Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center

The Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, a unit of the Environment and Behavior Program, serves as a national clearinghouse for research dealing with societal factors that influence mitigation behavior in order to reduce future disaster losses. The Center focuses on the economic loss, human suffering, and social disruption caused by earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and other related and technological disasters. More importantly, however, the Center continually explores the links between sustainable development and hazard mitigation. As such, for nearly a quarter century, the Center has been on the cutting edge in this field and has strongly influenced hazards research and the direction of local, state, federal, nongovernmental, and private sector natural hazards activities in the U.S. and internationally (Pictured: Center Director Dennis S. Mileti, standing at right, with staff and students).

The Center carries out its work in several ways. Information dissemination activities include production of the bimonthly newsletter, the Natural Hazards Observer, which reaches over 15,000 subscribers. The Center also issues a bi-weekly electronic newsletter, Disaster Research, which serves as a forum for the hazards research and practitioner communities to discuss issues of common interest. The Center's web page ( has been cited as the "best all hazards" web site in the nation. One of its most useful features is the Center's library data base which catalogues the Center's holdings-perhaps the largest collection of social science literature on natural disasters in the U.S. Each July, the Center hosts a national, invitational workshop for 300+ of the nation's leading hazards researchers and practitioners which serves to reinforce and expand communication between these two groups. The Center's Quick Response grant program-the nation's only vehicle to fund social science research in the immediate aftermath of disasters-enables scholars from across the U.S. to go quickly to impacted sites and gather perishable data and document lessons learned.

The Center's research program recently completed a five-year long project to conduct a national assessment of knowledge, applications, and research needs pertaining to natural and related technological hazards. Its major finding, summarized in Disasters by Design: A Reassessment of Natural Hazards in the United States (Dennis S. Mileti, 1999)[see Figure from book], calls for a change in national culture in regard to the way society relates to the hazardous environment it occupies. The volume is being used as justification for shaping national policies and research agendas. Other recent research carried out by the Center includes an analysis of the effect of recovery assistance on the long-term flood resiliency of a river basin, a review of the feasibility of providing teams of recovery experts to disaster-impacted communities, an in-depth analysis of women's experiences in a natural disaster, and a cross-cultural case study of three communities, each of which hoped to become a "sustainable community" in the wake of a natural disaster.

The Center is funded by a consortium of federal agencies (ranging from 6 to 10 in any given year); the National Science Foundation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are the two most generous supporters of the Center. The private sector (primarily the insurance industry) also supports the Center.