Prisons, Public Health, and Disasters

Dr. J. Carlee Purdum Dr. Benika Dixon

Incarcerated people are a vulnerable population that remain marginalized and excluded by emergency management, planning efforts, practice, and policy in the context of disasters. This initiative focuses on hazards (extreme temperatures, flooding, storms, wildfires, drought, epidemics, pandemics, institutional fires, chemical spills, etc.)  impact prisons and the implications for broader public health and public safety. Our research questions are 1) How do hazards and disasters impact the health and safety of incarcerated individuals? 2) How do hazards impact the staff within carceral institutions (jails, prisons, detention centers, etc.)? 3) How do these impacts translate into broader public health impacts and public safety impacts among incarcerated people, their families, facility staff, their families, and the general public.

Planning the Future of Evacuation

Dr. Tara Goddard

The increase in urbanized “natural” disasters and their resulting evacuation crises demonstrates the vulnerability of existing transportation systems and the inadequacy of evacuation planning and operations that rely primarily on private automobiles. There is recognition among governmental and advocacy organizations of the vulnerabilities of people who cannot access private automobiles in disaster due to disability, poverty, age, location, housing status, or reliance (by choice or circumstance) on public transportation. Little research and existing practice, however, envisions a future of evacuation that centers transit or other non-auto-dependent approaches. To ensure an inclusive, safe, and effective evacuation that is resilient to the challenges of cascading disasters, this HRRC Research Initiative is focused on improving our understanding of the opportunities and challenges of coordination and planning among agencies and affected communities.

Planning for Climate Adaptation and Multi-Hazards Mitigation

Dr. Siyu Yu

Vulnerability is growing as a result of continued development in hazard-prone locations, expanding climate impacts, and a lack of coordinated hazard mitigation and climate adaptation planning. The resilience of the built, natural, and social environments is strongly influenced by the development and growth management guidance provided by a community’s “network of plans,” which typically include land use, hazard mitigation, housing, and transportation plans, among others. Poorly integrated or conflicting plan guidance can lead to confusion and unsafe development, whereas a well-integrated network of plans can help build resilient communities and reduce losses from flood events. This HRRC Research Initiative is to better understand relationships among the network of land use and development plans and policies, and social and physical vulnerability to multi-hazards (including flooding, extreme heat, and wildfire). Improving coordination between plans is thus critical for fostering community resilience and effectively adapting to a rapidly changing climate.