Skip to main content

The Role of Community in Disaster Response: Conceptual Models

Abstract

We focus on the role that community plays in the continuum of disaster preparedness, response and recovery, and we explore where community fits in conceptual frameworks concerning disaster decision-making. We offer an overview of models developed in the literature as well as insights drawn from research related to Hurricane Katrina. Each model illustrates some aspect of the spectrum of disaster preparedness and recovery, beginning with risk perception and vulnerability assessments, and proceeding to notions of resiliency and capacity building. Concepts like social resilience are related to theories of “social capital,” which stress the importance of social networks, reciprocity, and interpersonal trust. These allow individuals and groups to accomplish greater things than they could by their isolated efforts. We trace two contrasting notions of community to Tocqueville. On the one hand, community is simply an aggregation of individual persons, that is, a population. As individuals, they have only limited capacity to act effectively or make decisions for themselves, and they are strongly subject to administrative decisions that authorities impose on them. On the other hand, community is an autonomous actor, with its own interests, preferences, resources, and capabilities. This definition of community has also been embraced by community-based participatory researchers and has been thought to offer an approach that is more active and advocacy oriented. We conclude with a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of community in disaster response and in disaster research.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

References

  • Aldunate, R. G., Pena-Mora, F., & Robinson, G. E. (2005). Collaborative distributed decision making for large scale disaster relief operations: Drawing analogies from robust natural systems. Complexity, 11(2), 28–38.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Anderson-Berry, L. (2003). Community vulnerability to tropical cyclones: Cairns, 1996–2000. Natural Hazards, 30(2), 209–232.

    Google Scholar 

  • Appleseed. (2006). A continuing storm: The on-going struggles of Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Retrieved December 18, 2006, from http://www.appleseeds.net/servlet/PublicationInfo?articleId=207.

  • Blaikie, P., Cannon, T., Davis, I., & Wisner, B. (1994). At risk: Natural hazards, peoples vulnerability and disasters. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cain, D. S., & Barthelemy, J. (2008). Tangible and Spiritual Relief after the Storm: The Religious Communities Response to Katrina Community. Journal of Social Service Research , 34(3), 29–42.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chen, L. C., Liu, Y. C., & Chan, K. C. (2006). Integrated community-based disaster management program in Taiwan: A case study of Shang-An Village. Natural Hazards, 37(1–2), 209–223.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, S. (2005). Vietnamese priest works to rebuild his flooded parish. New York: Associated Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Coleman, J. S. (1990). Foundations of social theory. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cutter, S. L., & Emrich, C. T. (2006). Moral hazard, social catastrophy: The changing face of vulnerability along the hurricane coasts. The Annals of the American Academy, 604, 102–112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dash, N., & Gladwin, H. (2005). Evacuation decision making and behavioral responses: Individual and household. Pomona, CA: Hurricane Forecast Socioeconomic Workshop.

    Google Scholar 

  • de Tocqueville, A. (2000). Democracy in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • de Tocqueville, A. (2001). The old regime and the revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dow, K., & Cutter, S. L. (1998). Crying wolf: Repeat responses to hurricane evacuation orders. Coastal Management, 26, 237–252.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Editorial. (2005, December 29). Helping others during storms.Baton Rouge Advocate.

  • Gold, S. (2006, February 26). In New Orleans, home is still far away. Half a year after Katrina ravaged the city, most residents haven’t returned. And those who have remain in a state of uncertainty. Los Angeles Times.

  • Greeley, A. (1997). The other civic America: Religion and social capital. American Prospect, 32, 68–73.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hauser, C. (2005, October 20). Sustained by close ties, Vietnamese toil to rebuild. New York Times.

  • Johnston, D., Paton, D., Crawford, G. L., Ronan, K., Houghton, B., & Burgelt, P. (2005). Measuring tsunami preparedness in coastal Washington, United States. Natural Hazards, 35, 173–184.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kelly, P. M., & Adger, W. N. (2000). Theory and practice in assessing vulnerability to climate change and facilitating adaptation. Climatic Change, 47, 325–352.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kern, E. (2005). More than half of EBR residents aided evacuees. Baton Rouge Advocate Study.

  • Leeds, M. (2006, June 9). Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service prepares pre-enrollment hurricane emergency care contact list. Press release by the Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service of South Palm Beach County.

  • Lemyre, L., Clement, M., Corneil, W., Craig, L., Boutette, P., Tyshenko, M., et al. (2005). A psychosocial risk assessment and management framework to enhance response to CBRN terrorism threats and attacks. Biosecurity and Bioterroris: Biodefense Strategy, Practice and Science, 3(4), 316–330.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lin, N., Cook, K., & Burt, R. S. (Eds.). (2001). Social capital. Theory and research. New York: Aldine De Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lipset, S. M. (1981). Political man (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Norris, F. H., Baker, C. K., Murphy, A. D., & Kaniasty, K. (2005). Social support mobilization and deterioration after Mexico’s 1999 flood: Effects of context, gender, and time. American Journal of Community Psychology, 36(1–2), 15–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Patel, K., & Lurie, N. (submitted and under review). Effect of pre-existing health status on evacuation timing in Hurricane Katrina.

  • Peacock, W. G., Brody, S. D., & Highfield, W. (2005). Hurricane risk perceptions among Florida’s single family homeowners. Landscape and Urban Planning, 73(2–3), 120–135.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pipa, T., Costanza, T., Thomas, D., & Haley, M. (2006, November 3). Research, service delivery strategies, best practices: Disaster mitigation. Paper presented at the translating research into action: Nonprofits and the renaissance of New Orleans, New Orleans.

  • Pope, J. (2006). East N.O. priest personifies resilience. Vietnamese leader preaches self-reliance. New Orleans Times-Picayune.

  • Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

    Google Scholar 

  • Putnam, R. D., & Feldstein, L. M. (Eds.). (2003). Better together: Restoring the American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rev. Nguyen, V. (2006). Interviews with Frederick Weil, at Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church, 5069 Willowbrook Dr., New Orleans, LA 70129. April 22, May 14, June 6, September 9, October 23.

  • Sampson, R. J., MacIndoe, H., McAdam, D., & Weffer-Elizondo, S. (2005). Civil society reconsidered: The durable nature and community structure of collective civic action. American Journal of Sociology, 111(3), 673–714.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Skocpol, T., & Fiorina, M. P. (1999). Civic engagement in american democracy. Washington, DC, New York: Brookings Institution Press, Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Skocpol, T., Ganz, M., & Munson, Z. (2000). A nation of organizers: The institutional origins of civic voluntarism in the United States. The American Political Science Review, 94, 527–546.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smit, B., & Wandel, J. (2006). Adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability. Global Environmental Change - Human and Policy Dimensions, 16(3), 282–292.

    Google Scholar 

  • Strange, P. (2006, August 29). Strength to lead the charge. The parishioners of Mary Queen of Vietnam Church in eastern New Orleans have faced their share of obstacles since Hurricane Katrina, but with every new challenge, they are proving 24 that swift action might be the best weapon in the fight to rebuild. New Orleans Times-Picayune.

  • Verba, S., & Nie, N. (1972). Participation in America. New York: Harper and Row.

    Google Scholar 

  • Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H. E. (1995). Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weil, F. D. (1989). The sources and structure of legitimation in Western democracies: A consolidated model tested with time-series data in six countries since World War II. American Sociological Review, 54(5), 682–706.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weil, F. D. (1994). Political Culture, political structure and democracy: The case of legitimation and opposition structure. In F. D. Weil (Ed.), Research on democracy and society, political culture and political structure: Theoretical and empirical studies (Vol. 2, pp. 65–116). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weil, F., Shihadeh, E., & Lee, M. R. (2006). Hurricane Katrina related research. New Orleans, LA: Southern Sociological Society Annual Meetings.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgement

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Weil Grant No.0554572 and Patel Grant #: 0601731.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kavita Patel.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Patterson, O., Weil, F. & Patel, K. The Role of Community in Disaster Response: Conceptual Models. Popul Res Policy Rev 29, 127–141 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-009-9133-x

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-009-9133-x

Keywords

  • Community
  • Disaster
  • Risk perception
  • Social capital
  • Vulnerability