of these structures. Residents attribute their losses during the 2011 major flood event in Southeast Queensland, Australia, to operational decisions regarding dam water releases.

Marvin Starominski-Uehara, Sam Houston State University

The Long Way Ahead for Insurers Becoming Effective Leaders in Promoting Flood Mitigation Strategies

This study argues that insurance is not yet an effective measure to mitigate residual flood risks in Queensland, Australia. This is because there is no evidence, in the literature and in this study, of insurers promoting better reconstruction and preparedness among communities at risk. Despite this long-term challenge, this paper also argues that insurers have the opportunity to rise to a more prominent role in reducing and eliminating future risks since individuals at risk still perceive insurance, despite its shortcomings, as an effective means to financially protect their assets against flood damage. Insurers, however, should not take this opportunity for granted. They are expected to work closely with policy and decision makers to inform and improve regulatory systems and land use planning strategies that enhance community resilience to disasters. 

Marvin Starominski-Uehara, Sam Houston State University

The Role of Heuristics in Mitigating Flood Risks

It has been argued that people often do not take measures to protect themselves against major threats. This type of behavior has puzzled scholars, practitioners, and public authorities for quite some time. The most common reason for this lack of action has been the inability of people to perceive long-term risks. The proposed solution to this shortcoming in cognitive thinking is educating people to make probabilistic decisions by calculating the costs and benefits of selected variables in situations of uncertainty. This paper challenges this reasoning. It argues that most individuals at risk end up making decisions that protect themselves against major flood risks based on a negative experience. This study provides evidence supporting this claim by showing that residents who have had perceived negative experiences are more likely to purchase flood insurance, retrofit or raise their property, and relocate. This analysis, supported by the theory of ecological rationality, suggests that policies aiming to reduce flood risks should focus on exploring the ripple effects of individual experiences leading to protective actions since these actions contribute to a concerted effort in building resilient communities. 

Marvin Starominski-Uehara, Sam Houston State University

The Social Network Factor Shaping Decision Making Under Uncertainty

It is intuitive: people are likely to be influenced by decisions of trusted sources. This rationale is particularly significant in the context of uncertainty, when individuals seek cues to ensure they are making an optimal decision under information scarcity circumstances. This is the case in mitigating high-impact, low-probability risks. Individuals living in at-risk locations have increasingly taken their share of responsibility to reduce residual flood risks. However, it is still not clear how these individuals make decisions that reduce the impact of these risks to their property and family amid much uncertainty. The assessment of this complex decision-making process has been the object of many studies modeling decision making from a number of perspectives. This study contributes to this effort by narrowing down this cognitive process to social networks. It argues that the quality of a relationship that one perceives with people close to them is the determining factor shaping decisions when probabilities are unknown.

Megumi Sugimoto, Kyushu University

Multidisciplinary Approach for Disaster Preparedness for a Nuclear Accident in National University, Japan Near Nuclear Plants

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accidents caused by the 2011 Tohoku tsunami shocked people all over the world. Each nuclear power plant has implemented more strict regulations after the 2011 events. Additionally, local governments are obligated to make an evacuation plan for local residents within 30 kilometers.

Kyushu University is located 32 kilometers from the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Fukuoka, Japan, thus it is not located within the urgent protective action planning zone (UPZ). This means local governments do not need to include Kyushu University in disaster plans, and the university itself is required to provide protection for students.

After the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes, disaster researchers and physicians undertook a multidisciplinary approach to disaster preparedness for nuclear accidents in this ex-imperial university near Genkai Nuclear Power Plant. Their goal is to protect young students from radiation.

Nancy Suski, Georgetown University
Miryha Runnerstrom, University of California, Irvine

A New Paradigm for Higher Education in a Rapidly Changing Global Environment

The University of California is embracing interdisciplinary teaching environments to motivate learning and help students become involved with identifying solutions. Creating a community of practice enables students to better grasp the challenges presented and provides an opportunity to work across disciplines in search of sustainable solutions.

The innovative learning technology initiative is the first University of California system-wide suite of online courses that has the potential to connect faculty with students from all 10 campuses. Utilizing a virtual learning quadrangle–research, reveal, reflect and reform–allows students to share ideas and research findings and collaborate in problem-solving activities. This structure enables students to actively engage and drive the direction of their learning experience.

The inclusion of active practitioners also provides a real-world view into the intersection between policy makers, government officials and regulators, and the communities they serve.

A new two-quarter undergraduate honors course at the University of California, Irvine, cities: a focal point for sustainability problems and solutions, uses global cities as a context to look at the various dimensions of urban design and how design choices contribute to the sustainability of cities and quality of life of citizens. This course is taught by faculty from materials science and engineering, earth systems sciences, public health, and urban planning and public policy. Creating opportunities for students to engage in experiential learning brings an important new dimension to learning.

Jamie Vickery, Natural Hazards Center
Mason Mathews, Natural Hazards Center
Haorui Wu, Natural Hazards Center
Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center
Nnenia Campbell, Natural Hazards Center
Aren Koenig, Save the Children
Jennifer Smith, Save the Children

An Evaluation of Save the Children’s Building State Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) Capacities to Protect Children in Emergencies Project

Save the Children U.S. Programs is currently working in Arkansas and Nebraska to: (a) increase Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) and emergency management knowledge and awareness of children’s needs in disasters; (b) advance the prioritization of children’s needs and ability to meet those needs in VOAD and emergency management organizations; and (c) assess the proof of concept behind the project model. The Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder is conducting a formative outcome evaluation of this project. During year one of this evaluation, the Natural Hazards Center team conducted a baseline survey of VOAD members in Arkansas and Nebraska. The team also attended training sessions in the focal states and engaged VOAD members and emergency managers in a series of participatory asset mapping exercises. The team has developed an interactive web mapping tool designed to enable VOAD members and emergency managers to identify areas within Arkansas and Nebraska that have children aged 17 and under who may need assistance before, during, and after emergencies and disasters. With this tool, available at:, users can utilize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social vulnerability index to identify census tracts that not only have high levels of vulnerability, but also large numbers of children that may need assistance. During year two of the project, the Natural Hazards Center team will conduct a social network analysis survey to identify the areas of expertise of the target state VOADs to better understand who is currently involved in disaster response and analyze those existing networks to understand how organizations are already connected and where meaningful connections are lacking.

Jason von Meding, University of Florida
Nam Hai Dao, National University of Civil Engineering, Vietnam
Nga Duong, National University of Civil Engineering, Vietnam
Hang Thai, Independent Consultant, Vietnam
Giuseppe Forino, T6 Ecosystems, Italy

Community Self-Organizing for Urban Flood Risk Mitigation in Dong Hoi, Vietnam

Coastal communities in central Vietnam face significant disaster risk due to natural hazards (mostly flooding), social vulnerability, and risk multipliers like rapid urbanization and climate change. Field work in Dong Hoi, Vietnam was undertaken as a part of a project with Save the Children and the C&A Foundation relating to maintaining educational programs during and after urban flooding, see: The case study was particularly interesting because of the autonomous action and solidarity that school stakeholders displayed. School communities (students, teachers, and parents) found ways to continue to provide and facilitate education despite various disadvantages and lack of institutionalized support.

Vietnam’s top-down disaster risk management system consistently fails to address the community’s (or school’s) vulnerability and this underlines a disconnect between national policy and local practice. Despite these barriers, people act. They care deeply for their families, friends, and neighbors and they share skills and resources in times of crisis. The community has significant capacities that can be mobilized for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery; we simply need to listen to communities that we wrongly assume are “weak” or “helpless.” Communities in Dong Hoi do not panic or act selfishly in a disaster. They work together and pool their resources and skills. Policy makers and practitioners cannot afford to overlook the capacity of those impacted by disasters. By working with and for communities, we can start to target bigger social issues like inequality, injustice, marginalization, and power disparities.

Joseph Wartman, University of Washington
Scott Miles, University of Washington
Troy Tanner, University of Washington
Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center
Haorui Wu, Natural Hazards Center

The RAPIDApp for Mobile Data Collection: A Partnership Between RAPID and CONVERGE

The National Science Foundation Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NSF-NHERI) RAPID Facility ( provides researchers with equipment, software, and training and other support services needed to collect, process, and analyze perishable data from natural hazards events. Headquartered at the University of Washington, and since its launch in 2017, 170 researchers have taken part in RAPID training sessions, and 55 researchers have used equipment from the facility to support novel natural hazards research.

This year, RAPID research and development teams have partnered with the new NSF-NHERI CONVERGE initiative at the Natural Hazards Center to further advance the RAPID App (RApp), which is a mobile application to support the ethical and secure collection of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods hazards and disaster research data. Specifically, the RAPID and CONVERGE teams are working together to advance the possibility for social and behavioral scientists to use the application to collect survey data (through uploading new instruments and using existing scales and measures) and to record interview and observational data while in the field. RApp will also include field manuals and damage assessment protocols and will link directly to the NSF-NHERI DesignSafe Cyberinfrastructure, allowing researchers to upload and save their field data securely. An initial version of RApp is currently pre-loaded on 15 iPads, which are available to be checked out via the RAPID facility. In the near future, RApp will be free to download.

Cera Windham, Boise State University
Brittany Brand, Boise State University
Carson MacPherson-Krutsky, Boise State University

Using Active-Learning and Goal-Setting Strategies to Promote Wildfire Hazard Awareness and Preparedness

Promoting the adoption of household preparedness to natural hazards represents a critical step toward building resilient communities. However, despite the efforts of stakeholders who provide hazard preparedness recommendations to the public, the level of disaster preparedness across the world remains low. We hypothesize that the passive way in which natural hazard and risk information is most often delivered (i.e., lecture style, pamphlets, websites) inhibits participants’ ability to connect with the materials, limiting both their attention and knowledge retention. Our research tests the efficacy of active-learning and goal-setting strategies to engage homeowners who live in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) in a way that helps them personalize their wildfire risk and develop positive attitudes toward preparing. We also demonstrate how giving the audience a voice through active learning allows stakeholders to both recognize and resolve inaccurate risk perceptions, lack of trust in message sources, and negative attitudes toward preparing for future hazard events.