Dr. Chih-Hui Lai (and co-PIs Robert Schwartz & Terrence O’Sullivan from the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security Department) received news that they are the recipient of a National Science Foundation $25,000 RAPID Program Grant.
They will investigate emergent citizen groups that evolved after Hurricane Sandy in New York City and New Jersey. They will study informally organized citizen groups that provide aid and disaster assistance before the traditional established organizations arrive and help survivors. In the past, many of these emergent groups were mobilized by more traditional means of communication such as in-person, or by land-line telephones. However, many communicate by cellular telephones, smartphones, texting, and social networking websites such as Facebook or Twitter. This study will examine the mutual aid and disaster relief by these new emergent groups.
This is the first NSF Grant to be awarded to a faculty member in the in the School of Communication. This is wonderful news and evidence of the cross-disciplinary efforts of Dr. Lai. Although she has only been at the University since August, she is sure making her presence known.
Congratulations Dr. Lai!
For your information, below is an abstract of the grant proposal.
Title: Hurricane Sandy: Short-Term Emergent Citizen-Based Groups and Aid Mobilization
Abstract: This grant for RAPID research will investigate emergent citizen groups that evolved after the landfall of Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012 in the coastal areas of New York City and New Jersey. Sandy has been called a superstorm by many in the media and may be the second most expensive weather related hazard in the United States following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It is very common for citizens and survivors to be the initial responders to a disaster before the established organizations such as local emergency management personnel, FEMA, and the American Red Cross can aid affected communities. Following the model of disaster-related organizations describing task and structure from the Disaster Research Center, these informally organized emergent citizen groups provide aid and disaster assistance before the traditional established organizations could arrive and help survivors. In the past, many of these emergent groups were mobilized by more traditional means of communication such as in-person or by land-line telephones. However, many communicate by cellular telephones, smartphones, texting, and social networking websites such as Facebook or Twitter. This study will examine the mutual aid and disaster relief by these new emergent groups along with their collaboration with extending and established groups such as faith-based organizations and the American Red Cross. The research will (1) identify these emergent groups (2) study their communication methods and collaboration with other agencies, and (3) describe the type of aid distributed, and the roles of these groups in disaster response. Two primary methods will be utilized with the first being field research with interviews of group coordinators and other volunteers. Second, communications such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other online forums will be retrospectively analyzed for content. The expected results of this study could help establish how new emergent groups aided with new communication technology can enhance community response and recovery which could lead to more resilience for future events.
Results of this research could be used by established organizations and communities for future disasters to get aid to survivors in a timely manner. It is important that community members be involved in both preparedness and response to help make a quicker recovery for the citizens. This can involve having the various organizations participating in disaster planning. In addition, this project can add to the field of disaster research for both theory and applications by investigating traditional means of response supplemented with new communication technologies.