Michael J. Zakour, PhD, Associate Professor & Director of the NOVA Institute and David F. Gillespie, PhD, Professor
Friday, January 16, 2009: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
Regent (New Orleans Marriott)
This workshop will focus on research for testing theories of community vulnerability and resiliency in disaster. Vulnerability and resiliency will be conceptually and operationally defined. Cutting-edge research on disaster vulnerability and resilience will be presented, and the primary design, measurement, and analysis techniques will be identified and described. Vulnerability theory examines the social and physical environment of populations and communities to assess environmental liabilities and capabilities, the negative and positive aspects of the environment. Environmental liabilities include widespread poverty and low levels of social development, while environmental capabilities include a coordinated disaster-relevant interorganizational network, and institutions which promote the well-being of disadvantaged populations. Environmental liabilities and capabilities affect the levels of community disaster susceptibility and resilience. Disasters are the disruption of the social, economic, and environmental conditions necessary for survival, health, and well-being. A disaster occurs when a vulnerable community experiences both (a) unsafe conditions, such as location in a dangerous place; and (b) a physical hazard, such as a hurricane or chemical spill (Wisner et al., 2004). One recent stream of disaster research on resilience focuses on understanding social networks and social support. This research uses cross-sectional designs and questionnaire and interview measurement instruments to assess the networks of individuals, organizations, and levels of government. Network analysis is prominent in this type of disaster research on vulnerability. Social capital research methods are used to understand the distribution of disaster-relevant resources, as well as the ability of individuals, populations, and communities to access and mobilize resources to build disaster resiliency. Regression analysis for understanding the impact of variables at one level of analysis on variables at another level is presented. These regression methods are multilevel analyses integrating nested data into a single statistical model (Wellman & Frank, 2001). A second important stream of disaster research on vulnerability and resilience involves mapping the geographic distribution of vulnerability. This approach uses geographic information systems to examine aggregate social and demographic characteristics of geographic locations and communities to estimate vulnerability, susceptibility, and resilience in local areas. Through a time-series of social, demographic, and environmental data, dynamic pressures which are increasing or reducing the vulnerability of local areas can be identified and understood (Cutter, 2006). A final important type of disaster vulnerability research uses theoretical models and systems dynamics modeling. This approach seeks to deepen understanding of the way that environmental liabilities and capabilities, as well as dynamic pressures, affect levels of community susceptibility and resilience over time. These modeling techniques have a great potential for understanding how community resilience can be increased to prevent disasters, as well as how resilience can be increased, rather than attenuated, after a disaster occurs (the “Phoenix effect”). These models have a strong potential to produce new social work interventions to reduce disaster vulnerability, and to increase the long-term resilience and sustainability of communities. This workshop will educate participants through short lectures, graphical displays of research designs and methodology, examples of computer-based vulnerability research and analysis, and through handouts containing annotated bibliographies on vulnerability research and methods.