Researchers from the University of Delaware's Disaster Research Center (DRC) have returned from South Asia after a social science reconnaissance mission mounted in the wake of the devastating tsunamis that struck in December.
The UD researchers were part of a team sponsored by the California-based Earthquake Engineering Research Institute and funded by the National Science Foundation.
The team reached South Asia within a month of the tsunamis, which were generated by a large earthquake in Sumatra, and visited some of the regions of India and Sri Lanka that were most ravaged by the disaster.
During a two-week expedition, their goals were to collect perishable data, identify communities and organizations that were particularly hard-hit by the tsunamis and observe the extent to which various structures were damaged or destroyed, according to Havidan Rodriguez, DRC director.
Rodriguez was joined on the fact-finding mission by Tricia Wachtendorf, UD assistant professor of sociology who is affiliated with the DRC; James Kendra, of the University of North Texas and a former postdoctoral fellow at DRC; and Joseph Trainor, a UD graduate student and DRC project coordinator.
Rodriguez said the expedition yielded important data on disaster preparedness, response and recovery. The team also focused on issues such as community resilience, inter-organizational coordination, governmental response and the distribution of disaster relief aid following the tsunamis, he said.
The Disaster Research Center was established 40 years ago by Enrico Quarantelli and Russell Dynes at Ohio State University and moved to the campus of the University of Delaware in 1985. It was the first social science research center in the world devoted to the study of disasters.
DRC conducts field and survey research on group, organizational and community preparation for, response to, and recovery from natural and technological disasters and other community-wide crises. DRC researchers have conducted nearly 600 field studies since the center's inception, including cutting-edge research on the multi-organizational response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City.
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