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October 10, 2013

Prof: Sandy communities rebuilding should strengthen more than just structures

Daniel P. Aldrich

Daniel P. Aldrich 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Rebuilding communities after a natural disaster, such as Superstorm Sandy, is about more than just about physical infrastructure, says a Purdue University disaster recovery expert.

"Because communities, such as the East Coast hit by last year's Superstorm Sandy, are vulnerable, physical fixes alone will not be sufficient to mitigate against future disasters and are not the only thing to be considered when rebuilding," says Daniel P. Aldrich, associate professor of political science and author of "Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery."

Later this month is the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, the hurricane that affected many states and caused severe damage to New York and New Jersey.

"Often communities are rebuilding while looking toward the next possible disaster," he says. "And recent reports that global weather is likely to become more severe is a factor that areas prone to disasters and most recently affected areas must address as they rebuild. The power of community in drawing back residents, the critical nature of trust in government and neighbors, and the importance of long-term commitments have never been so important."

Aldrich's research, including the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan and the 2005 flood damage from Hurricane Katrina, shows that people who have stronger individual friendships, community connections and civic involvement are more likely to have access to resources and information that can help them return and rebuild. These same characteristics also can help people survive a disaster and cope with the immediate aftereffects.

"Knowing how valuable a community's social network is with the threat of future disasters, governments and emergency planners will need to incorporate these in disaster planning not only to survive the next weather catastrophe but also to strengthen the community for the long term," he says.

In addition to studying the 2011 Japan and 2005 Hurricane Katrina disasters, Aldrich also has studied disaster recovery and community rebuilding following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami in Tamil Nadu, the 1923 earthquake in Tokyo and the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan. He is author of "Site Fights: Divisive Facilities and Civil Society in Japan and the West." 

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu 

Source: Daniel P. Aldrich, 765-494-4190, daniel.aldrich@gmail.com   

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