North Texas Daily

Researchers receive grant to study Native American disaster preparedness

Researchers receive grant to study Native American disaster preparedness

September 21
22:48 2014

Steven James / Staff Writer

Researchers from UNT’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service have recently received a $327,000 National Science Foundation grant to research disaster preparedness administration in Native American communities.

The project is being led by public administration professor Gary Webb, who said Native Americans are greatly underrepresented in disaster preparedness literature. Before the 1990s, socially and economically vulnerable populations, such as Native Americans, were not well studied, and most studies focused on individuals.

Webb said that if disaster preparedness was better understood in Native American communities, then disasters could be better understood in other vulnerable populations as well.

Webb said he was involved with a long-term study that focused on the Ponca Tribe of northern Oklahoma when he was a professor at Oklahoma State University. He said after he saw the dangers and hazards they faced, especially with the environment, he decided more research needed to be done on how Native Americans deal with certain troubles.

“The same groups are exposed to significant natural and technological hazards,” he said. “And they are socially vulnerable, often living in conditions of extreme poverty.”

Sociology associate professor and associate dean of the college Nicole Dash is also investigating on the grant.

“We recognized that we needed to look at a community level to try to understand how changing federal laws and expectations are impacting community-level preparedness, which ultimately plays a role in vulnerability and resilience,” Dash said.

The project began last month. The first and second years of the project, the researchers will conduct surveys in focus groups and among tribal leaders to examine the hazards Native Americans face.

The third and final year, the researchers will use GIS and statistical information to study how well Native Americans prepare for and recover from disasters, including dealing with tornadoes and industrial waste.

The researchers will publish their findings throughout the course of the project.

Dean Thomas Evenson said this is one of many projects that the college is doing to stay on top of the research world. Evenson said to do that, there need to be more researchers who conduct more community studies.

He said disasters at the individual level are normally dealt with people going to the doctor or getting insurance. Disasters at the community level are not yet understood.

“If the community is left out of the equation, the problem might not get solved,” Evenson said. “Making sure the community is studied will help to better understand the problem.”

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