In the face of a changing climate, natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires are anticipated to increase. Consequently, we need to have better understanding of how communities can respond to and better prepare for disasters. Our research project, “Network Capacity and Disaster Resilience in Local Communities” focuses on how the many different types of agencies, organizations, and groups involved in a disaster work together before and during the event to create better responses. This project is unique in two ways. First, we seek to test whether concepts like attachment to community, familiarity with others, and leadership are connected to better disaster management. Second, we will measure these concepts in communities ahead of the disaster to see if they matter when the actual disaster happens. Wildfires, because they are one of the most commonly occurring natural disasters in the United States, are the events we have chosen to study for this research project.
The results from our research will lead to better disaster management, including how the many agencies, organizations, and groups involved in disaster preparedness and response might organize themselves into more disaster resilient communities. These lessons for better disaster management will be communicated directly to our partner agencies and organizations like U.S Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management, National Incident Management Organization and various state and local wildfire response organizations as we complete our research. We will also share this work more broadly with the interested public, as well as professional and academic audiences. As we conduct our research, we will provide opportunities for students to train with us, as well as expand research partnerships with leaders in key agencies interested in disaster scholarship.