Research Highlights

Yinghui Cao, University of Western Austrailia

Towards Personalized Public Early Warning for Bushfire: Harnessing Technological Advancements to Promote Better Decision Making

Public alerts and warnings are essential for informing the public of potential hazards and promoting timely response before a disaster occurs. However, research has identified that traditional early warnings, such as generic text messages based on large geographic regions, often fail to promote appropriate protective actions by residents in danger. More comprehensive and personalized risk information is needed to facilitate enhanced risk perception, potentially fostering more efficient and effective decision-making before and during an emergency. In this paper, using bushfire as an example, a Standardised Household Action Advice and Risk Communication (SHAARC) framework is conceptualized for bushfire early warnings based on web-mapping technologies. It aims to both facilitate the spatial and temporal cognition of hazard threats through cartographic representation, and aid in risk recognition and decision-making by communicating household-specific risk information and action guidance. A range of risk indicators were identified and their relationships with different actions were defined. A Household Action Advice Model was then designed to determine the safe action(s) for a household by integrating relevant risk factors. The SHAARC framework attempts to deliver both the household-related risk indicators and the personalized action guidance via online map interfaces. Aided by the advanced computer modelling and web-mapping technologies, the SHAARC framework shows a ground-breaking approach to support risk assessment and warning communication for impending bushfire threats at a household level. Nevertheless, future work is needed to assess with end-users (i.e. at-risk population) to explore the effective methods for representing the diverse risk and warning information through a web-mapping application.

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Ava Christie, Capella University

Case Study of Rural Local Emergency Planning Committee Member Experiences in Kansas

The work of LEPCs was designed to enhance both disaster risk awareness and development of a proactive emergency management mindset that is appropriate for community disaster resilience (Patterson, Weil, and Patel, 2010 and EMI, n.d.). Such prerogatives are goals of the statewide Kansas Division of Emergency Management (KDEM) sustainable (Soyka, 2012 and Hyogo Guide, 2008) capabilities mission (KDEM, 2012) and goals for homeland security (Jenkins, 2006 and Krueger, Jennings, and Kendra, 2009). As such, work of LEPCs is of contemporary interest since, as unique but well established policy networks (Fedorowicz, 2009), they are positioned where public and private sector stakeholders cooperate (FEMA, 2012) to accomplish crisis and disaster action in a manner consistent with a whole community approach (USDHS, 2011). Research identified highlights a need to better understand how LEPCs may be responding to broadened public policy priorities (Garrity, 2012 and Dunaway and Shaw, 2010) and to hazards faced in rural counties that comprise nearly half of all LEPC settings (USEPA, 2008). Little is known of rural LEPCs including the more limited resources afforded them than to urban counterparts, and how they address growing threats from industrial installations, national transportation routes, agriculture security, or power generating plants. The dissertation research presented will employ a qualitative case study technique (Stake, 1995) and policy network theory (Carlsson, 2000) to guide and elicit perceptions and experiences of current rural Kansas LEPC members. Such a methodological approach to the study of LEPCs is not documented in the literature although quantitative research data is available for guidance from a national survey (USEPA, 2008) and a follow up study of surveyed Ohio LEPC members as participants (Matheny, 2012).

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Kathleen Colville, North Carolina State University

The Emergency Management Public: Customer, Citizen, or Partner?

How Emergency Management (EM) professionals conceive of the public -- as customer, partner or citizen-- affects their practices and policies. This paper extends the academic debate regarding the role of the public in state production to the field of Emergency Management. This paper seeks to understand why the EM “public” is, by and large, a partner to goals defined by its government, and how that concept affects professional practices. Because EM professionals do not typically interact daily with the public in service transactions, they have limited opportunities to realize one of the benefits of working with the public as customers: learning about and from their publics. The technocratic bias of the profession may limit its openness to the participatory government strategies that characterize public-as-citizen concepts. EM loses opportunities to learn about its public through these more complex interactions because participatory strategies are rarely attempted or achieved. However, the public-as-partner concept is widespread within EM. This model resolves the inherent tension between public collaboration and technical expertise. It allows emergency managers to engage their communities as partners whose actions are required to achieve government's goals, but allows administrators to retain control over the selection of those goals and their implementation strategies. The ultimate result is an impoverished conception of the public for EM – one that is considered to possess little expertise to contribute to emergency planning, fails when it neglects to follow official instructions, and may even be portrayed as adversarial to the government’s response.

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Zhen Cong, Texas Tech University
Ali Nejat, Texas Tech University
Jian Luo, Texas Tech University
Daan Liang, Texas Tech University

Family Structures, Relationships, and Relocation Decisions after Hurricane Sandy

This study examines how family bonds affect rebuilding or relocating decisions after hurricanes. The survey sample consists of 129 individuals recruited from Staten Island after it was seriously damaged by the 2012 Hurricane Sandy.

Multinomial logistic regression was used to investigate respondents’ family structures before Sandy and whether their relationships improved with family members after Sandy influenced their plans for rebuilding or repairing their homes or relocating to other places. Multinomial logistic regression was also used to examine whether those factors affected study participants' suggestions to a family vignette concerning rebuilding and relocating.

Results indicate that respondents who lived with family members before Sandy were less likely to plan for relocating than those who lived alone. More detailed examination showed that this effect was driven by those who improved their relationships with family members. Those whose family relationships did not improve were not significantly different from those who lived alone concerning rebuilding/relocation planning.

Those who improved their relationships with family members were also less likely to suggest that the vignette family relocate. This study supports the general hypothesis that family bonds reduce intentions to relocate and provides empirical evidence that family mechanisms are important for rebuilding/relocating decision making.

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Deserai Crow, University of Colorado, Boulder
Elizabeth Albright, Duke University

Local Responses and Community Resilience in the Aftermath of Extreme Floods

By examining the policy response to extreme flooding events, this study seeks to illuminate the important factors explaining variation in local level policy learning in response to the extreme floods in Colorado in September 2013. This research examines the factors that are associated with observed variations in policy change in flood mitigation and prevention at the local level.

Understanding the factors that encourage adaptation in local policy contexts may prove critical, because this can mean the difference between ongoing flood vulnerability as a consequence of extreme weather events rather than long-term resilience. Additionally, this study provides a comparative case research design wherein federal and state-level emergency response and management can be held constant, focusing on the role of counties and localities in responding to extreme weather events.

We are studying these factors in the context of the September 2013 floods in Colorado and the community-level decisions made in seven case communities located in the three hardest-hit counties in Colorado. Findings indicate the importance of several variables in determining policy responses within communities: the extent of damage a community incurred, the political context within a community and level of transparency in routine governance, and the degree to which city infrastructure (instead of private property) bore the brunt of the flood damage.

Additionally, the availability of information appears to be a crucial resource for government policy responses, with those more likely to undertake adaptive policy measures also more likely to engage digitally and in person with local constituents and stakeholders.

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Sarah Dalton, Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center
Tamar Wyte-Lake, Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center
Maria Claver, California State University, Long Beach
Aram Dobalian, University of California, Los Angeles

Disaster Planning for Home Health Patients and Providers: Review of Common Practices

Individuals receiving care at home are especially vulnerable during disasters due to high rates of chronic disease, functional limitations, disabilities, and dependence on life-sustaining treatments and equipment. Increasing preparedness among home health care recipients decreases the likelihood of adverse health outcomes and lessens the burden on community hospitals and emergency responders.

Home care providers are uniquely positioned to assess and improve the preparedness of their patients. Providers of home care are charged with providing quality, uninterrupted care and have regular contact with patients and caregivers as well as knowledge of their patients’ home environments, medical needs, resources and limitations. Accordingly, preparedness tools have been developed by organizations such as the National Association for Home Care and Hospice and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, although these tools have not been evaluated for effectiveness.

This narrative literature review examined 32 existing home health organization policies and procedures, lessons learned, and expert recommendations for improving home-based patient disaster preparedness. We compared and synthesized approaches to patient and caregiver education, risk classification, and patient evaluation tools. Our results indicate: (1) gaps between recommended tools and policies and adopted policies; and (2) marked differences in approaches to evaluation, classification, education, and triage among organizations.

This not only presents a challenge to the agencies when responding to a disaster, but may lead to obstacles around interagency communication, such as with local community response organizations. We conclude that home health patients would benefit from increased consensus, improved dissemination, and evaluation of current tools.

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Juan Declet-Barreto, Natural Resources Defense Council

A Socioecological Understanding of Extreme Heat Vulnerability in Maricopa County, Arizona

In this research, I explore vulnerability to extreme heat hazards in the Maricopa County, Arizona metropolitan region. By engaging an interdisciplinary approach, I uncover the epidemiological, historical-geographical, and mitigation dimensions of human vulnerability to extreme heat in a rapidly urbanizing region characterized by an intense urban heat island and summertime heat waves.

I first frame the overall research within global climate change and hazards vulnerability research, and then present three case studies. In the first case study, I construct and map a predictive index of sensitivity to heat health risks for neighborhoods, compare predicted neighborhood sensitivity to heat-related hospitalization rates, and estimate relative risk of hospitalizations for neighborhoods.

In the second case study, I unpack the history and geography of land use and land cover change, urban development and marginalization of minorities that created the metropolitan region’s urban heat island and the present conditions of extreme heat exposure and vulnerability in the urban core.

The third study uses computational microclimate modeling to evaluate the potential of a vegetation-based intervention for mitigating extreme heat in an urban core neighborhood. Climate change-induced heat hazards in cities must be understood within the socio-ecological transformations that produce and reproduce urban landscapes of risk.

The interdisciplinary approach to heat hazards in my research advances understanding of the social and ecological drivers of extreme heat by drawing on multiple theories and methods from sociology, urban and critical geography, microclimatology, spatial epidemiology, environmental history, political economy and urban political ecology.

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Emma Hudson-Doyle, Massey University
John McClure, Victoria University of Wellington
Douglas Paton, University of Tasmania
Sally Potter, GNS Science
David Johnston, Massey university

Communicating Probabilities: From Volcanoes to Aftershocks

The issuing of forecasts and warnings of natural hazard events often involves the use of probabilistic terms, particularly when communicated by scientists to key decision-makers, who can differ greatly in relative expertise and roles in the decision making process. Recipients may also differ in their perception of the relative importance of political and economic influences on interpretation.

Consequently, the interpretation of these probabilistic terms can vary greatly due to the framing of the statements and whether verbal or numerical terms are used. Thus, a number of researchers have recommended the use of translation tables to convert numerical and verbal probability terms when writing reports and warnings. Our research into the communication of volcanic likelihood statements has identified the need for the development of such tables for volcanic and other natural hazards.

In addition we have found that when presented with a time window forecast (e.g., likelihood of eruption in the next 10 years) participants view the likelihood of an event occurring ‘today’ as being less than that in year 10, leading to potentially inappropriate action choices. This skew in perception is also found for short-term windows (under one week). For long-time window statements the phrasing “within the next…” instead of “in the next…” can mitigate this skew.

Lessons from this research have been applied to the communication of official science advice following the M6.2 Eketahuna earthquake in New Zealand, where translation tables were used for the first time in New Zealand to communicate the likelihood of three future aftershock scenarios.

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Rachel Egan, University of Colorado, Boulder

Placing the Collapse of Teotihuacan within the Framework of the AD 536 Atmospheric Event

Recent archaeological investigations have pointed to the purposeful burning and destruction of the elite structures at the site of Teotihuacan. Using a technique known as archaeomagnetism on burned lime plasters, Soler-Arechalde et al. (2006) dated this event to AD 550 ± 25. There is also evidence for changing ideologies, notably the finding of smashed storm god effigies throughout the site during this period. Together, these lines of evidence have been used to suggest a growing destabilization of the elites and political rule at the site starting in the mid-sixth century, eventually culminating in its collapse.

While the cause of this event at Teotihuacan has remained elusive, when placed within a global context a possible mechanism emerges. In AD 536 the world experienced a global catastrophe; noted in various historical records and archeological contexts, AD 536 and the years following can be characterized by extreme cold, a dim sun, famine, plague, and drought. The cause of the event is attributed to aerosol atmospheric loading as a result of either a low-latitude volcanic eruption or an impact from a Near Earth Object. The AD 536 climatic event would have resulted in an extended period of cold and drought for site of Teotihuacan. Through the contextualization of the destabilization of elite authority at Teotihuacan, this paper aims to consider how underlying vulnerabilities may have shaped how people responded to, and coped with this event, as well as what role it might have played in the collapse of Teotihuacan.

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Liyam Eloul, University of Denver
Colin Martin, University of Denver

Problems and Strategies in Facilitating Disaster Preparedness for Resettled Refugee Populations in Colorado

Federal refugee resettlement and immigration policies in the United States load migrants into communities already on the periphery. Inadequate resourcing of municipal support structures strains the capacity of local governments to address these increasingly complex, diverse populations.

Vulnerable new American populations are commonly overlooked in current models of community-based disaster planning and preparedness. These populations present specific challenges in engagement, including language barriers, cultural sensitivities, an unfamiliarity with American systems, limited hazard awareness, and social isolation.

The succession of climate- and man-made disasters that have struck Colorado in the past three years have focused attention on this dilemma. These issues were investigated hrough a series of semi-structured focus groups, key informant interviews, and community immersion, conducted jointly by the Office for Emergency Response and a local housing non-profit.

The results make clear that practical ethnographic skill-sets within a disaster preparedness framework are vital to a successful strategy for engaging these communities in order to build resilience and reduce casualties.

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Melissa Forbes, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Assessing National Preparedness: Identifying Areas for National Improvement

Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop and submit to the President an annual National Preparedness Report that summarizes the progress made toward building, sustaining, and delivering the 31 core capabilities described in the National Preparedness Goal.

The intent of the National Preparedness Report is to provide the nation—not just the federal government—with practical insights on core capabilities that can inform decisions about program priorities, resource allocation, and community actions. On behalf of DHS, FEMA has delivered three iterations of the NPR to date.

For the 2013 NPR, FEMA employed five preliminary criteria to identify national areas for improvement, including State Preparedness Report results, issues experienced during real-world incidents and exercises, and linkages to future emergency management drivers.

In an effort to mature the report’s methodology, FEMA refined this set of qualitative and quantitative criteria to identify national areas for improvement in 2014. For the first time, FEMA also defined thresholds of significance to help stakeholders better understand what constitutes a national preparedness key finding and progress in core capabilities. FEMA plans to re-evaluate these criteria annually and propose changes based on data availability and lessons learned.

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Christopher Gregg, East Tennessee State University
Liesel Ritchie, University of Colorado, Boulder
Steve Meinhold, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Incorporating Social Science into NOAA’s Tsunami Program

The large number of fatalities in some recent hazard events, including the 2004 Indian Ocean event and 2005 Hurricane Katrina, have reminded us of the complexity and dynamics of human behavior in response to warnings of hazards and risk communications, for both short fuse and longer fuse hazards. The relatively low death toll in the recent large, damaging tsunami that struck the Samoa Islands and Tonga in September 2009—the result of effective pubic response— offers new hope for decreasing tsunami injuries and fatalities through risk communications, such as those from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Tsunami Warning Centers (TWC) and the TsunamiReady Program (TRP).

Empirical social science research findings describe key factors that facilitate effective receipt of risk communications, accurate interpretations by emergency managers and the public, and effective responses. Moreover, theoretical models provide a holistic perspective of how these factors interact. A key challenge is that this knowledge has been underutilized in developing and refining TWC products and educational efforts linked to the growing TRP. Challenges in tsunami preparedness involve the usefulness of tsunami warning products disseminated by TWC and the effectiveness of the TRP. There is also a need to merge social science research knowledge regarding human behavior in tsunamis with post-tsunami field survey teams conducted by physical scientists.

This project supports NOAA’s tsunami program by using social science principles to identify strengths and weaknesses in TWC products and the TRP; provide guidance for improving products and education; develop a means to monitor and assess progress; and develop a repository for social science research findings, accessible by members of the disaster research community.

The rationale for this social science research is that through it NOAA can improve its tsunami forecasts and warnings and promote community resilience. Moreover, NOAA can better meet its commitment to ensuring that all customers can receive, understand, and respond appropriately to NOAA forecasts and warning products. Finally, social science can provide guiding tools for enhancing the community resilience activities linked to NOAA’s TRP.

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Stephanie Higgins, University of Colorado, Boulder

Measuring Land Subsidence in the Coastal Zone

Land subsidence in river deltas is a global problem. Subsidence heightens storm surges, salinates groundwater, intensifies river flooding, destabilizes infrastructure and accelerates shoreline retreat. Measurements of delta subsidence typically rely on point measures such as GPS devices, tide gauges or extensometers to provide estimates over broad areas, but better spatial coverage is needed to fully assess risk. Differential Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (D-InSAR) is a satellite-based technique that can provide maps of ground deformation with mm to cm-scale vertical resolution. Here, we apply D-InSAR to the coast of the Yellow River Delta in China, which is dominated by aquaculture facilities and has experienced severe coastal erosion in the last twenty years. We extract deformation patterns from dry land adjacent to aquaculture facilities along the coast, allowing the first measurements of subsidence at a non-urban delta shoreline. Results show classic cones-of-depression surrounding aquaculture facilities, likely due to groundwater pumping. Subsidence rates are as high as 250 mm/y at the largest facility on the delta. These rates exceed local and global average sea level rise by nearly two orders of magnitude. If these rates continue, large aquaculture facilities in the area could induce more than a meter of relative sea level rise every five years. Given the rapid growth in the fish farming industry, these results also suggest a similar hazard for other Asian megadeltas.

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Kristina Kekuewa, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Bill Thomas, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Resilience In a Changing Pacific

The Pacific is one of the most natural disaster prone regions on earth, exposed to hazards such as floods, droughts, volcanoes, tropical cyclones, earthquakes, and tsunami. Three Pacific islands – American Samoa, the Independent and Sovereign Republic Kiribati and Hawai`i – are facing issues ranging from recovery from a disastrous earthquake and tsunami to directly addressing immediate impacts of sea levels rise to long term resilience planning. American Samoa’s unique society, based on a western and village-centered traditional system, is conducive to hazards response and resilience planning. Their approach to response to and recovery from the 2009 earthquake and tsunami demonstrates this. Kiribati, an independent nation consisting of three chains of 32 atolls and low islands, is experiencing more frequent tidal flooding. The severity of these floods has caused homes to be relocated and hotel owners to place life preservers in their guests’ rooms. In response, Kiribati President Anote Tong has launched an ambitious climate adaptation initiative as part of its national economic planning. In Hawai`i, a community-driven effort is restoring agricultural and ecological productivity to a 405-acre wetland to regenerate its once thriving natural, cultural, social and economic values for the benefit of the community. While these place-based efforts have generated both positive steps and additional questions, they also share commonalities with coastal regions globally and can serve as frameworks for resilience approaches in other areas.

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Zachary Lamb, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Outside Urbanism: The Political Ecology of Risk and the Paradoxes of Protection in Peri-urban New Orleans

The impacts of flooding from the levee failures following Hurricane Katrina had widely disparate effects in neighborhoods both inside and outside of New Orleans hurricane protection levees. This research explores how Federal flood protection infrastructure shapes the buildings, settlements, and social structures outside the flood control infrastructure that surrounds metropolitan New Orleans. Research methods included spatial and architectural analysis; semi-structured interviews; and resident surveys in three settlements immediately outside of the city’s flood protection system. Field research interrogated the extent to which existing theoretical models for differential hazard vulnerability explain location decisions and adaptation in this environment of heightened risk. Existing theoretical models considered included: political ecology concepts of facilitation and marginalization; social capital models for adaptation and recovery; and natural hazards research models for human adaptation to flood risk. Preliminary findings indicate that the lived experience in the study sites is not accurately and completely captured in the existing models. The research suggests several previously underappreciated mechanisms that influence risk mitigation and adaptation decision making in vulnerable communities. New suggestive models include: a challenge to the marginalization/facilitation duality; inverse levee effects on risk perception and household-level adaptation; and anti-adaptation social stigma. As more and more settlements face increasing climate change-induced flood hazards and opt for structural flood protections, it is critical to develop better understanding of how such infrastructure shapes settlements on both the “protected” and “unprotected” sides. The research findings, point towards several areas for future research that could inform adaptation infrastructure and policy decision-making as cities cope with increased flood hazards.

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Julia LeMense, Disaster Management and Humanitarian Consulting

Developing The Evidence Base to Improve Intergovernmental Emergency Preparedness and Response Programming and Policy

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) plays an important role in emergency response and rehabilitation. When natural disasters, food chain emergencies, trans-boundary or technological threats, socio-economic crises, protracted crises and violent conflicts threaten agriculture, food and nutrition security or food safety, FAO is committed to supporting the humanitarian needs of affected populations and being a consistent and reliable partner to Member States and international humanitarian partners. As a member of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), FAO is also committed to implementing the IASC Transformative Agenda. This inter-agency process ensures that IASC members and partners are prepared for timely, effective and coordinated humanitarian assistance and protection in sudden-onset, large-scale emergencies that require humanitarian system-wide corporate mobilization (Level Three Emergency Response).

Tulane University partnered with FAO to provide an evidence base to improve policy and programming related to emergency preparedness and response. This paper presents a systematic review of FAO's emergency response interventions in response to Typhoon Haiyan and the conflict in Central African Republic. The findings and recommendations of this study are used to inform the FAO Handbook for Emergency Preparedness and Response and the revision of FAO's policy on emergency preparedness and response. This study has intrinsic value for inter-governmental organizations seeking to improve their policy or programmes in emergency preparedness and response. It also is methodologically interesting for those seeking an evidence base for policy update or strategic planning activities.

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Jia Lu, University of Southern California

Understanding the Emergence of a Resilient Social Structure: Role Formation and Institution Building after the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake

This study seeks to understand the institutional conditions within which a resilient social structure can emerge. I particularly investigate the network behavioral responses of emerging informal groups and NGO activities after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province, China.

Using CONCOR analysis implemented in the UCINET software program, I focus on understanding the process of institution-building and role formation among the actors within the domains of civil society, the state, and the market. Communication and collaboration network data from 136 social groups/organizations were collected and analyzed by examining changing network mechanisms before and after the earthquake event.

The analysis demonstrated primary evidence in depicting the measures pointing to role formation, persistence, and the sustenance of action structures from the perspective of civil society actors. My study provides an alternative approach to understanding the concept of power by examining the civil society construct in times of extreme uncertainty.

Within a broader context of social change under extreme events, the study also contributes to the understanding of resilient social structures in planning and policy research: (1) the behavioral mechanisms for social role formation and diversification; and (2) the development of tools and methods in engaging social actors, raising the awareness of their role and action for resilience-building institutional change and sustainability.

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Carlos Martin, Urban Institute
Pamela Lee, Urban Institute
Elizabeth Oo, Urban Institute

Rebuild by Design: A Formative Evaluation of the Sandy Recovery Design Competition

Rebuild by Design (RBD) is an international competition to produce innovative designs for resilient infrastructure in the Superstorm Sandy-affected region. Launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in June 2013, it resulted in the presentation of ten design teams’ conceptual projects in April 2014. Subsequent awards to projects are provided through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds appropriated by the 2013 Disaster Relief Appropriations Act. RBD’s goals are ambitious. They explicitly integrate resilience requirements to reach beyond traditional recovery efforts.

In this dynamic context, the Urban Institute was engaged to perform a formative evaluation of the RBD process to date with an eye towards mid-term implementation and possible scaling. The team assessed four primary areas: (1) the formation of the overall concept, including explicit and evolving goals and objectives; (2) the design competition model and activities as they were executed; (3) the explicit inclusion of community engagement strategies in these activities; and (4) state and local policymakers’ receptivity to the particular design projects and funds availability.

The evaluation found many innovations in the RBD model such as: the use of architectural and planning design as the disciplinary lens to address resilience; the harnessing of talent through the competition and prize framework; and the supplemental public-private partnership for managing the design and early development processes with public oversight. Yet the absence of sustained and regionally targeted funding resources for resilience challenges constrains the model for both the current projects’ long-term implementation and the model’s replication.

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Qing Miao, Syracuse University
David Poppa, Syracuse University

Necessity as the Mother of Invention: Innovative Responses to Natural Disasters

How do innovators respond to the shock of a natural disaster? Do natural disasters spur technical innovations that can reduce the risk of future hazards? This paper examines the impact of three types of natural disasters—floods, droughts and earthquakes—on the innovation of their respective mitigation technologies. Using patent and disaster data, our study is the first to relate natural disasters to technological innovation and also represents the first attempt to empirically examine adaptation responses across multiple sectors at the country level.

We constructed a panel of up to 28 countries over a period of 25 years, and investigated innovation responses using a Poisson fixed-effects model with a distributed lag of recent disaster impacts. Considering the potential endogeneity of disaster damages, we use meteorological and geophysical data to create hazard intensity measures as instrumental variables.

We find that all three types of natural disasters have a significant and positive impact on the patenting of their corresponding technologies, while the degree of influence varies across different types of disasters and technologies. This result implies that the private sector is adapting by innovating, but in a more reactive than proactive manner. It thus suggests that government has a particularly important role to play in developing technologies necessary for mitigating risks so they are in place before a disaster occurs.

We also explore whether domestic innovation is spurred by foreign disasters, and find such evidence in the flood case.

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Molly Mowery, Wildfire Planning International
Branda Nowell, North Carolina State University
Sarah McCaffrey, U.S. Forest Service

Building System Awareness Around Wildfire Preparedness and Response

Assessments of predisaster efforts and response to a natural hazard often focus primarily on one aspect or stakeholder group. To effectively address the wildfire threat facing communities, a more holistic and comprehensive approach is needed. More than a single audience or tactic, wildfire preparedness and response requires participation from multiple stakeholders and the utilization of many strategies.

This research presents three different approaches to building system-level awareness, action, and coordination: what it means for a whole community to be adapted to wildfire; the role and functioning of the full disaster response network (local, state and federal agencies and external incident management teams) in wildfire outcomes; and the full range of stakeholder views about a specific wildfire event.

These examples go beyond public outreach or incident response-only approaches and acknowledge the importance of different roles, positions, and relationships among participants before, during, and after the incident. Although framed in the context of wildfire, linkages and applications to other hazards are discussed.

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Geoffrey Plumlee, U.S. Geological Survey
Gregg Swayze, U.S. Geological Survey
William Benzel, U.S. Geological Survey
JoAnn Holloway, U.S. Geological Survey
Todd Hoefen, U.S. Geological Survey
Suzette Morman, U.S. Geological Survey

Observations on the 2013 Colorado Flooding and Its Impacts on the Natural and Built Environments

Over several days in mid-September, 2013, extreme rainfall, runoff, and flooding caused extensive damages along the South Platte River system from the northern Colorado Front Range foothills to more than 170 miles downstream, prompting concerns of potential environmental contamination from many different sources.

For two weeks immediately following the peak flooding, we sampled mud deposits and debris left by the floodwaters over much of the affected area. Muds tend to preferentially accumulate contaminants, and are also more readily taken up by aquatic and terrestrial organisms than coarser sediments.

Contaminants present in the muds may pose a human health hazard if the muds are accidentally ingested (for example hand-to-mouth contact by children) or if dusts from dried mud deposits are inhaled. We are applying diverse analytical methods to evaluate the concentrations and forms of inorganic, organic, and microbial contaminants in the mud samples. Inorganic analytical results to date suggest that anthropogenic metal contaminants (such as lead from historical mine sites or urban areas) were diluted by the large volumes of rocks and sediments transported by the floodwaters.

Organic and microbial contaminant analyses are still ongoing. Based on observations that we made during the sampling and by analyzing pre- and post-flood photography and satellite imagery, we also documented many flood processes and impacts on both the natural and built environments. These observations and results of environmental studies illustrate the need for coordinated interdisciplinary responses that rapidly assess the collective physical, environmental, ecological, health, and societal impacts of floods and other disasters.

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Geoffrey Plumlee, U.S. Geological Survey
Todd Hoefen, U.S. Geological Survey
Suzette Morman, U.S. Geological Survey

Assessing and Anticipating the Environmental and Health Implications of Hazardous Materials Produced by Disasters

The U.S. Geological Survey has helped assess environmental and health implications of complex, potentially hazardous materials produced by diverse natural and anthropogenic disasters. Examples include: dust and debris from the 2001 World Trade Center collapse; 2005 Hurricane Katrina flood sediments; ash and debris from wildfires at the wildland-urban interface; mine wastes and tailings spills; volcanic ash from many eruptions; the 2010 Gulf oil spill; 2012 Hurricane Sandy; and the 2013 Colorado floods.

These studies highlight the benefits of interdisciplinary earth and health science investigations that: characterize in detail the physical, chemical, and microbial makeup of disaster materials; identify and discriminate potential multiple sources for the materials; monitor and map dispersal of the materials in the environment; understand how the materials are modified spatially and temporally by environmental processes; identify key characteristics and processes that influence the materials’ toxicity to exposed humans and ecosystems; inform decisions for restoration, material handling, and disposal during cleanup; and estimate shifts away from pre-disaster environmental baseline conditions.

Using lessons learned from these responses, we have also worked with hazards, disaster response/preparedness, public health, and engineering experts to anticipate plausible environmental and related health impacts of future disaster scenarios such as the USGS 2011 ARkStorm extreme winter storm scenario (, and the 2013 SAFRR California Tsunami Scenario ( This presentation will use examples from several USGS disaster responses and scenarios scenario to illustrate the potential environmental and health implications of disaster materials, and implications for enhancing resilience to future disasters.

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Corey Reynolds

Post-Earthquake Fires: Policy-Making with Low-Frequency, High-Impact Events

Though large conflagrations in urban areas following an earthquake are today relatively rare events, when they do occur there is the potential for hundreds of casualties and billions of dollars of property losses. To address this risk, a few cities--notably Los Angeles--have mandated that property owners install earthquake-triggered automatic gas shut-off valves in an attempt to reduce the potential for ignitions. This regulation provides a unique opportunity to study the complexities of policy-making around low-frequency, high-impact events. In considering policy for these catastrophes, many cities struggle to balance the benefits of various solutions with their high costs, difficult political paths to implementation, and potential for significant social disruption. How can policy be designed given the uncertainty surrounding these high-impact events? What can cities and property owners do to effectively and efficiently reduce the occurrence, severity, and spread of post-earthquake fires and other low-frequency, high-impact events?

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Liesel Ritchie, University of Colorado, Boulder

Evaluation Support to the U.S. Department of the Interior Strategic Sciences Working Group

The Department of the Interior Strategic Sciences Group is an innovative approach to conducting science during crisis. Created in 2012, the mission of the SSG is to conduct interdisciplinary science-based assessments of environmental crises and build scenarios of their consequences for use by decision makers. In January 2013, Interior Secretary Salazar directed the group to support Interior’s role on the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force. In response, the SSG assembled a team of experts—Operational Group Sandy (OGS) —to develop scenarios during a week-long session in early March 2013. Scenarios varied in spatial and temporal scope and examined impacts on the ecology, economy, and people of the affected region. The purpose of OGS was to help inform the federal, state, and local response to rebuilding and restoring the U.S. East Coast in the aftermath of one of the largest storms to ever hit the region.

The SSG engaged the Natural Hazards Center to conduct an evaluation of the SSG process. This effort was driven by a desire on the part of the SSG leadership and its supporters to better understand ways in which their activities might be improved in future crisis events.

OGS participants were asked what they considered to be the keys to successful implementation of the SSG approach. Five essential elements were consistently noted: (1) clarity of mission (including an understanding of the intended audience); (2) strong SSG leadership; (3) highly skilled facilitation; (4) strong support staff; and (5) appropriate expertise in the operational group and a willingness among participants to trust the process. Evidence of successful implementation was unanimously considered to be whether the information generated by the group was used by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and as disseminated to and used by other stakeholders.

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Liesel Ritchie, University of Colorado, Boulder
Nnenia Campbell, University of Colorado, Boulder

Effects of Technological Disasters on Dimensions of Social Capital: A Longitudinal Study of the 2008 TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Ash Release

The concept of social capital is multidimensional, consisting of such elements as attachment to place, social cohesion and support, and social network density. There has been little research examining the contribution of social capital to disaster resilience.

This National Science Foundation-funded study examines the social impacts of the failure of a coal fly ash retention pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County, Tennessee in December 2008. The largest such incident in U.S. history, this technological disaster released more than 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash across almost 300 acres. The research design for the study employs a mixed-method approach with two primary data collection components: structured face-to-face interviews and self-administered household surveys using an ex post facto research design in the impact (Roane) and control (Anderson) counties. These post-event data will be compared with predisaster data from the 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey. In addition to making pre- and post-event comparisons, the study will also follow both impact and control communities over time.

The project will make a major contribution to scholarly understanding of the effects of disasters on measures of social capital. It will also add to the literature on the consequences of technological disasters, with a particular emphasis on their impacts on trust in institutions, as well as the effects of postdisaster litigation. The study has potential for transforming how researchers conceptualize and measure the social capital dimensions of disaster resilience—a fundamental issue in the field—and also for demonstrating how social indicators collected for other purposes can be productively used by disaster researchers.

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Liesel Ritchie, University of Colorado, Boulder
Duane Gill, Oklahoma State University

Collaborative Research: To Investigate and Document Social Impacts of High-Stakes Litigation Resolution in a Renewable Resource Community

On March 24, 1989, the tanker vessel Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef, a well-marked navigational hazard in the Valdez Arm of Prince William Sound, Alaska spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world. In various ways, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill continues to wreak havoc on the sound’s ecosystem and renewable natural resources, as well as individuals, groups, and communities that have built their lives and culture on ecosystem resources.

The goal of this National Science Foundation-funded project is to document how the Supreme Court decision and subsequent disbursement of punitive damage awards in the EVOS case has affected communities, groups, and individuals in a renewable resource community. This study builds directly upon research conducted in Cordova, Alaska from 2000-2009 and 2002-2004 and in 2009 to create a longitudinal data set designed to document community change and transformation associated with the EVOS, high-stakes litigation, resolution of litigation, and punitive damage payments.

This study has three primary objectives: (1) to expand and continue a line of inquiry on human impacts of the EVOS that began in 1989; (2) to examine how prolonged EVOS litigation has been associated with chronic stress, social disruption, and diminished social capital; and (3) to explore how and to what extent resolution of the long-term litigation influence renewable resource communities and groups.

The achievement of these objectives will provide empirical data on community change, disaster recovery, and personal adjustments that occur when fragile renewable resource communities are stressed by technological failure and long-term litigation. These results will also provide directives for understanding issues of vulnerability and enhancing the resiliency of renewable resource communities in the twenty-first century.

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Liesel Ritchie, University of Colorado, Boulder
Duane Gill, Oklahoma State University

Mitigating Litigating: RAPID Project to Study Social and Psychological Impacts of the 2012 BP Claims Settlement

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

More than 21 years of research on the long-term social impacts of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill revealed that much of the chronic, EVOS-related stress, anxiety, and social disruption were a byproduct of prolonged litigation that lasted almost two decades. However, there is a lack of empirical evidence regarding whether a more immediate resolution of disaster-related litigation helps to reduce the negative social impacts of protracted legal processes. This National Science Foundation-funded study will contribute substantially to the limited body of knowledge in this arena by advancing theoretical and conceptual understanding of social and psychological processes associated with rapid change, and how these affect coastal communities.

This research will advance understanding of ways in which post-disaster processes such as litigation and the timely settlement of damage claims can facilitate or hinder community recovery. It centers on an explicit focus of the president’s reorganization of the Homeland Security and National Security councils and is a priority of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate. In addition, research results will be used to inform local, state, and federal initiatives with respect to community resilience to both technological and natural disasters.

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Liesel Ritchie, University of Colorado, Boulder
Kathleen Tierney, University of Colorado, Boulder
Nnenia Campbell, University of Colorado, Boulder
Jamie Vickery, University of Colorado, Boulder

Chasing Ice Impact Study

Chasing Ice is an award-winning documentary that follows the work of the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), an initiative aimed at capturing images of the rapid melting of glaciers at multiple locations across the globe. James Balog, acclaimed environmental photojournalist and founder of the EIS, collaborates with a multidisciplinary team of scientists to collect time-lapse images that document glacial retreat across several years. This initiative aims to educate the public about the immediacy and effects of climate change with a goal of fostering public action to combat this global threat.

This study is designed to assess the impacts of Chasing Ice on attitudes and knowledge about climate change. The Natural Hazards Center developed pre-and post-test survey instruments that were administered prior to and following screenings of the film in order to obtain: (1) baseline information about audience members' pre-existing attitudes and beliefs about climate change; and (2) potential shifts in these understandings as a result of having watched the documentary.

The team has analyzed pre-and post-test surveys from more than 740 respondents in multiple locations across Colorado. Data collection and analysis will continue throughout the next year, and will include audiences from screenings in other regions throughout the United States. Future iterations of this project will also explore survey responses among individuals identified as "climate change skeptics" to determine the extent to which the film may potentially impact less receptive audiences.

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Liesel Ritchie, University of Colorado, Boulder
Kathleen Tierney, University of Colorado, Boulder
Nnenia Campbell, University of Colorado, Boulder
Jamie Vickery, University of Colorado, Boulder

Evaluation of the U.S. Geological Survey Science Applications for Risk Reduction (SAFRR) Tsunami Scenario Project

The purpose of SAFRR Tsunami Scenario Project is to foster the use of science in decision making associated with tsunami events. The Natural Hazards Center team is conducting the evaluation of this extensive effort, which engages multiple partners at local, regional, and national levels. The evaluation activities for the Tsunami Scenario Project are providing feedback and information to the USGS and its partnering agencies that will support the development and successful implementation of the project.

Specifically, the evaluation focuses on three key elements of the project: (1) the engagement of port and harbor decision-makers in selected California cities; (2) interagency coordination; and (3) intra-agency coordination. Systematically examining these aspects of primary stakeholder participation will provide an understanding of the extent to which the project’s efforts to foster the use of science in decision making, including building networks among key decision-makers, are effective.

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Alka Sapat, Florida Atlantic University
Ann-Margaret Esnard, Georgia State University

Legal Solutions and Limitations in Disasters

Law is often invoked as a solution to disasters. However, does law serve as a remedy for dealing with disasters? Do legal solutions ensure justice or social change? Or do they serve as reinforcement for existing power structures domestically and globally?

The limitation of law may stem from various legal solutions providing financial compensation to those victims who are capable of establishing legal standing before the courts, leaving out those who lack the necessary resources to do so and the needs and concerns of socially vulnerable populations. Or such solutions may serve only as symbolic and formal closures to disaster, ignoring the realities experienced by those affected.

Legal remedies may also be unclear, confusing, and contradictory. At times they may simply enforce legal and political rituals without providing an effective solution for disaster survivors. These issues will be discussed within the context of events such as the BP oil spill, the Haiti earthquake, and the Tohuku earthquake.

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Jennifer Tobin-Gurley, Colorado State University

Youth Creating Disaster Recovery

Youth Creating Disaster Recovery (YCDR) is an ongoing youth empowerment program currently located in disaster-affected communities in the United States and Canada. The goal of YCDR is to learn from and creatively engage disaster-affected youth about what has helped them to physically, emotionally, educationally, and socially recover in the aftermath of disaster. This Canadian-U.S. cross-border initiative is aimed at learning from and with youth ages 13-22 about their disaster experiences.

On May 16, 2011, one third of Slave Lake was destroyed by a wildfire. Less than a week later, on May 22, 2011, Joplin was devastated by a powerful EF-5 tornado. In 2013, our research team conducted workshops, focus groups, and interviews with youth in each of these communities. I will provide a brief overview of YCDR and highlight some of the outputs (photo-stories, videos, songs, poems, etc.) created by the youth participants. The early findings of this ongoing project are centered around four research questions: 1.What people and places helped youth to recover after disaster? 2. What activities/ actions were important to youth after disaster? 3. How did youth contribute to their own and to others’ recovery? 4. What delayed or hindered the recovery of youth and what could be done to overcome those barriers? This presentation will highlight the participatory methods that our research team is employing as well as the ongoing and expanding outreach that we are doing in other communities to engage and learn from children and youth about their recovery experiences.

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Courtney Welton-Mitchell, University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center
Leah James, University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center

Psychological, Social and Cultural Factors Influencing Engagement in Disaster Preparedness in Haiti, Nepal and Colorado

Research indicates that many people don’t engage in disaster preparedness or mitigation activities, even when they possess sufficient resources, receive preparedness training, and/or have a history of disaster exposure. For example, even after the establishment of effective evacuation procedures, many Haitians chose not to evacuate in advance of storms and flooding—despite having experienced devastating disaster impact in the recent past.

In light of this, and the increasing financial commitment of donor nations to disaster risk reduction worldwide, examination of factors potentially influencing engagement in disaster preparedness is crucial.

Our research indicates that factors such as specific mental health symptoms, expectations about social support, and religious beliefs appear to influence engagement in preparedness for internally displaced Haitians, landless communities living in flood-prone areas in Nepal, and survivors of the Colorado floods of 2013.

This research has implications for the design of effective disaster preparedness interventions. Based in part on the results of this data, a mental health integrated culturally adapted disaster prevention training has been designed and will be implemented and evaluated in Haiti and Nepal between 2014 and 2016.

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Guochun Wu, China Earthquake Administration

Community-based Disaster Management in China: An Analysis on a Status Survey

Since the 1990s, in order to improve China’s community-based disaster management capacity, model disaster reduction communities have been established by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and model earthquake reduction communities have been established by China Earthquake Administration.

This research is based on a 2013 survey of community-based disaster management in nine provinces. We found that more than 70 percent of communities established emergency response plans and 45.2 percent communities organized rescue drills. Nearly 60 percent of communities have volunteer teams.

It is a problem that though CBDM has become an component of the national strategy of disaster reduction, few communities have specialized budgets for CBDM. Resource mobilization is very important for community leaders.

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Rae Zimmerman, New York University

Diverging Recovery Rates of Physical and Social Systems Following Extreme Weather Disasters

The rate of recovery of physical systems in the built environment, such as infrastructures and their services, is usually used to measure post-disaster recovery capability. Common measures include service restoration time to pre-disaster levels, which only indirectly measures social recovery for people relying on the services.

The rate of recovery of social systems is often obscured by focusing only on physical system recovery. Understanding rates of change of both systems post-disaster is critical to targeting resilience policies and plans. This research compares recovery rates for physical and social systems following 2005, 2008, 2011, and 2012 hurricanes along the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast using statistical rates of change. The focus for physical systems is on electric power (customer services) and rail transit (ridership). Social system recovery focuses on jobs and housing.

Results show first that physical systems for electric power and rail transit and their services often recover relatively rapidly, but vary geographically and by population sector. This raises social equity issues. Recovery of initial services often obscures longer term service quality impairment.

Second, social systems often take longer to recover relative to physical systems though they depend on those systems for recovery. Ways of aligning both physical and social system recovery are developed involving comprehensive adaptation approaches that incorporate needs of both systems simultaneously.

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