Final Project Reports

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    Floodplain Buyouts: Challenges, Practices, and Lessons Learned
    (2021-08) Siders, A.R.; Gerber-Chavez, Logan
    This report summarizes lessons learned by buyout administrators and practitioners and how they have overcome or reduced several common challenges, such as how to: (a) finance buyouts, (b) improve speed and efficiency, and (c) increase uptake of buyout offers among residents. Lessons are drawn from program evaluations, case studies, academic research, and interviews with program administrators. Throughout the report, we note concerns about equity and identify where actions taken by state or federal agencies could support local efforts. The report is far from a complete account of all significant findings in buyout policy research; rather, it represents a critical starting point for leaders seeking to guide future buyout programs toward more equitable and effective outcomes.
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    Local Wetlands and Watercourse Regulations, Potential Tools for Floodplain Management: Lessons from Three New York Towns
    (University of Delaware Disaster Research Center and The Nature Conservancy of New York, 2021-08) Siders, A.R.; Gerber-Chavez, Logan; Adams, S.; Richardson, D.; Reece, K.
    In a 2013 New York State survey, Riverkeeper, Inc. found that 78 municipalities had adopted wetland and watercourse regulations above and beyond those required by state law. As our analysis of Dutchess, Ulster, and Westchester counties illustrates, however, these regulations are not evenly distributed or necessarily adopted in areas of highest flood risk. We find that 78% of Westchester County municipalities have adopted wetland and watercourse regulations, while only 54% of Dutchess County municipalities have done so, and just 28% in Ulster County. Widespread adoption of wetland and watercourse regulations could significantly increase the ability of municipalities to govern their floodplains. To understand why some towns have adopted these regulations, and how they overcame the challenges inherent in adopting new local laws, we interviewed practitioners in three towns that have successfully adopted local wetland and watercourse regulations: East Fishkill, Dutchess County; New Paltz, Ulster County; and New Castle, Westchester County.
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    (2021) Slotter, Rachel; Trainor, Joseph; Nibbs, Farrah; Davidson, Rachel
    This report summarizes the insights developed during a stakeholder engagement meeting held on September 15th, 2019, as part of a National Science Foundation-funded project. The broader effort focused on providing a scientific framework for evaluating the risks of hurricanes to residential communities and public policies to manage them. One of the primary objectives is to develop a tool that directly supports the management of natural disaster risk and promises long-term societal benefits through improved quality of life and economic competitiveness; we envisioned this meeting as a way to better understanding how practitioners think about mitigation and insurance incentives and options. As a result, representatives from the home building and insurance industries, relevant government agencies, and academia were invited by our team to discuss mitigation and ensure our work aligned with practical needs.
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    Workshop on Deploying Post-disaster Quick-response Reconnaissance Teams: Methods, Strategies, and Needs
    (Disaster Research Center, 2015) Kendra, James; Gregory, Sarah;
    The National Science Foundation funded the University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center to convene a workshop in June, 2012 on quick-response disaster research, with the purpose of probing the state-of-the-art and to provide recommendations to NSF on the administration of the RAPID grant program--a principal source of funding for quick response reconnaissance deployments. This workshop brought together experts in this particular research genre to share methods and best practices in order to improve the science and art craft of quick response research, and to bolster methods for conducting quick-response post-disaster reconnaissance studies.
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    Community Disaster Management Resources: A Case Study of the Farm Community in Sussex County, Delaware
    (Disaster Research Center, 2012-06) Rademacher, Yvonne
    While the expansion of government institutions and programs over the past fifty years has resulted in government taking primary responsibility for emergency management, there is a growing recognition that government cannot do it all alone. This has, among others, led to a quest for a better understanding of societal capital that makes contributions to disaster management, such as the private sector, partnerships with volunteer organizations but also local communities and individual citizens themselves, as is currently pursued through the FEMA’s Ready campaign and Whole Community approach. However, before devising strategies of how to better engage and support communities in disaster management as active participants, the nature of their disaster management resources needs to be better understood. Therefore, this case study examined the disaster management assets of one community group, namely the farming community in Sussex County, Delaware, and the process of how the resources of this particular group have contributed to local disaster management. The conceptual framework for this study was based on the concept of community assets that currently recognizes eight types of community capital and comprises of “active”, “inactive”, “positive” and “”negative” resources – and in conjunction with a simplified classification of the eight categories of Resource Inventory Management for Rural Communities, as defined by the National Incident Management System (NIMS). The study found that there was a striking discrepancy between actually used and perceived community resources. Out of the four broad categories – coordination, assessment, communication, implementation – used to capture the main functional areas, the survey found congruence of perceived and actually used resources in communication and assessment. However, they diverged for implementation and coordination. Farm community resources were primarily used for implementation activities during disaster preparedness. Moreover, the types of resources used by the farm community crystallized into three broad categories: (1) equipment/supplies; (2) experience/lessons learnt; and (3) access to other community and professional networks. While there was an overlap with the NIMS categories of rural community emergency management resources, they did not facilitate an overview and understanding of all of the actual and potential resources of that particular community group. Conceptually, the findings highlight the use of four community capitals – i.e. physical, human, financial and social – as well as the existence of both active and inactive as well as negative and positive resources. Policy recommendations propose, among others, resource mapping strategies to uncover both active and inactive resources, the use of existing communication channels and community networks to reinforce, in particular, mitigation messages and information, as well as a re-conceptualizing of the NIMS categories to allow for the identification of all relevant local community resources.
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    San Bruno California, September 9, 2010 Gas Pipeline Explosion and Fire
    (Disaster Research Center, 2012) Davidson, Rachel A.; Kendra, James; Li, Sizheng; Long, Laurie C.; McEntire, David A.; Scawthorn, Charles; Kelly, Joshua
    On September 9, 2010 a buried high pressure 30-inch steel natural gas pipeline exploded in a residential neighborhood in the City of San Bruno, California, a suburb of San Francisco. The explosion and ensuing fire killed 8 and injured 58, and destroyed 38 and damaged 70 homes. During the first 50 hours following the incident, over 500 firefighters and 90 apparatus responded, involving 42 fire agencies. The total cost of the disaster is estimated to be approximately $1.6 billion. Local and regional jurisdictions have been engaged in extensive and sophisticated recovery and reconstruction operations, which continue as of this writing. This report, funded by the National Science Foundation under a RAPID grant, is based on site visits, interviews, and secondary data collection, and addresses emergency response and recovery from two perspectivesengineering and social science. Causes of the explosion were examined by the National Transportation Safety Board and are not considered in detail. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with public officials of the principal fire and emergency services and with representatives of non-profit organizations active in the area. Team members made several site visits from immediately after the event in September 2010 to February 2011. Key findings and research issues identified include the following. First, there are difficult theoretical and practical questions about the ability of infrastructure organizations to maintain their attention on their own operations over long periods, resulting in degrading safety and reliability. Second, there are similarities between this isolated event and what may occur in a major earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area. This event was well responded to; in a major earthquake, similar resources are likely to be unavailable, potentially leading to significant secondary (i.e., fire following earthquake) losses. Third, three current engineering risk methods for estimation of safety zones around gas transmission lines were examined and generally validated vis-à-vis data from the incident. Fourth, detailed timelines and actions by emergency responders and recovery officials are recorded, providing a basis for future research on issues of expedient or spontaneous planning in emergencies. Fifth, a georeferenced database of almost 300 photographs of damage resulting from the incident is appended to the report, for use by researchers in examining fire spread and other issues.
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    Chile vs. Haiti: How Did the Media Frame the Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile?
    (2010) Svitak, Tyler
    This research compares how the media framed the recent earthquakes Chile and Haiti. There has been extensive research on the topic of media framing in disaster literature, and much of the research has concluded that the media inaccurately frames disasters to focus more on human loss and destruction than actually occurs. Previous research has also concluded that the media shapes their audience’s conclusions about an event based on their coverage. That is why this research conducted a content analysis of the New York Times articles following both events, and from that analysis came a better understanding of how the earthquakes were covered by the media. There was a significant contrast in the coverage of each earthquakeHaiti was framed as hell on earth through descriptions of unorganized chaos and death, whereas Chile was framed in a way that illustrated an inefficient, slow but organized response following the earthquake. Considering both events were so recent, little research has been done to analyze how the media framed them, and therefore this research will greatly contribute to our understanding of the viewpoints the media presented to its audience.
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    The Shake Felt Round the World: An Examination of Framing of Social Inequality in Local Media in the Wake of the Earthquake in Haiti
    (2010) Wynn, Colleen
    This paper examines framing in two localized media sources in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to observe any potential differences in the presentation of social inequality and poverty. Much of the previous literature on media framing and disasters has indicated that media plays an important role in public perception of events. This paper uses the method of content analysis to discover if the phenomenon of framing differed in local media sources serving the Haitian-American and English speaking Dominican Republic communities. This will make significant contributions to our understanding of the role of the media in reporting on disasters through an analysis of sources providing news to peripheral populations. Most media studies focus on media from wealthy core nations regardless of where the disaster occurred. Offering a localized perspective will allow for a greater understanding of media framing by those having a greater familiarity with the impacted community. This study finds that there are differences in how an event is framed based on what a news source’s readership finds interesting.
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    Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels: A Geographic Information Systems Analysis of the Potential Impact on Railroad Corridors in New Castle County Delaware
    (2009-08-07) Malkin, Chance
    In the past century continued investment in infrastructure along the east coast of the United States has supported economic growth and development; unfortunately this investment also comes with a certain degree of vulnerability. The advanced infrastructure along the east coast combined with the impending threat of climate change and rising sea levels has led many people to prepare for the potential impacts. The resiliency of railroad corridors along the east coast has its limitations, one of which is its resistance to floods. The spatial representation and analysis capabilities of computer based geographical information systems (GIS) are used to develop a comprehensive visual illustration of the impact areas in which rail road corridors in New Castle County, Delaware are in danger of being either flooded or perhaps destroyed. The goal of this research is to possibly affect some policies involving raising the elevations of rail beds or even relocating the tracks to less flood prone locations. Moreover, the goal is to help prevent damage of the nation’s infrastructure along the east coast. Based on this research, there are many possible areas of impact of sea level rise for the railroad lines in New Castle County, Delaware. More specifically, the Port of Wilmington is the most likely to be affected. However, the railroad data used assumes the rail lines are on the same elevation as the ground surface in all regions of the county. Since this is not true, further research is needed using more accurate railroad elevation data.
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    Landslide Hazard Mapping of Earthquake Prone Transportation Areas - Case Study: Oat Mountain Area along Route 5 in the State of California
    (2009-08-07) Lobo, Lauren
    The potential hazard caused by earthquake-triggered landslides is a great threat to the infrastructure of certain areas. These disasters cause million of dollars in damage each year and on average caused somewhere between twenty-five to fifty deaths each year according to USGS. In order to help prevent this from happening, or to help ensure that these areas are better protected, a type of landslide hazard mapping system needs to be developed. This project is designed to evaluate different areas to try and to determine the associated landslide displacement that given earthquake events would cause. By using a combination of GIS and displacement–based dynamic analysis, these areas can be located, assessed, and represented using a series of maps. These maps will depict the different potential threat levels and ultimately show potential earthquake-induced displacements that would occur in the Oat Mountain area along route 5 in California for a single earthquake event. The process will then hopefully be applied to a larger area, and then used to eventually encompass the most of the west coast. This framework can then be later extrapolated to look at the risk posed by different earthquakes over a larger region using a probabilistic approach to hazard analysis.
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    Delaware Emergency Evacuation for the Salem / Hope Creek Nuclear Power Generators
    (2008-08-08) Mitchell III, Charles W.
    This report and research is an assessment of the Delaware Emergency Evacuation Plans for a radiological emergency at the Salem/Hope Creek Nuclear Power Generators in Salem, NJ. In making this assessment information is drawn from engineering as well as social science literature and the primary past nuclear emergency in the United States, Three Mile Island. The engineering research takes a look at revisions to ideas about road capacities, affects of weather on an evacuation and new methods for viewing evacuation as a process rather than list of steps, including measures of effectiveness. The Social Science literature further develops the engineering principles and is included to better understand how evacuees will respond in an emergency. This includes how the warning message will be created, understood and understanding how evacuees will choose to take protective action. This knowledge is then used to assess the current plans for the State of Delaware and make recommendations for future improvements. The information is also applied to evacuation of Delaware City, Delaware in a rough estimate of the effects of evacuation. The end result of this research is recommendations to improve methods and practices for future evacuations.
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    Hurricane Evacuation in Delaware
    (2008) Dalton, Sarah
    This paper discusses the plan outlined for an evacuation in Delaware due to a hurricane. The paper draws on the plans, research, and lessons learned from hurricane prone states and those states less likely to experience a hurricane. It also discusses the engineering and sociological issues associated with an evacuation. It culminates with the gaps between Delaware’s plans and the aforementioned research.
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    Disaster Resistant Communities Initiative: Assessment Of The Pilot Phase - Year 3
    (2002) Wachtendorf, Tricia; Connell, Rory; Tierney, Kathleen J.; Kompanik, Kristy
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    Disaster Resistant Communities Initiative: Assessment Of Ten Non-Pilot Communities
    (2002) Wachtendorf, Tricia; Connell, Rory; Monahan, Brian; Tierney, Kathleen J.