Research and Practice Highlights

Amer Hamad Issa Abukhalaf, University of Florida
Jason von Meding, University of Florida

Studying Psycholinguistics in Emergency Communication Focusing on Language-Based Discrimination Against Linguistic Minorities

Research concerning the behavior of linguistic minorities during disasters is very limited. Many linguistic minorities suffer from discrimination based on language during disasters as their stories are not being told, and their voices are not being heard. We have focused the past two years on giving linguistic minorities a fair representation in disaster studies. We have been studying emergency communication and language-based discrimination that linguistic minorities face in times of disasters, taking into consideration the unique social infrastructure and linguistic landscape that these minorities have. Our research aims to develop new knowledge about disaster-related behaviors of linguistic minorities to enhance overall emergency planning.

Moreover, we have introduced the study of psycholinguistics into emergency communication for the first time in disaster studies to explore the psychological impact of languages used in local emergency communication on linguistic minorities. Specific research and application of psycholinguistics in emergency communication almost do not exist, where it is often purely analyzed under language barriers. The main objective for our research was to develop new knowledge about psycholinguistics in emergency communication by highlighting some of the communication gaps that are usually overlooked in emergency planning in order to improve the overall emergency communication systems by reconsidering the way we look at language as an important psychosocial factor that impacts vulnerable communities.

We currently have ongoing research aiming to capture the struggle on linguistic minorities and short-term migrants in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Rachel Adams, Natural Hazards Center
Jennifer Tobin, Natural Hazards Center
Jolie Breeden, Natural Hazards Center
Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center
Sara McBride, U.S. Geological Survey
Robert de Groot, U.S. Geological Survey

The Generational Gap: Children, Adults, and Protective Actions in Response to Earthquakes

Schools provide education and a variety of social services to children. In addition to academic curriculum, schools offer regular drills to train young people and adult staff on what to do in an emergency. The protective action that current earthquake drills recommend is to drop, cover, and hold on in the event of shaking. Yet, little is known about whether this guidance is followed in schools and homes by children and adults. Therefore, this research asks: 1) What protective actions do children and adults take during an earthquake? and 2) Is there a generational gap in earthquake protective actions and preparedness education between children and adults? To answer these questions, our team conducted in-depth interviews with 118 K-12 school administrators, teachers, parents, students, emergency managers, building officials, and engineers to learn about protective action decision making among children and adults during the 2018 Anchorage Earthquake and the 2019 Ridgecrest Earthquakes in the U.S. Our findings indicate that the most common action among children was to drop, cover, and hold on. Adults, however, did not always follow current recommended guidance and exhibited more variability in the actions they took, such as trying to protect others, getting in doorways, freezing in place, or exiting the building. This research suggests that a generational gap exists that could compromise the safety of both young people and adults. We recommend that earthquake training in schools be strengthened to better prepare both populations for the threat of earthquakes. Moreover, the emergence of new technologies, like ShakeAlert, the earthquake early warning system for the West Coast of the United States, can create new opportunities for learning. Recognizing how both children and adults react in an earthquake can improve drills and messaging, refine risk communication strategies, and reduce injury and loss of life.

Balakrishnan Balachandran, University of Illinois

Research on Disaster-Induced Relocation; Advisory Services on Risk-Informed Planning

Annually, disasters displace over 20 million people globally, and they often relocate to reduce hazard risk. However, in communities’ lived experience, natural hazards represent just one long-term risk: they trade-off with daily risks to health, livelihood, social capital, and identity. Planners often propose relocation without addressing this risk trade-off, resulting in failure. While many studies analyze physical hazard risk and social dimensions of relocation, the literature falls short on the dynamics of the relocation process and on risk trade-offs. My research addresses this gap.

To examine relocation dynamics, I carried out a meta-analysis of 54 cases of disaster-induced relocation, using a framework consisting of risk assessment, risk decision, place-attachment, relocation process, and contextual influences. To explore risk trade-off, I did qualitative research in coastal Louisiana, where hurricanes, flooding, and land subsidence have forced thousands to relocate. I observed a planning process and interviewed practitioners, researchers, and community members to understand the lived experience of risk and how it is impacted by planning and policy. My research reveals trajectories of social, economic, and physical displacement. It identifies a spectrum of risks and proposes the use of Risk Trade-off Analysis to frame policies that minimize disruption.

In 2018, massive floods and landslides impacted Kerala, my home state in India. With World Bank-KfW support, Kerala Government is building resilience across all sectors and institutions. I have been providing advisory services to World Bank, KfW, and Kerala Government on reforming the state’s urban planning system to make it risk-informed and effective.

Jolie Breeden, Natural Hazards Center
Rachel Adams, Natural Hazards Center
Jessica Austin, Natural Hazards Center
Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center
Sandra Appiah, Natural Hazards Center

Special Collection on Mass Sheltering and Disasters

The Natural Hazards Center has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assemble a special collection of Research Counts. This latest collection examines the public health aspects of mass sheltering and care with an emphasis on at-risk populations.

Mass shelters are a critical, life-saving component of emergency response that provide communities with food, clean water, medical care, and other essential resources during a disaster. Substantial planning and coordination is needed to operate these facilities and ensure that the needs of disaster-affected populations are met. The special collection features articles, public health implications, further readings, and tools for practitioners. The collection is organized into the following four overarching themes:

• Roles and Responsibilities for Shelter Operations

• Leveraging Community Groups for Coordination of Mass Care

• Mass Care Delivery and Capability Assessments

• Mass Sheltering for At-Risk Populations

The special collection is available at:

Katherine Browne, Colorado State University

Using Culture Brokers to Understand Vaccine Hesitancy Among Underserved in Pueblo, Colorado

In early June 2021, anthropologist Kate Browne and anthropology graduate student, Joshua Bauer, conducted focus groups and other interviews in Pueblo, Colorado, where the rates of vaccine hesitancy among historically underserved populations are the highest in the state. This site was one of three in the country identified for special resources by President Biden. This research was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Higher Ed program.

Our focus groups brought together people from historically underserved populations in Pueblo to discuss the circumstances and reasons for their vaccine hesitancy and to identify the scenarios that could make them want to get the vaccine. The focus groups were drawn from residents of a homeless shelter, inmates of the county jail, migrant farmworkers, and Latinx residents. We are now transcribing and translating these and other interviews in preparation for our analysis and report to FEMA this summer.

The culture broker approach draws on a recommendation from our 2019 FEMA Report, Building Cultures of Preparedness (lead authors Browne and Laura Olson with contributions from other CADAN members, scholars, and practitioners). The work to arrange focus groups in Pueblo represents the first opportunity to design and test the culture broker concept in disaster situations. As we detail in the Report and found in our work in Pueblo, the use of culture brokers can facilitate research important to emergency managers, helping them produce better messaging and more supportive responses for ensuring inclusive participation in decision-making that affects local people.

Simone Domingue, University of Oklahoma

Explaining the Injustices of Louisiana’s Response to Climate Crisis and Land Loss

This study investigates how historical, political-economic, and cultural forces create and sustain climate adaptation injustices for frontline communities (Native American, Black, Southeast Asian, Hispanic, and Cajun) in coastal Louisiana. As a part of this study, I conducted 82 in-depth interviews with scientists, engineers, government staff, and non-profit employees, carried out four months of fieldwork in Louisiana, and analyzed over 150 texts. This work is supported by the National Science Foundation.

I find that the oil and gas industry was historically able to avoid regulation and obscure its role in the coastal crisis, while elites used industry as leverage to obtain federal funding for implementing a “master plan” (MP). As Louisiana’s ecological condition worsened, foundations, environmental non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions gave legitimacy to a technocratic MP funded by disaster relief and oil and gas revenues. Foundations influenced public outreach and engagement in coastal planning, contributing to public acceptance of MP projects that exacerbate risks to frontline communities. I highlight how some individuals currently involved in coastal risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategically seek to reform the state’s approach but fall short in prioritizing environmental justice, not only due to institutional and political-economic constraints but also due to cultural factors. I argue that constraints, coupled with ideological and cultural discourses, impede equitable climate change adaptation by allowing individuals to rationalize the externalities of the MP, and at worst, compels individuals to effectively regard frontline communities as disposable, when in fact they are indispensable for co-producing solutions to the environmental crisis.

Scott Fairgrieve, Laurentian University
Yi-Chung Liu, National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction
Komal Aryal, Rabdan Academy

Virtual Disaster Response Monitoring Team: A New Assessment Strategy

Recently, in response to the derailment of the Taroko Express Train No.408 on the morning of April 2, 2021, the most deadly train crash suffered in Taiwan in almost 70 years, the authors decided to combine their specialties in forensic science and disaster response and conduct an analysis of this incident. This Virtual Disaster Response Monitoring Team examined from the specific viewpoint of forensic science/pathology and disaster response governance. Information and data concerning this incident were gathered from personal and open social media sources. The official timeline of events, “black box data,” official dispatch records, decedent locations, and demographic data, as well as survivor hospitalization data, were all accessed. Using this information, the authors found that the responders were able to adapt their search, rescue, and recovery plans to a crash scene with steep terrain and train carriages resting within and outside of a tunnel. In so doing, our analysis identified challenges regarding the coordination of the roles and responsibilities of large numbers of responders attending the scene. These issues were quickly resolved and did not significantly impact the outcome of survivor care or locating and extricating deceased victims. Given the fact that there have been subsequent fatal train derailments in other parts of the world subsequent to the incident in Taiwan, it is our intention to continue this analytical approach. We anticipate that this approach can be applied to other types of manmade and natural disaster scenarios. Our results have been submitted to a peer-reviewed academic journal. 

Carol Freeman, Argonne National Laboratory
Nicole Nunnari, Argonne National Laboratory
Lesley Edgemon, Argonne National Laboratory
Karen Marsh, Federal Emergency Management Agency

New Federal Emergency Management Agency Resources for Effective Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place Communication

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently released three new resources to support more effective communication of evacuation and shelter-in-place orders. In this poster presentation, you will find information on the recently released resources and their uses in effective disaster communication.

The research report Improving Public Messaging for Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place documents findings from over 120 peer-reviewed articles on public understanding and decision-making for evacuation and shelter-in-place actions. The report then presents data-driven recommendations for improving public messaging to inform the public about risk and to increase compliance with instructions to evacuate or to shelter-in-place.

A complimentary slide library was released with the report containing presentation-ready versions of the research report’s findings and recommendations. Emergency managers can use these slides to inform community members about risk and educate planners about developing effective warnings that increase public compliance with the recommended protective actions. 

The third resource is Shelter-in-Place Pictogram Guidance. The pictograms provide clear, visual guidance to the public on shelter-in-place protective actions classified by 10 hazard types and three building types. The SIP Pictogram Guidance includes recommended interior locations for specific hazards, additional actions for protection, and guidance on how long to stay sheltered-in-place. The pictograms are applicable for use in multiple communication channels, such as posters, websites, just-in-time social media posts, and Integrated Public Alert & Warning System Wireless Emergency Alerts.

Kailash Gupta, International Emergency Management Society–India Chapter

Reducing Indian Disaster Fatalities Using Ham Radio Club Stations in District EOCs

The International Disasters Database (EM-DAT) recorded 9,167,302 disaster fatalities since 1900 in India. Independent research by HSBS Global Research has ranked India as most vulnerable to climate change in 2018. Ham radio operators in India go to disaster sites with their transceivers and antenna to restore emergency communication. Communication failures in disasters cause avoidable fatality, morbidity, and losses. To mitigate this vulnerability, I recommend the establishment of a fail-proof frugal Ham Club (radio) Station (HCS) in District Emergency Operation Centers (EOC) that provide a variety of voice, text, image, and data communication modes. HCS will have communication capability when other modes of communication fail.

In the United States, HCS exists in EOCs. In India, it is illegal to possess transceivers without an amateur radio license. I am researching to find U.S regulations enabling HCS in EOCs. Research output is a white paper to persuade the Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing, Government of India, for policy changes that allow the establishment of HCS in District EOCs. The district collector or his nominee may be custodians of HCS, without communication rights, unless the person is a licensee.

HCS will promote operators with amateur radio training, help in getting a license, and disaster drills. Ham radio will maintain emergency communication on activation of EOC. Establishing HCS in 739 Indian district EOCs will require about Rs.22 Crores (~ $3 million) investment in equipment, which will give a maximum social benefit return. A Coalition of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure fellowship is funding this ongoing project.

Bandana Kar, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
David Cochran, University of Southern Mississippi
Joslyn Zale, University of Southern Mississippi

Modeling Social Vulnerability and Hazard Impact on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

With the increasing frequency and severity of hazards, Disaster Risk Reduction initiatives are an essential part of the United Nation’s Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. This framework advocates conducting periodic community vulnerability assessments to hazard events. Such assessments aid in developing plans to minimize disaster impacts and enhance communities' resilience and capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from hazard events.

At-risk populations cannot be viewed as single entities but rather as collections of multiple stakeholders from socioeconomically and culturally diverse groups. Understanding the spatial distribution of socio-cultural-economic diversity, and particularly of socially vulnerable populations, helps ensure that they will receive needed resources during hazard events. The Mississippi Gulf Coast is one such location; it is occupied by Hispanic and Asian immigrant populations, many of whom do not speak English and cannot understand emergency warnings. This location is also susceptible to coastal flooding. 

To assist emergency responders with resource planning and to ensure citizens have access to risk information, a census-block-level social vulnerability index was created. Given the finer scale of this index, combining it with a coastal hazard impact model enabled determining the variability of socio-cultural-economic characteristics of vulnerable populations within the flood impact areas and their accessibility to resources. The results revealed that the most vulnerable populations lived primarily in high-impact urban areas along the coastline. Thus, this index has the potential to capture vulnerability variation at a granular level that could be used to address environmental, climate, and energy justice issues. 

Hsiang-Chieh Lee, National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction
Yuping Wu, National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction

Establishing a Template of Disaster Management Plan for People with Physical Disabilities

We developed a method to formulate a template of a disaster management plan for people with physical disabilities. First, we used literature review and interviews (disabilities with or without disaster experiences as well as officials who had experiences helping disabilities during disasters) to identify critical issues of disaster management and associated principles. Second, we invited a person with a physical disability to write her own disaster management plan based on the mentioned critical issues and principles. Third, we (as disaster management professionals) and the invited person (who knew the needs of disabilities) discussed this plan together to make sure mutual consent. We then wrote the template based on this plan and the discussion results. The template includes critical issues as well as detailed writing principles and examples of each issue. Fourth, we hold up stakeholder workshops and professional meetings to make sure that other people with physical disabilities and disaster management professionals agree with the content of this template. Examples of issues concerned in the workshops and meetings were: (1) what could people with physical disabilities do when an earthquake occurred? Most attendants disagreed with an often used picture suggesting that people could sit on mobility aids to hold on to their bodies; (2) When an official shelter was defined as accessible, but there were no further details, the attendants preferred hospitals to official shelters; (3) Evacuate routes suggested by the officials might be inaccessible—people with physical disabilities needed to develop several evacuation plans in advance to meet different situations.

Hsiang-Chieh Lee, National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction
Hui Hsuan Yang, National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction

Determinants of Disaster Mitigation Behaviors in Taiwan

This research was based on risk analysis as well as the Protective Action Decision Model (PADM) and aimed to investigate determinants of typhoon and earthquake mitigation behaviors in Taiwan. Besides factors mentioned in PADM, this research added factors of family structure, social network, and usage of the internet and social media. All of these factors were for the concept of social vulnerability. This research used disaster experiences and variables related to disaster-prone areas to represent the concepts of hazard and exposure. The 2020 Taiwan Social Change Survey data and multiple hierarchical regression analyses were used. The results showed that: (1) the demographic and socioeconomic factors had the greatest impact among all the factors when they were added hierarchically; (2) Influences of disaster experience and risk perception could exist independently. Risk perception had a larger impact than disaster experience. Whether the impact of disaster experience was significant depended on the type of disaster; (3) Levels of life satisfaction could be an antecedent variable of mitigation behaviors; (4) Among all variables, education had the greatest impact. The impact of this variable might be associated with impacts of formal education and direct impacts of school-based disaster education; (5) Impact of family structure was not significant. This result suggested the indirect influence of school-based disaster education, that is, the influence of students on parents, was not significant in Taiwan; (6) Social networks, the internet, and social media influenced the flood model but were not significant in the earthquake model. 

Yolanda Lin, University of New Mexico
Sabine Loos, Stanford University
Arogya Koirala, Kathmandu Living Labs

DAT/Artathon: A Workshop at the Intersection of Risk, Resilience, Data, and Art

The DAT/Artathon is an annual virtual workshop that brings together early-career disaster researchers and practitioners from around the world who are working to visualize and tell stories with risk and resilience data. Over the course of six 2-hour sessions in four weeks, participants share a skillset with their cohort and gain feedback on individual visualization projects on current topics in hazards research and practice. The first week is devoted to co-teaching data visualization skillsets in a sequence of 15-minute mini-lessons—topics range from user empathy to visual encoding. After the first week, participants work on their individual projects, and the remainder of the virtual meetings are devoted to providing and receiving feedback on each others' projects. The first DAT/Artathon (Summer 2020) brought together 12 researchers and practitioners from 6 different countries. Participants shared that the workshop helped them build new skills, expand their professional network, and finish a visualization project. This year, the workshop is scheduled for July 19 to August 12, 2021. To find out more about the Risk and Resilience DAT/Artathon, visit:

Jing-Chein Lu, Central Police University
Yi-Hua Xu, Central Police University

Public-Private Participation Strategy for Facilitating Condominium Post-Disaster Housing Recovery

Condominia are one of the major housing types in the metropolitan area. The owners own dwelling units but share the land with other owners in the condominium complex. By law, without the consensus of a certain proportion of the owners, the condominium complex cannot be rebuilt post-disaster. The nature of these laws causes the post-disaster housing recovery of condominiums to lag when compared with single-family home residences. To house the impacted condominiums households rapidly, the exploration of solutions to speed up condominium housing recovery is important for metropolitan jurisdictions. The 2016 Meinong earthquake caused several condominium complexes to be damaged in southern Taiwan. Part of the owners preferred to relocate and were unwilling to rebuild, which caused the rebuilding to be suspended. The local government, Tainan City Government, together with social elites and impacted households, established a foundation managing donations from the public. The local government empowered the reconstruction committees to find out solutions to facilitate housing recovery. According to the consensus from public hearings, the foundation bought the property from those who wanted to relocate and then joined the reconstruction committees to meet the building permit requirement. All impacted households also receive relief funding according to their damage level. These measures facilitate condominium reconstruction and ease the financial burden of the impacted households. All collapsed residential condominium complexes were rebuilt in seven years, faster than the previous major earthquake in Taiwan, the 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake. 

Jing-Chein Lu, Central Police University
Yu-Ming Chang, Central Police University

Participatory Action Research for Long-Term Care Facility Earthquake Preparedness

Long-term care facilities that house a great number of senior citizens, who may have conditions of disability and/or dementia, but with limited staff, are vulnerable to disasters. In an area prone to earthquakes, such as Taiwan, the improvement of earthquake preparedness for long-term care facilities is critical but comes with many barriers. In Taiwan, governments have developed guidelines for emergency management plans, provided collective training courses, and conducted facility practice assessment every quadrennial for years now; however, most facilities are still unfamiliar with earthquake emergency response. To improve the earthquake preparedness of long-term care facilities, this study conducts participatory action research and collaborates with sampled facilities to explore the strategies that can best enhance their earthquake preparedness. Rather than providing ordinary collective training, this study works with facilities individually to explore their unique characteristics and to build consensus through collaboration. This study applies the block-building approach introduced in the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program to develop facility-specific training courses. A series of training courses, including seminars, workshops, and tabletop exercises, drills, and full-scale exercises, are adopted to increase the general knowledge of earthquake emergency management, to define roles of the response team, to develop response strategies, to practice response skills, and to verify the overall earthquake response practice. The study has received positive feedback from participating facilities. It concludes that professional-facility participation is an alternative strategy to enhance long-term care facility earthquake preparedness. 

Hannah Melville-Rea, New York University
Clare Eayrs, New York University
Nasser Anwahi, New York University
John A. Burt, New York University
Denise Holland, New York University
Fatin Samara, American University of Sharjah
Francesco Paparella, New York University
Ahmed Hassan Al Murshidi, United Arab Emirates University
Maryam Rashed Al-Shehhi, Khalifa University
David Holland, New York University

A Roadmap for Policy-Relevant Sea-Level Rise Research in the United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a long-term policy horizon, financial capital, and vision for a sustainable knowledge-based economy. These characteristics uniquely situate it as a potential leader for sea-level rise research. Climate science is already growing, and at the center of the UAE's pivot towards climate, sea-level rise research is a growing concern. Over 85% of the UAE's population and more than 90% of the nation’s infrastructure is within a few meters of present-day sea level. With its low-lying and shallow-sloping geography, this high-value coastline, including the rapidly expanding cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise. Meanwhile, limited regional research and data scarcity create deep uncertainty for sea-level projections. 

We set out a potential roadmap for the UAE to capitalize on its strengths to create usable and relevant sea-level projections for the region. With a newly established Climate Change Research Network, the UAE government is beginning to draw together universities and research centers for "furthering effective data collection and management, and advancing policy-relevant research on climate impacts and adaptation." By consolidating ideas from the science community within the UAE, we identify promoters and barriers to data gathering, information sharing, science-policy communication, and funding access. Our paper proposes pathways forward for the UAE to integrate sea-level science with coastal development and form best practices that can be scaled across climate science and throughout the region.  

Mausumi Moran Chetia, International Institute of Social Studies

Ideas of Home and Human Security Among Disaster-Displaced People in Assam, India

Indigenous communities living near the Brahmaputra River in Assam have been threatened by recurrent floods and bank erosion for generations. They survive these twin disasters by becoming permanently displaced from their original places of residence, resulting from riverbank erosion. Assam had lost seven percent of its total land area by 2004 to riverbank erosion. Contradictorily, there is no central database of those displaced due to erosion with the Indian state. Most of the state-level policies of Assam, and the Disaster Management Act (2005) at the national level, are grossly inadequate in vision and implementation while addressing issues of long-term rehabilitation of disaster-displaced populations, as in the case of river-bank erosion-displaced communities of Assam. Among the displaced communities post-1970s, such as the Misings, Koch, and Motok communities, a few of the displaced self-rehabilitated themselves in privately owned and abandoned, or government or ‘forest’ lands, forced by generational disaster impoverishment and state apathy.

Consequent to the self-initiated nature of rehabilitation, challenges arise across sections of society, including government and non-government entities. Throughout the process of being forced to leave their original homes, searching, and settling themselves in a new location, such communities, therefore, dwell between multiple ideas of home and security. Further risks of displacement, increased exposure to hazards, socio-economic impoverishment, and systemic marginalization aggravate their sense of insecurity. Over the decades, these communities have learned to educate and organize themselves and safeguard their new homes away from the rivers and closer to the social, political-economic centers of Assam. 

Laurie Pearce, Justice Institute of British Columbia
Elizabeth English, University of Waterloo

Flood-Resilient and Climate-Adaptive Housing for Indigenous Populations

Flood damage is Canada’s most expensive climate-related issue, with over two million homes at risk of over-land flooding. Research indicates that Indigenous communities are disproportionately exposed to flooding, with almost 22% of communities at risk of a 100-year flood. These numbers are projected to rise due to increasingly severe flooding related to climate change. Various flood risk reduction options are available, including relocating communities, elevating existing structures, using barriers for flood control, implementing nature-based solutions such as wetland restoration, amphibious retrofit construction (temporarily floating homes), and zoning restrictions for new construction.

This exciting research project started with a comprehensive literature review of flooding-related disasters that have impacted Indigenous communities and the challenges and outcomes following the events. A key factor for increasing flood resilience is determining what strategy is most appropriate for a specific community, taking into account the surrounding natural environment, flood characteristics, housing types, and the community’s cultural norms, practices, and preferences. Flood risk reduction decision-making is particularly important for Indigenous communities, given their histories, cultures, and connections to the land and water. With an Indigenous Advisory Committee in place and following First Nations’ principles of ownership, control, access, and possession, interviews and Talking Circles are used to assess Indigenous communities’ familiarity with flood mitigation strategies and their alignment with Indigenous Ways of Knowing and culture. It is our hope that the findings will help to better understand the decision-making process and suitability criteria of flood risk reduction options for Indigenous communities in Canada.

Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center

CONVERGE COVID-19 Working Groups and Research Agendas

In 2020, the National Science Foundation-supported CONVERGE facility and the Social Science Extreme Events Research (SSEER) Network issued a call for COVID-19 Working Groups for Public Health and Social Sciences Research. The 90 Working Groups that were funded focus on issues and advancements in methods, ethics, and empirical topics related to the global COVID-19 pandemic. In total, there are over 1,200 researchers from five continents involved in the 90 COVID-19 Working Groups. Each Working Group has their own page, which is available here:

The funded Working Groups are organized according to four focal areas of study: 1) population groups, organizations, and social institutions; 2) issues, impacts, and recovery; 3) compound hazards and cascading disasters; and 4) research networks, methods, and ethics. Many of the groups focus on cross-cutting issues. All groups submitted a Research Agenda Setting Paper, which is available for review and download at:

Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center

CONVERGE Data Ambassadors Program

For decades, scientists have called for greater data sharing to help advance the state of research and innovation. The CONVERGE Data Ambassadors program, which was established in 2020, is designed to help train social scientists and interdisciplinary researchers who are interested in publishing their research protocols, instruments, and data. CONVERGE Data Ambassadors are required to have completed a National Science Foundation-supported Publish Your Data! training session. As Data Ambassadors, they have committed to publishing their own research materials on DesignSafe, which is the secure cyberinfrastructure for the natural hazards research community. They also share their newly attained knowledge regarding data publication with other social scientists and colleagues from allied disciplines in the hazards and disaster field. CONVERGE Data Ambassadors are helping to usher in a culture shift toward data publication and data and instrument sharing across disciplines. More information, including a current list of Data Ambassadors, is available at:

Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center
Rachel Adams, Natural Hazards Center
Jennifer Tobin, Natural Hazards Center
Jolie Breeden, Natural Hazards Center
Robert de Groot, U.S. Geological Survey
Sara McBride, U.S. Geological Survey

How Can We Integrate ShakeAlert Into Schools? Lessons from Earthquake-Affected Communities

Schools are distinctive in terms of the societal responsibilities they hold and the risks they face. Not only are schools the sites where children and youth are educated, they often serve as gathering spaces and focal points within communities. Given their importance, this research focuses on K-12 schools in earthquake-prone regions and asks: How can we most effectively integrate the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System into schools? To answer that question, our research team at the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, has launched a mixed methods interview- and survey-based study to learn from school administrators, teachers, students, parents, emergency managers, engineers, and others who are concerned with earthquake safety in schools. This paper summarizes insights from qualitative research with 118 adults and children affiliated with earthquake-affected schools in the Anchorage, Alaska, and Ridgecrest and Trona, California, areas. These school districts were impacted by significant earthquakes that occurred in 2018 in Alaska and 2019 in California. We found that school leaders and teachers in those communities were especially concerned about the delivery mechanisms for ShakeAlert, the potential for drill fatigue and warning confusion, age and developmental differences among children in processing warning information, and generational differences in protective action education. Despite these concerns, respondents in the first phase of this study were eager to learn more about ShakeAlert and the complementary role it could play in ongoing school emergency management and mitigation efforts.

Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center
Seth Guikema, University of Michigan

Interdisciplinary Theory, Methods, and Approaches for Hazards and Disaster Research

What is interdisciplinary research? Why is it vital to the advancement of the field of hazards and disaster research? What theory, methods, and approaches are fundamental to interdisciplinary research projects? This article addresses these and other pressing questions by taking stock of recent advancements in interdisciplinary studies of hazards and disasters. It also introduces a new special issue of Risk Analysis, which includes 25 original perspectives papers organized around the cross-cutting themes of theory, methods, approaches, interdisciplinary research projects, and applications to advance interdisciplinarity in hazards and disaster research. The papers were written following two National Science Foundation-supported workshops that were organized in response to the growing interest in interdisciplinary hazards and disaster research, the increasing number of interdisciplinary funding opportunities and collaborations in the field, and the need for more rigorous guidance for interdisciplinary researchers and research teams. An overview of the special collection is available at:

Lori Peek, Natural Hazards Center
Jennifer Tobin, Natural Hazards Center

CONVERGE Extreme Events Research Check Sheets Series

The National Science Foundation-funded CONVERGE facility, with supplemental support from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, has now published over 40 Extreme Events Research Check Sheets Series. The check sheets are organized in the following categories: (1) Preparing to Conduct Extreme Events Research; (2) Institutional Review Board and Ethical Considerations; (3) Geographic Considerations; (4) Cultural Competence and Power Differentials; (5) Social Science Methods and Approaches; (6) Training, Mentoring, and Building Teams; (7) Collecting Data and Conducting Fieldwork; (8) Data Management and Data Use; (9) Data Analysis and Data Publication; and (10) Sharing and Communicating Results. This series of check sheets is meant to be used as researchers design their studies, prepare to enter the field, conduct field research, and exit the field. The check sheets are free and available for download at:

Alice Pennaz, U.S. Geological Survey
Kristin A. Ludwig, U.S. Geological Survey
Jacqueline R. Meszaros, National Science Foundation
David Applegate, U.S. Geological Survey

Integrating Science and Technology With Disaster Response

A new report, Integrating Science and Technology with Disaster Response, by the Science for Disaster Reduction (SDR) Interagency Coordination Group, whose participants include representatives from the U.S. federal civilian and defense agencies, addresses the urgent need for science and technology (S&T) capabilities to be better integrated into disaster response. This report is a follow-on activity to the SDR’s National Preparedness Science and Technology Task Force report, Identifying Science and Technology Opportunities for National Preparedness, issued in 2016. The new report is divided into two sections. First, addressing the emergency management community, the report describes the S&T capabilities that currently exist to aid in U.S. domestic disaster response and how these capabilities are coordinated, mobilized, funded, and integrated into disaster-management activities. The report underscores the important need for researchers to collect ephemeral data during response. Communication, training, and coordination need to enable effective and safe research in disaster-affected areas are also highlighted. Second, for the S&T community, the report outlines important considerations for scientists and engineers interested in operating within disaster-affected areas. These considerations include safety, ethics, familiarity with emergency management structures, recognizing affected-community sensitivities, and avoiding placing further burdens on impacted areas. The report notes that despite cultural differences between the emergency management and S&T communities, relationships and integrated approaches are key to fully capitalizing on the use of S&T resources for disaster response.

Monica Schoch-Spana, Johns Hopkins University
Emily Brunson, Texas State University

CommuniVax Coalition: Strengthening Community Involvement in an Equitable COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign

CommuniVax is an alliance of social scientists, public health experts, and community advocates who seek lasting solutions to a serious problem: Black and Latino populations have disproportionately endured negative health and economic impacts from the pandemic. While these underserved communities could benefit greatly from vaccines, longstanding biases and barriers hinder their access to and acceptance of vaccination. To remedy this situation, hard-hit communities must play an active role in the vaccination campaign and secure lasting opportunities to exercise collective agency over their own wellbeing into the future.

Our national rapid research coalition employs an ethnographic perspective and integrates both investigation and intervention modes in public health. We have a two-fold purpose: (1) advance awareness of, access to, acceptability of, and ultimately, uptake of COVID-19 vaccines among Black and Latino communities, and (2) spur the development of local systems of action and accountability that involve communities in measures to resolve the pandemic, to redress the hardships exacerbated by the crisis, and to address future community health and wellness needs.

The coalition includes a central working group and six local teams operating in Maryland, Idaho, Alabama, California, and Virginia. The teams engage communities of color to identify improvements needed to hometown vaccine delivery and communication strategies. The central working group coordinates the research and ensures the implementation of findings in collaboration with national stakeholders who hold political, technical, cultural, and social justice perspectives on vaccination. Support comes from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and The Rockefeller Foundation.

Pataya Scott, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Samantha Krautwurst, AECOM
Glenn Overcash, AECOM

Federal Emergency Management Agency Releases Updated Suite of Safe Room Resources

Every year, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme windstorms cause numerous injuries and deaths in the United States. While we cannot stop these storms from occurring, we can respond by understanding the hazards and carefully planning to protect ourselves from their effects. When properly designed and constructed or installed per Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria, safe rooms provide the highest level of protection from tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme windstorms. To this end, FEMA is pleased to announce the release of its updated fifth edition of FEMA P-320 (2021), Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building or Installing a Safe Room for Your Home, and its updated fourth edition of FEMA P-361 (2021), Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms.

The 2021 edition of FEMA P-361 updates and refines planning guidance, best practices, and funding criteria for safe rooms that provide occupants with near-absolute protection from wind and wind-borne debris. The 2021 edition of FEMA P-320 features updated residential safe room guidance and prescriptive safe room designs that meet FEMA criteria for one- and two-family dwellings. Both FEMA publications reference the latest edition of the International Code Council® (ICC®) and the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA®) (ICC/NSSA) Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters (ICC 500-2020).

In addition to its two flagship safe room publications, FEMA has also updated five other safe room fact sheets to incorporate the guidance in FEMA P-361 (2021) and the referenced requirements in ICC 500-2020.

Tara Sell, Johns Hopkins University
Monica Schoch-Spana, Johns Hopkins University
Crystal Watson, Johns Hopkins University
Jon Links, Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University Team Seeking Communities for Work on Community Resilience

The Composite of Post-Event Well-Being (COPEWELL) is an evidence-based model and collection of tools that foster a community-wide understanding of the complex nature of community resilience as it pertains to disasters. Recently, the COPEWELL team at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has begun working directly with communities interested in disaster resilience to assist them in their efforts and understand how they can use COPEWELL in their work.

COPEWELL, as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded evidence-based model and toolkit, is designed to give local jurisdictions the ability to assess and improve a myriad of factors that contribute to community resilience. It uses data-driven tools to assess community functioning and predict resilience and provides resources that communities can utilize to address identified gaps to improve community functioning before, during, and after disasters.

Now more than ever before, we can see that disasters do not affect only one or two sectors in a community; the resilience of a community against a disaster is determined by many interconnected factors, such as social inequality, the readiness of emergency management systems, and functioning civil infrastructure. The COPEWELL team is looking for additional pilot jurisdictions comprised of state and/or local-level stakeholders working to improve their communities’ resilience against natural and manmade disasters.

Interested communities can contact Tara Kirk Sell at

Caroline Sharpe, Virginia Tech
Thomas Coates, Virginia Tech

Does Prescribed Fire Impact Wood Quality and Value?

As catastrophic wildfires become an annual occurrence throughout a majority of the United States, it is important to analyze wildfire mitigation strategies and the effects they can have on natural resources. One such strategy commonly promoted is prescribed fire. Prescribed fire is a popular land management tool, but the impacts it can have on forests and the quality of wood extracted from them is unclear. My current research focuses on determining whether or not prescribed fire significantly impacts the wood quality and its value. This research can be applied directly to practitioners and land managers to aid them in the decision to implement or not to implement prescribed fire as a hazards reduction strategy.

Laura M. Stough, Texas A&M University
Elizabeth McAdams Ducy, Sonoma State University
Nick Winges-Yanez, University of Texas
Lesley Gray, University of Otago

Crisis Management for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

The voices of the disability community are diverse and yet reveal interrelated experiences related to disasters. A special edition of Impact provides a multi-layered and intersectional portrait of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) through contributions by researchers and members of the IDD community themselves.

People with IDD were disproportionately affected by the crises of the last year, as has happened historically during disasters. Many lost their jobs, their educational supports, and even their lives. Why is it that impacts converged with such force upon people with IDD and their families? Overall, people with disabilities often experience risk factors such as higher poverty rates, lower employment rates, poor housing construction, and health conditions – all factors that contribute to crisis and disaster risk. People with IDD also often experience intersectionality in these risk factors, leading to compounded vulnerability to emergencies and hazards. Finally, people with IDD rarely have equal access to power, privilege, and resources that provide protective functions during crises.

These inequities – and others experienced by underserved populations of the world – demand a robust response. Research and training on disasters and crises must be broadened to include people with disabilities. Partnerships with voluntary agencies and disaster response teams are needed. Members of the disability community must incorporate preparedness and mitigation into their individual and organizational practices. We must ferret out systemic biases in emergency practices– those related to race, language, and sexual orientation-but also those relating to disability status. 

Russell Uyeno, University of Hawaii
Eric Yamashita, University of Hawaii

A Pandemic Pivot to Virtual Training

From its first training course delivery in 2010 through March 2020, the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) provided instruction to all its 50,000+ participants in face-to-face classes across the United States. NDPTC’s training delivery team had developed into a well-oiled machine that planned, coordinated, and managed the complex logistics of moving instructors and course material from Puerto Rico to Anchorage and everywhere in between—all from its home base in Honolulu. That process came to a complete stop in March 2020, as did almost everything else that involved the movement and gathering of people. 

Within four weeks, NDPTC delivered its first virtual training course; fittingly, it was Natural Disaster Awareness for Caregivers, a course that focuses on the challenges faced by a segment of our population defined by its limited mobility. Since then, almost all NDPTC’s 25 courses have been delivered to over 3,000 training participants nationwide in a virtual format.

What have we learned about virtual training? About its strengths and weaknesses? About our instructors and their ability to adapt to this new format? About our participants and their sometimes surprising responses to virtual classmates? And especially, about our staff members and their resilience as we upended years of processes and functions to meet a new environment? We hope others can learn from our experience and learn from others as we exchange experiences and ideas and share best practices and lessons.

Melissa Villarreal, Natural Hazards Center

Long-Term Recovery Among Mexican Immigrants: How Service Providers Navigate Anti-Immigrant Recovery Policies

This research explores how service providers from community-based organizations (CBOs) navigate disaster recovery and immigration policies to help the Mexican immigrant community in Houston, Texas with their long-term housing recovery after Hurricane Harvey. I conducted semi-structured interviews, content analysis, and ethnographic observations with service providers from CBOs located in Houston that serve this population with post-disaster housing. I argue that the disaster recovery system is an inherently anti-immigrant racial structure, passively and actively limiting the access to resources for the Mexican immigrant community. I found that to challenge this anti-immigrant racial structure of disaster recovery, service providers assist the community through providing direct assistance to immigrants excluded from other disaster recovery programs, collaborating with other organizations to combine limited resources, helping the community navigate anti-immigrant bureaucracy, and building trust by embedding themselves in the victimized community. However, findings also show that these organizations face significant challenges in conducting their work. The findings from this project will be of value to policymakers and stakeholders involved in post-disaster recovery work.

Yuping Wu, National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction
Hsiang-Chieh Lee, National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction

Disaster Management Plan Production Tool for Long-Term Care Institutions in Taiwan

To improve the disaster management capabilities of long-term care institutions, the National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction established the Disaster Management Platform for Long-term Care Institutions in 2016 to provide disaster management strategies and tools for institutional employees. Among all long-term care institutions (about 2,000~2,500) in Taiwan, more than 1,500 institutions have used this platform. Using user opinion surveys, system development workshops, user experience workshops, etc., the Disaster Management Plan Production Tool for Long-term Care Institutions has recently been released. This tool builds a disaster management plan template into an online answering system. The steps of the online system include system operation instructions, cover editing, plan descriptions, basic information of institution, disaster risk assessment (automatically import the results of another tool of this platform), settings of disaster response personnel, earthquake disaster response procedures, and typhoon or flood disasters response procedures, power outage contingency procedures, evacuation and shelter, education training and exercise, and attachments. This system also provides writing principles and examples of each step. We hope that this system helps institutions understand the purpose of each part of the disaster management plan and independently complete their own disaster management plans.