natural disasters

New National Academies Guidance Offers Resources for Serving Homeless Communities During Disasters and COVID-19

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has published new guidance on Addressing Disaster Vulnerability Among Homeless Populations During COVID-19. The guidance is intended to help policymakers support homeless populations before, during, and after a disaster in the context of COVID-19. According to the guidance, “Understanding the unique challenges of disaster preparedness among homeless communities and the strain on support services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is critical for effectively planning for and carrying out emergency services and sheltering for homeless populations in the context of COVID-19 and disasters.” The…

New Guidance Advises Communities on Planning for Natural Disasters During COVID-19

The Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN), a project of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), has released a new set of guidance on Emergency Evacuation and Sheltering During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which details how findings from existing research on evacuation behavior, social responses to disaster, and risk communication can be applied to emergency management in the era of COVID-19. The guidance identifies strategies for updating evacuation plans, sheltering operations, and risk communication practices in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The full guidance is available on the National Academies website.

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Research Needs for Coping with Compound Crises

On September 30, the Environment Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on “Coping with Compound Crises: Extreme Weather, Social Injustice, and a Global Pandemic.” The hearing featured the testimony of Dr. Roxane Cohen Silver, Professor of Psychological Science, Medicine, and Public Health, University of California, Irvine; and Dr. Samantha Montano, Assistant Professor of Emergency Management, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, each who spoke about the need for rapid federal research funding to support social research in the immediate aftermath of disasters and other crises. Members of the committee from both sides of the aisle, including Environment…

National Academies Releases Consensus Study on Assessing Morbidity and Mortality After Disasters

The National Academies has published a new consensus study report: A Framework for Assessing Mortality and Morbidity after Large-Scale Disasters. The Congressionally-mandated study was sponsored by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and was intended to identify ways to better understand the scope of death and injury caused by large-scale disasters (both natural and human-caused). Among the report’s recommendations are adopting a uniform framework across federal agencies for data collection and adopting methods that distinguish direct and indirect deaths resulting from disasters. While the study commenced prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 provided a case study illustrating the needs described in the…

National Academies Holds Webinar on COVID-19 and Extreme Environmental Events

The National Academies Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Board on Environmental Change and Society and Resilient America Roundtable convened a webinar on May 13 to discuss the social science aspects of potential emergencies that compound the current COVID-19 crisis with environmental hazards, such as fires, hurricanes, flooding, and heatwaves. The event featured experts from federal government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as universities, and nonprofit and community organizations. Panelists discussed the challenges of responding to emergencies and natural disasters amidst a pandemic and the need for social…

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Responding to Extreme Weather Events, Highlights Social & Behavioral Science Solutions

On September 26, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SST) held a hearing on understanding, forecasting, and communicating about extreme weather and other events related to climate change. Witnesses included J. Marshall Shepard, Director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program in the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia; James Done, Project Scientist and Willis Research Fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research; Adam Sobel, Professor of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Director and Chief Scientist of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate at Columbia University; Berrien Moore, Director of the National Weather Center at the…

Disaster Researchers Brandi Gilbert and Nnenia Campbell Answer “Why Social Science?”

The latest Why Social Science? guest post comes from Brandi Gilbert of the Urban Institute and Nnenia Campbell of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who write about what social science research related to children and older adults has taught us about building community resilience and enhancing recovery after disasters. Read it here and subscribe. Back to this issue’s table of contents.

NIH Studying Impacts of Recent Hurricanes on Health Risks and Resilience

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced eight awards that will support researchers examining the health impacts of hurricanes Maria and Irma on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2017. The grants, which are funded through the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), will focus on the impacts of psychosocial stressors related to the recent hurricanes, “such as grief, separation from home and loved ones, loss of income, and limited access to medical care.” More information and a full list of the grantees are available on the NIH website. Back to this issue’s table…

NSF Releases Video on Social Science Research’s Importance to Disaster Preparedness

The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a video on September 15 highlighting the contributions of the social sciences in disaster preparedness and response. The video explains that together with improvements in the science of forecasting, social science has helped more effectively communicate the potential risk of natural disasters and more effectively respond after disasters hit. The video is among a suite of new resource posted to the NSF website highlighting the many contributions of basic science to everyday life. Back to this issue’s table of contents.

NSF Releases Dear Colleague Letter on Proposals Related to Hurricane Harvey

The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague letter on September 1 encouraging submissions of proposals that seek to address challenges related to Hurricane Harvey. This includes proposals that address how to better prepare for storms, the human aspects of natural disasters, improving emergency response, and ways to reduce future damage. Proposals may be submitted as rapid response research grants, early-concept grants, or supplemental funding to existing grants. More information can be found here. Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Gilbert White Lecture Focuses on Reducing Losses from Natural Hazards

The National Academies’ Board on Earth Sciences and Resources held its annual Gilbert F. White Lecture in the Geographical Sciences on December 4. Susan Cutter, Distinguished Carolina Professor at the University of South Carolina (and a past president of COSSA), delivered the lecture, which focused on “Why More Knowledge Is Not Reducing Natural Hazard Losses.” She explained that despite huge increases in our knowledge of the physical processes and social forces that interact during natural disasters, losses from such events have only grown.


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