The Disaster Research Center

Active Studies

In developing and conducting research projects DRC hopes to: act as the catalyst for; provide administrative support for; and serve as the intellectual home for interdisciplinary disaster related research. By leveraging the interests and capacities of the many disciplines on campus; balancing quantitative and qualitative approaches to research; demonstrating systems-level thinking; and nurturing a culture that values the integration of disciplinary insights we hope to become one of the key homes for innovative interdisciplinary thinking.

Information Chain Support

“Information Chain Support for Disaster Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery”
Principal Investigator: Hui Fang
Co-Principal Investigators: Xiaoming Li, Pat Young, and James Kendra
Funding Institution: National Science Foundation

This collaborative project brings together researchers from both DRC and the University of Delaware’s Computer and Information Sciences Department to develop a new search tool to mine large data sets more efficiently and effectively. Using DISCAT (DRC’s E.L. Quarantelli Resource Collection catalog database) as a test bed, researchers will create a new way to search for relevant resources utilizing multiple query terms simultaneously, thus yielding more useful results. The goal is to enable first responders and others in need of immediate results from information mining to receive more relevant resources as quickly as possible.

Towards a Unified Military Response

“Towards a Unified Military Response: Hurricane Sandy and the Dual Status Commander ”
Principal Investigator: Sue McNeil
Co-Principal Investigator: Ryan Burke
Funding Institution: Department of Defense

The 2013-2014 Army War College Key Strategic Issues List stated: “If Hurricane Sandy is seen as an archetype of a complex catastrophe, then a careful analysis of the effectiveness of the DoD response within the context of dual status commanders, lead federal agencies, and state response capabilities needs to be conducted.” This study does exactly that as it carefully and comprehensively analyzes the dual status commander-led military response to Hurricane Sandy in New York. Through this lens, the study illustrates and discusses the perspectives of the dual status commander construct and offers recommendations for leveraging existing capabilities and improving those deemed insufficient. Using a case study approach, this analysis addresses notable issues of constitutionality, legality, policy, financial considerations, and even politics, all uniquely situated between individual states’ interests and those of the federal government. To provide military and defense officials with a greater understanding of the benefits and limitations of the dual status commander arrangement during a no-notice/limited-notice incident, this study offers objective and systematic documentation of the Sandy response. It concludes by offering a series of recommendations aimed at improving operational decision making, policy, and legislation specifically related to dual status commanders during no-notice/limited-notice incidents.

Estimate Demand to Support Asset Management Decision Making

“Using information at different spatial scales to estimate demand to support asset management decision making” Principal Investigator: Sue McNeil
Co-Principal Investigator: Joe Trainor
Funding Institution: Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation

The focus of this project is to understand how diverse, large data sets support asset management decision-making post disaster. In particular, the focus is on integrating sensor, survey, demographic, vulnerability and condition data related to the supporting infrastructure, the community, and households.

Relationship Between Household Decisions and Infrastructure Investment in Disaster Recovery

“Understanding the Relationship Between Household Decisions and Infrastructure Investment in Disaster Recovery: Cases from Superstorm Sandy”
Principal Investigator: Sue McNeil
Co-Principal Investigator: Joe Trainor
Funding Institution: Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation

Hurricanes, storms and floods damage roads, bridges, transit lines and other elements of our transportation infrastructure. Restoring the transportation infrastructure is widely recognized as an important element of short-term recovery as the reconstruction of the built environment and the other elements of the long term recovery are dependent on a functional transportation system. However, in the long term, changes in development and settlement patterns occur and additional or different investments in transportation infrastructure are required to deliver safe and efficient transportation. We know very little about how, where, when and why these changes occur. This exploratory research project aims to better understand the role transportation infrastructure plays in the disaster recovery process. By documenting transportation infrastructure damage and repair, conducting interviews to understand community and household attitudes, and researching incentives and resources related to household decisions regarding relocation and rebuilding in two communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy we will better understand how to provide transportation infrastructure recovery activity that meets the needs of communities impacted by disaster.

Maturing Defense Support of Civil Authorities and the Dual Status Commander

“Maturing Defense Support of Civil Authorities and the Dual Status Commander through the Lens of Process Improvement ” Principal Investigator: Sue McNeil
Co-Principal Investigator: Ryan Burke
Funding Institution: Department of Defense

The dual status commander initiative offers a coordination mechanism intended to address the challenges of unity of effort between state and federal military disaster response efforts. However, there are numerous gaps in the available dual status commander guidance, which leads to increased complexity and confusion during domestic disaster response. This DoD-funded project introduces process improvement strategies focusing on the dual status commander construct in New York during Hurricane Sandy. The research assesses the application and utility of process improvement and presents examples of how such methods can be used to improve domestic military civil support missions. The project concludes with a brief description of three conceptual process models mapped to specific challenges of a dual status commander-led joint task force. These process models identify essential tasks and key requirements specific to a key process during a dual status commander operation. In doing so, the models provide examples of alternative methods to guide the progression of operational maturity during domestic disaster response. As such, organizations such as U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), U.S. Army North (ARNORTH), and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) can consider integrating process improvement concepts and techniques into future dual status commander doctrine, policies, and guidance. Using the concepts presented here as a method for improvement will provide a practical tool for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of this critical coordination mechanism well into the future.

Natural, Human, and Infrastructure Systems for Hurricane Evacuation and Sheltering

“Hazards SEES Type 2: Dynamic Integration of Natural, Human, and Infrastructure Systems for Hurricane Evacuation and Sheltering”
Principal Investigator: Rachel Davidson  Co-Principal Investigator: Tricia Wachtendorf
Additional Investigators: Brian Blanton, Brian Colle, Randall Kolar, Linda Nozick
Additional Researchers: Sarah DeYoung, Sarah Doggett, Kendra Dresback, Ashley Farmer, Hasan Manzour, Kun Yang
Funding Institution: National Science Foundation

This project is being investigated by an interdisciplinary team of researchers to understand and enhance the ways that dynamic aspects of hurricanes affects resident and officials’ decision making for evacuation and sheltering. The three major elements of the research project are meteorology and hydrology, engineering and transportation research, and social and behavioral research on decision-making. Integrating these three elements, the researchers will create an optimal model of evacuation the reflects 1) how weather and water conditions change over time 2) how traffic patterns change over time 3) how people make decisions over time based on the aforementioned elements and information gathered about these changes. Data will be used from historical storm data, probability modeling, and qualitative data on decision making about storms that occur in hurricane seasons within the period of the grant. Furthermore, collaboration with emergency managers and other officials at the federal and state level will take place at all phases of research to ensure problem identification and information diffusion regarding findings.

Modeling Stakeholder Decision Making

“Collaborative Research: an Interdisciplinary Approach to Modeling Multiple Stakeholder Decision Making to Reduce Regional Natural Disaster Risk”
Co-Principal Investigators: Rachel Davidson and Joe Trainor
Funding Institution: National Science Foundation

The project will result in a new framework of interacting mathematical models that can be used to better understand, design, and evaluate government natural disaster risk management policies, such as providing funds to help homeowners strengthen their homes, requiring homeowners to buy natural disaster insurance, or offering to buy high-risk homes. By supporting improved design and evaluation of public policies, the project will help the country better manage its risk. By considering the individual, sometimes competing stakeholder points-of-view up front, as an integral part of the analysis, the new framework will make it easier to identify those win-win system-wide solutions that are most likely to be put into action and to be effective. The framework is designed to be consistent with the “whole community” approach promoted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which encourages involving all parts of the community in helping to address the challenge. Engaging representatives of the relevant government agencies, and insurance and home building industries as partners at the beginning of the project will help ensure that the research offers usable results that can be put into practice as quickly and effectively as possible. Graduate and undergraduate research assistants, including women and underrepresented minorities, will participate in the research, and the researchers will incorporate the results into their courses and new Ph.D. programs at their universities.

Community Resilience Index

“Community Resilience Index” 
Principal Investigator: James Kendra
Funding Institution: Johns Hopkins University

This research will advance understanding of a community’s survivability. In cooperation with colleagues at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, we will consider community resilience in light of both the current literature on the topic as well as taking a fresh look at elements of resilience based on DRC’s field research and on advanced modeling techniques.

Issues in Disaster Science and Management

“FEMA/Issues in Disaster Science and Management
Principal Investigator: Joe Trainor and Tony Subbio, Tetra Tech
Funding Institution: EnDyna, Inc. and the Federal Emergency Management Agency

This project will help bridge the divide between disaster science and practice. Our approach focuses the attention of academic/practitioner teams on a series of critical contemporary issues related to disasters. For each issue, academics and practitioners will be selected to describe what we “know.” Researchers will be asked to focus on the scientific findings and practitioners will be asked to discuss patterns and variation in national policies/state of practice. The focus of the project will be on facilitating an exchange of ideas between these communities and developing a vision for how their important insights could be brought together to make the U.S. emergency management system better. Ultimately this work will result in a textbook for advanced undergraduate and introductory graduate level courses.

Additional Projects...

“Promoting Community Resilience in New York City After Hurricane Sandy: A Model-based Approach”
Principal Investigator: James Kendra
Funding Institution: Department of Health and Human Services

“Hazards SEES Type 2: Next Generation Resilient Warning Systems for Tornado and Flash Floods”
Principal Investigator: Joe Trainor
Funding Institution: University of Massachusetts

“Evolution of Culture among Warning System Organizations”
Principal Investigator: Joe Trainor
Funding Institution: National Science Foundation

“Collaborative CDI Type II: Cyber Enabled Discovery System for Advanced Multidisciplinary Study of Humanitarian Logistics for Disaster Response”
Principal Investigator: Tricia Wachtendorf
Funding Institution: National Science Foundation