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.

Risk and Stigma in Ebola Crisis Managament

“Risk and Stigma in Ebola Crisis Management”
UD Investigators: James Kendra, Tricia Wachtendorf
NYC DOHMH Investigators: Jeffery Escoffier, Sarah Sisco

DRC, in partnership with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will conduct research on the management of the Ebola crisis in NYC earlier this year. Public anxiety about Ebola—one with a high case fatality rate in the non-US affected countries has intersected with lingering ambiguities about modes of transmission to create substantial leadership challenges for officials. They must simultaneously communicate what is known and unknown about the disease; navigate uncertainties in the medical science underlying knowledge of risk; run a slalom of conflicting imperatives across all jurisdictional levels; and defuse the stigma that might attach to people, places, and objects arising from a sense that they are polluted and contagious. This study focuses on the generation of stigma in epidemic (or epidemic threatened) environments. In particular, we explore who is involved in the generation of stigma labels, why they emerge, the consequences they generate, and how various stakeholders promote, resist, or contend with those labels. Stakeholders examined here include those people or social groups to whom the labels are ascribed as well as public and health officials who have an opportunity to play leadership roles throughout the unfolding event. The present project seeks to learn how public officials, in an environment of scientific uncertainty and multijurisdictional conflict and contradiction, can counter stigmatization and mitigate the creation of risk.

Community Resilience Index

“Community Resilience Index – Promoting Community Resilience in New York City After Hurricane Sandy: A Model-based Approach”
UD Investigators: James Kendra, Joanne Nigg, Joseph Trainor, Benigno Aguirre
Funding Institution: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Additional Projects...

“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