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Challenges and Opportunities in Promoting Disaster Risk Reduction During Community Self-Recovery

Shah Family Fund Distinguished Lecture
Tracy Kijewski-Correa, University of Notre Dame
Thursday, January 27, 2022 - 4:00 pm
Zoom Webinar

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While Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is ideally focused on proactively building resilience before a damaging hazard event, the post-disaster recovery period provides a rare opportunity to operationalize the lessons learned in a disaster experience at a time when there is an acute awareness of vulnerabilities and motivation to take action. Notably, much of this recovery unfolds without the benefit of regulatory reforms that promote a “build back better” approach and even more tragically, with limited financing are resources. During such “self-recovery” processes, stakeholders must repair or reconstruct damaged assets informed only by the limited resources, capacity and guidance available in their community. It is unsurprising then that many communities struggle to effectively and efficiently recover, often reverting to the policies and practices that created the vulnerabilities initially exploited in these disasters. Thus disaster risk will be reduced only by encouraging a self-recovery process that builds back better and by using our position as researchers to equip communities with the decision support tools and incentives necessary to do so.

This lecture demonstrates the role of interdisciplinary and community-centered research in advancing this aim. A sampling of projects engaging stakeholders in different contexts at different scales of influence demonstrate: (1) the limitations of existing regulatory products in guiding recovery processes, (2) the misalignments of incentives in the market and regulatory systems, and (3) the unintended consequences of top-down regulatory reform in the wake of major disasters. These case studies reiterate the importance of centering reforms, and even the research that guides them, on the explicit needs and capacities within the local context, and broadening the disciplinary perspectives to appreciate the intersection of human and technical dimensions of resilient recovery. 


Tracy Kijewski-Correa is the Leo E. and Patti Ruth Linbeck Collegiate Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences at the University of Notre Dame. Jointly appointed as an Associate Professor of Global Affairs, she also serves as co-director of the Keough School’s Integration Lab (i-Lab) and faculty fellow at a number of institutes focused on global development and real estate. Her research is dedicated to enhancing the resilience and sustainability of hazard-exposed communities, with an emphasis on conceiving holistic responses to infrastructure vulnerabilities and developing tools that support science-informed decision making by diverse stakeholders. She currently serves as the inaugural director of NSF’s Structural Extreme Event Reconnaissance (StEER) network, coordinating data collection following major hazard events. Her contributions have been recognized by awards from the American Society of Civil Engineering, American Political Science Association, Institution of Civil Engineers, International Association for Wind Engineering, and American Association for Wind Engineering. Kijewski-Correa is formally trained as a Civil Engineer with a specialization in Structural Engineering, earning her Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, and PhD from the University of Notre Dame.