HRRC Landmark Research Focus Areas

The Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center (HRRC) was established at Texas A&M University in 1988. The Center engages in research on sustainability, hazard mitigation, and disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. The faculty associated with the HRRC is highly interdisciplinary and includes the expertise of planning, engineering, geography, psychology, sociology, and public health. The Center collaborates with many other units across the University, including the Bush School of Government, Civil Engineering, Agricultural Economics, and TAMU-Galveston. These collaborations make it a key research hub where scholars synergize their skills to work on understanding how to reduce the adverse impacts of natural hazards. The Center has approximately $4.5 million of external funding in effect and is supporting approximately 20 students working on projects in one of the two research laboratories.

As a whole, the HRRC is focused on issues associated with planning and building resilient coastal communities, mitigating risk in vulnerable areas, and finding ways to ensure development occurs in the most sustainable, equitable, and safe manner as possible. Five core themes of research taking place in the Center are described below. For more information, please visit: http://hrrc.arch.tamu.edu

  • Natural Hazard Mitigation Planning and Recovery
    This research theme focuses on preparing for, responding to, and recovering from acute natural hazards events, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Faculty converging on this area is involved in a range of projects focused on how households and communities make adjustments in response to disasters in an effort to save property and human life. Sub-themes in this area include social vulnerability, hurricane recovery, household adjustments to earthquakes, disaster warning systems, and emergency healthcare response.

  • Environmental Sustainability and Planning
    This research theme focuses on interaction between physical development and maintaining the integrity of ecological systems over the long term. Given the increase of population in areas vulnerable to both acute and chronic natural hazards, understanding how to create sustainable and resilient communities has become a national priority. Research in this area takes place within the Environmental Planning and Sustainability Research Unit (EPSRU). Funding for the EPSRU comes from the National Science Foundation, Texas Sea Grant, NOAA, and the National Park Service. Faculty associated with this unit often combine geophysical, biological, and social science data to address multidisciplinary problems inherent in sustainable development. The outcome of this collaborative approach has produced award winning research from both faculty and students. Projects include, among others: wetland alteration and coastal watershed flooding; climate change planning; a Coastal Communities Planning Atlas for TX, and an early warning land use change system for Gulf Coast National Parks.
    For more information, visit: http://epsru.tamu.edu

  • Sustainable Housing
    Housing is the single largest land use in the world's urbanized areas, providing essential infrastructure for human activity. Globally, rapid urbanization in developing countries requires new solutions for shelter and protection. The distribution of housing in urban areas means that some households live in healthy communities full of opportunities, while others are trapped in concentrated poverty or exposed to hazardous conditions. Housing research within the Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center brings together the values of resilience and equity. Research addresses how households and communities both experience and respond to a host of threats, including patterns of social vulnerability (e.g., by race/ethnicity or income),differential access to resources both before and after disasters, and disparities in exposure to and impacts from threats. Center Fellow Shannon Van Zandt is the coordinator of the Center's Sustainable Housing Research Unit (co-housed in the Center for Housing & Urban Development) and a recognized authority on low-income homeownership. Her research within the Center examines how residential land use patterns expose low-income and minority populations to greater risks and fewer resources.She currently leads the Center's efforts to examine community resilience and recovery along the Texas coast following 2008's Hurricane Ike.

  • Sustainable Transportation
    The World Health Organization has identified traffic-related crashes as a leading cause of preventable death and injury. Traffic-related fatalities are already the sixth leading cause of preventable death in the United States, where roughly 40,000 fatal crashes and an additional 800,000 injuries occur each year. These numbers have remained relatively constant over the last decade, despite a public investment of over $1.5 trillion in transportation infrastructure.

    Traffic-related deaths and injuries are thus a major hazard emerging as a result of the design of the built environment, and one that an interdisciplinary approach to roadway and environmental design can address. The Hazards Reduction and Recovery Center's work in the arena of transportation synthesizes ongoing advancements in architecture, urban design, design engineering, and traffic psychology to develop a holistic, comprehensive approach to the reduction of traffic-related deaths and injuries. Under the leadership of Eric Dumbaugh, the HRRC offers a transportation planning certificate for graduate students. The Certificate, offered in partnership with the Texas A&M College of Architecture, the Texas Transportation Institute, the Department of Civil Engineering, and the Bush School of Government and Public Service, provides students with a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary education and transportation planning.

  • Disaster Planning for Health and Human Services
    A dual focus of disaster needs for health and human services as well as planning for health disasters is associated with classroom and community projects in addition to empirical research under the leadership of Dr. Sherry Bame. Research regarding unmet community needs during disasters is currently underway to identify types of health, social service and financial needs according to phase of hurricane disaster during Katrina-Rita, 2005. Other projects have investigated evacuation planning and needs of hospitals, nursing homes and hospice. Analysis of demand for 9-1-1 services during hurricane evacuation highlights the need for collaboration between police, fire and health service resources. However, not only are planning and resources needed for natural hazards, but also planning is needed for community public and private responses to health disasters such as epidemics (e.g., SARS and Avian Flu) and endemic health problems (e.g., AIDS and asthma).

    Another aspect of the health and human services area of interest within the Center is environmental health planning and policy, combining both effects of the natural and built environment on human health along with human impact on the "health" of the environment regarding ecology and sustainability. Low dose long term exposures or pollution are investigated along with the more acute and emergency conditions. These projects have been supported with funding and "in-kind" resources by local community and regional health care and social service organizations and by national funding organizations such as NIH and Dept. of Homeland Security. Collaboration among several professionals and faculty throughout Texas A&M and the State enhance the quality of student involvement and learning within this area of interest.