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August 31, 2005

Sociologists Are Available to Discuss the Effects of, and Recovery from, Hurricane Katrina and Other Disasters

Washington, DC — Hurricane Katrina and the U.S. Gulf Coast. London's transit system bombing on July 7, 2005. South Asia’s Tsunami. Hurricane Andrew. September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. NASA’s Challenger and Columbia explosions. The Northridge earthquake. The Chicago heat wave. Chernobyl. The Exxon Valdez.  Whether a natural disaster, human error, or an intentional attack, there are social aspects and consequences to resulting disasters.

Social scientists can comment on what is known about human and social relationships and structures that could help prevent or mitigate the consequences of disasters, dismiss common myths about disasters, analyze common mistakes in developing responses to disasters, and explain the mismatch between citizens’ needs and government and private industry responses. Sociologists can comment on how to improve preparedness for, response to, and recovery from, human-made and natural disaster. For additional experts on disasters' impacts in relation to race, ethnicity, gender, migration, poverty, or disasters' impact on children, the elderly, families, mental health, etc., please call the ASA Public Information Office at (202) 247-9871, or view experts at the bottom of the list below. There are more experts on topics related to Hurricane Katrina than can be included on this media advisory.  See demographic, race and other experts provided toward the bottom of this list.  

Disaster experts include:

Benigno E. Aguirre (302-831-0204 or is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware and a faculty member of the Disaster Research Center. He is currently working on three research projects focusing on the urban search and rescue taskforce system of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; building simulation models of emergency evacuation with computer scientists and traffic engineers; and building simulation models of building collapse and behavior of victims with engineers. He has published research on disasters, ethnic and minority populations, and collective behavior and social change. Recent publications include: “The Sociology of Collective Behavior” and “Institutional Resilience and Disaster Planning for New Hazards: Insights from Hospitals.”

William A. Anderson (202-334-1523 or is associate executive director in the Division on Earth and Life Studies and director of the Disasters Roundtable in the National Research Council. For more than 20 years, he held various positions at NSF. While at NSF, his responsibilities included developing multidisciplinary natural hazards research programs and providing oversight for such large-scale research activities as the NSF-funded earthquake engineering research centers. His recent publications include "Future Directions," in Emergency Management: Principles and Practice for Local Government, "On the Underserved in Natural Disaster Reduction," in Elements of Change, and "Women and Children Facing Disaster," in Managing Disaster Risk in Emerging Economies.

Lee Clarke, (732-445-5741 or Associate Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, writes about organizations, culture, and disasters. His early work concerned how decision makers choose among risks in highly uncertain environments. His publications include: Organizations, Uncertainties, and Risk, edited by James F. Short, Jr. and Lee Clarke; Acceptable Risk? Making Decisions in a Toxic Environment; and Terrorism and Disaster: New Threats, New Ideas. He has written, and frequently lectures about, organizational failures, leadership, terrorism, panic, civil defense, evacuation, community response to disaster, organizational failure, and the World Trade Center disaster. His work was recently profiled in the New York Times and the Harvard Business Review. His latest book, Worst Cases: Imagining Terror and Calamity in the Modern Day, will be published in October.

Mathieu Deflem, (803-777-6596 office, or 803-256-9116 home,, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of South Carolina, is a specialist on the policing of terrorism, especially at the international level, and the security and intelligence dimensions of counter-terrorism. He can discuss the efforts that police and security agencies make to prevent terrorism, and the response that is needed at home and abroad. Deflem is the author of Policing World Society, and editor of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism: Criminological Perspectives. He has often contributed to the news media, including NPR, BBC, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press.

Russell Dynes (302-831-4202 or is a Research Professor and Founding Director of the University of Delaware Disaster Research Center (DRC). Dynes is the author or editor of ten books, including Organized Behavior in Disaster, Sociology of Disaster and Disasters, Collective Behavior and Social Organization and well over 100 articles, many on disaster related topics.

Elaine Enarson (303.527.9987 or, Independent Scholar, is a disaster sociologist with a women's studies focus. Her research and publications have documented the impacts of hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes on women with attention to violence against women, women's work in disasters, and the proactive mobilization of women and women's organizations in disasters. She is the co-editor of The Gendered Terrain of Disasters, lead author of the FEMA online course on social vulnerability to disasters, and a founding member of the Gender and Disaster Network.

Kai Erikson, (203-432-3326 or Professor Emeritus at Yale University, is an authority on the social consequences of catastrophic events.  He won major awards from the ASA for his books Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance and Everything In Its Path. His latest book is A New Species of Trouble: Explorations in Disaster, Trauma, and Community. His research  interests include American communities, human disasters, and ethnonational conflict. According to Erikson, what happens after a disaster is often at least as traumatic as the primary event itself. He has studied disasters such as the Buffalo Creek flood in West Virginia (1972), the Three Mile Island nuclear accident (1979), and the Exxon Valdez oil spill (1989). In addition to examining the long-term consequences of these events, Erikson has been active in efforts to secure compensation for the victims.

Eric Klinenberg, (212-998-8375 or, Assistant Professor of Sociology at New York University, is author of Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, which has received awards from the Urban Affairs Association Book Prize, the Association of American Publishers Award, and received the American Sociological Association Urban Book Prize. His areas of research interest include Urban studies; media and cultural production; disaster and social violence; race; and theory. He has written several academic and news articles about urban disaster, in the International Herald Tribune, the Guardian, and the Boston Globe; and his work has been profiled in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, NPR, and PBS.

Gary LaFree, (301-405-0714 or, Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland-College Park, is an expert on national and international macro-level crime trends. He is the Director of the Homeland Security Center of Excellence for Behavioral and Social Research on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism at the University of Maryland, which will focus on areas such as how to disrupt the formation of terror networks and minimize the impact of future attacks. Along with Laura Dugan, he is currently developing a terrorism database that contains 70,000 events that took place around the world between 1970 and 1997. Other current projects include studies of U.S. crime trends by race, the impact of political legitimacy and economic stress on world homicide rates.

Shirley Laska, ( Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology at the University of New Orleans, is an expert on disaster planning and response regarding hurricanes and the levee system in New Orleans. She is the author of  "Disasters Waiting to Happen . . .What if Hurricane Ivan Had Not Missed New Orleans?" in the Natural Hazards Observer (November 2004).

Dennis Mileti (303-492-6818) is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology and Emeritus Director of the Natural Hazards Research Applications and Information Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is the author of over 100 publications. Most of these focus on the societal aspects of mitigation and preparedness for hazards and disasters. His Book, Disasters by Design (1999), involved over 130 experts to assess knowledge, research, and policy needs for hazards in the United States.

Betty Morrow (305-385-5953 or Professor Emeritus, Florida International University, studies the social and behavioral impacts of natural disasters with an emphasis on gender and socially created vulnerabilities. She has extensively studied community vulnerability and community impact after a natural disaster, especially hurricanes. She co-authored Hurricane Andrew: Ethnicity, Gender and the Sociology of Disaster and The Gendered Terrain of Disasters.

Walter Gillis Peacock (979-945-7853  or is Director of the Hazards Reduction and Recovery Center and at Texas A&M University (TAMU). He is a professor of urban planning at TAMU. His research focuses on natural hazards and human systems response to hazards and disasters with an emphasis on social vulnerability, evacuation, and the socio-political ecology of long-term recovery and mitigation. His articles have appeared in a variety of journals including American Sociological Review, Natural Hazards Review, and the International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters. He has published two books on natural disasters. His latest coauthored book is Hurricane Andrew: Ethnicity, Gender and the Sociology of Disaster.

Steve Picou, (251-460-6347 or is professor of sociology and chair, Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of South Alabama. He is an expert in long-term community impacts of disasters. He recently completed a study of the community impacts of Hurricane Ivan on the coastal community of Orange Beach, AL. His research focuses on environmental sociology, applied sociology and disasters.  He has published three books and over 100 articles and book chapters

Havidan Rodriguez, (302-831-6618 or, Director of the University of Delaware Disaster Research Center and Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware. He is a member of the Disaster Roundtables at the National Academies of Science. He is currently working on two research projects focusing on population composition, geographic distribution, natural hazards, and vulnerability in the coastal regions of Puerto Rico. Recent publications include: Disasters, Vulnerability, and Society: An International and Multi-Disciplinary Approach (2004 – Invited Editor with Wachtendorf); The Role of Science, Technology, and the Media in the Communication of Risk and Warnings; and In Risk and Crisis Communication: Building Trust and Explaining Complexities When Emergencies Arise (2004).

Kathleen Tierney, (303-492-6427 or, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Natural Hazards Research Center, University of Colorado-Boulder, recently wrote Facing the Unexpected: Disaster Preparedness and Response in the United States. Since September 11, 2001, she has been directing a study on the organizational and community response in New York following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. With more than 25 years of experience in the disaster field, Tierney has studied many disaster events, including major earthquakes in California and Japan, floods in the Midwest, and Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew.

Diane Vaughan (212-854-2274 or is a Professor in the Department of International and Public Affairs and the Department of Sociology. She studies the dark side of organizations: mistake, misconduct, and disaster. Her research focuses on how organization structure, culture, hierarchy, political environment, and information flows cause failed decisions and what can be done to reduce the probability of failures. She is author of The Challenger Launch Decision: Culture, Technology and Deviance at NASA, has written on NASA's Challenger and Columbia accidents, and most recently served on the research staff of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

Demographic Information:

Andrew Beveridge, (718-997-2837 or Professor of Sociology at Queens College, is an expert on demography and authority on recent social and demographic trends affecting  the United States. 

"Pre-impact" information on the states in the Gulf Coast Area impacted by Katrina In the interest of providing population, housing, economic and social information about the counties affected by Hurricane Katrina prior to being impacted by the hurricane, researchers at the University of Mississippi assembled data from the 2000 census into totals for three sets of impact counties for all three states hit by Katrina in the Gulf Coast region (Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi)  and for each state individually. The hardest hit counties (The "Public and Individual Assistance" counties) are colored orange in the map at the preceding website and counties colored tan are those designated by FEMA as the less impacted, "Public Assistance" counties. 

Experts on Class, Race, and the Environment:

Robert Bullard, Clark Atlanta University (404-880-6911 or is an expert on environmental justice and public participation concerns, and the author of Dumping in Dixie.

David Pellow, University of Colorado-Boulder (858-822-5118 or is an expert in environmental justice, race, and ethnicity.

Timmons Roberts, College of William and Mary  (757-221-2463 or, is an expert on environmental justice and climate change. He was a long-term resident of New Orleans and author of Chronicles from the Environmental Justice Frontline and new research on inequality and climate change impacts.

Beverly Wright (504-483-7541 is the founder and director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Xavier University located in New Orleans, Louisiana. For more than a decade, she has been a leading scholar, advocate, and activist in the environmental justice arena.

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About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.