Researchers from the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, in collaboration with the University of Washington and EarthLab (Project Team), are working to better understand communities’ hazards and disaster science needs and improve the development, synthesis, and translation of current hazards science and research to make it more accessible, relevant and actionable. The team’s goal is to increase community resilience and improve emergency preparedness and planning across the Pacific Northwest, by making regional hazards science and research more locally relevant, accessible and actionable. 

According to FEMA’s disaster declarations, Washington State has the 4th largest number of disaster declarations among all states. From the Oso landslide to annual wildfires and severe winter storms to flooding, earthquakes, and tsunamis, all hazard events pose significant risks to residents and to Washington’s economy. Recent Washington State reports call for synthesis and translation of current hazards science to make them locally relevant and actionable, and to better address local hazards and preparedness needs and in order to increase resilience in the region.

As disasters strike, communities realize that they must predict and plan for hazardous events so they can reduce disaster risk. Anticipating these events requires identifying policy and decision makers’ needs for hazards sciences in order to manage and mitigate hazards exposures and its, often disastrous, consequences. Greater collaboration between local, state, and federal agencies, and academic partners promises to help prevent the most horrific outcomes of these events by improving preparedness and response. Engaging scientists in planning and policy discussions is critical to creating effective community-research partnerships.

The Project Team is conducting a series of Hazards Research Coordination Workshops in Washington to better understand communities’ hazards and disaster science needs. The Team will also work to improve the development, synthesis, and translation of current hazards science and research so that it becomes more accessible, relevant and actionable for communities. The workshops are designed with the intention of bringing together local emergency managers, emergency response volunteers, public health and other local officials, and planners to better understand three key questions:

  • What questions would you like hazards researchers and analysts in our region to address? 
  • What types of hazard information would be most useful for you? 
  • How can the interactions and flow of information between researchers and practitioners be improved?

From these workshops, the Project Team will gather input to distinguish the feasibility of a coordination network to sustain coordination between state-wide practitioners and hazards researchers from across the sciences, over the long term. 

Upon completion of the workshops, the Project Team aims to develop an initial prioritized list of hazard information and research needs throughout Washington. The Team hopes this research will increase community resilience and improve emergency preparedness and planning across the Pacific Northwest, by making regional hazards science and research more locally relevant, accessible, and actionable. 

Project Team

David Schmidt, Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington
Ann Bostrom, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Washington
Bob Freitag, Institute for Hazard Mitigation Planning and Research, University of Washington
Phyllis Shulman, William D. Ruckelshaus Center, Washington State University
Amanda Murphy, William D. Ruckelshaus Center, Washington State University