ATLANTA—How do communities build resilience and improve policies to prevent the COVID pandemic and joint natural hazards—hurricanes, earthquakes, windstorms and major fires—from becoming societal disasters?
Ann-Margaret Esnard, an expert in disaster planning and vulnerability assessment, is collaborating on two National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research projects to find answers and offer solutions to emerging problems that lie at the intersections of pandemics and natural hazards . Esnard, who practices what she preaches when it comes to interdisciplinary and multi-institutional collaborations, is a Distinguished University Professor of Public Management and Policy and the Associate Dean for Research in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.
The first project, “RAPID: Health, Housing, and Hazards: COVID-19, Subjective Resilience, Vulnerabilities and Policy Evolution in Hurricane Prone Counties,” will run a year. Funded with an NSF RAPID grant of $175,848, the research is led by Alka Sapat, a professor of public administration at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and her colleague Diana Mitsova, director of the Visual Planning Technology Lab in FAU’s School of Urban and Regional Planning.
This research will capture data on the perceptions of resilience of individuals and households, particularly their coping and adaptive capacities in the face of multiple challenges including health risks, precarious housing conditions and exposure to weather and climate hazards.
Esnard expects the findings will offer practical applications and policies for pandemic preparedness and disaster management, specifically for socially vulnerable populations with respect to housing, sheltering and evacuation in hazard-prone areas.
On the second research project, “EAGER: Joint Hazard Mitigation in the Era of COVID-19: Implications for Engineered Structures and Services,” Esnard is co-principal investigator with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute engineer David Mendonça, the principal investigator, and co-PIs Tracy Kijewski-Correa of the University of Notre Dame and Julio Ramirez of Purdue University, also both engineers.
During this two-year study, funded with an NSF EAGER grant of $299,824, Esnard and this team will examine the role of the built environment in amplifying and suppressing the effects of pandemic joint hazards. Their results are expected to spur new lines of inquiry in various branches of engineering and the design of equitable, functional and safer built environments that are well-suited to a future likely to be marked by highly disruptive pandemics occurring jointly with other hazards.
“I value the opportunity to work with a group of scholars and researchers who are willing and able to step back, re-examine existing engineering design principles and frameworks in the context of pandemic joint hazards, and integrate perspectives from social scientists and other disciplines,” she said.
Distinguished University Professor
Public Management & Policy
Ann-Margaret Esnard is the Associate Dean for Research and a Distinguished University Professor of Public Management and Policy. She was hired in 2013 as part of the cluster on “Shaping the Future of Cities,” during the third phase of the University’s Second Century Initiative.
Her expertise encompasses urban planning, disaster planning, vulnerability assessment, and GIS/spatial analysis. She has been involved in a number of research initiatives, including NSF funded projects on topics of population displacement from catastrophic disasters, school recovery after disasters, long-term recovery, and community resilience.