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Ensuring Strength in the Face of Adversity

cars on a flooded street; paper butterflies at a Pulse nightclub memorial - 'love wins' written on one
Emergency management and homeland security research is critical to countering and lessening the impact of modern problems ranging from mass shootings and disease pandemics to infrastructure failure and hurricanes. These issues are even more salient as we remember the 6th anniversary of the Pulse nightclub tragedy and we begin the start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Researchers are constantly learning from past disasters to improve all phases of emergency management, including preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation.

At UCF, we are leveraging our expertise from across disciplines to help people become better prepared and build resilience in the face of crises, disasters, hazards and storms.

As a result, UCF has emerged at the forefront of research and academics in emergency and crisis management, including having one of the top-ranked master’s programs in the country.

Minimizing the instability caused by these critical situations not only helps people, but it also keeps the nation secure. The work has obvious implications for Florida, but its impact can help people in communities all over the nation and the world

headshot of Chris Emrich

Meet Christopher Emrich

B.A. and M.A in Geography from USF, Ph.D. in Geography from UofSC

“I think the impetus for my research is to help people stay in their homes after a disaster by mitigating the threats hazards pose. If we can protect people’s homes, and people don’t have to leave, then they don’t suffer mental distress as deeply, and they don’t lose jobs as frequently. We can avoid a bunch of losses just by keeping people in their homes.”

Chris Emrich, Ph.D.

Boardman Endowed Professor of Environmental Science and Public Administration in UCF’s School of Public Administration and UCF Coastal Science Director

As a hazard geographer, Chris Emrich uses geospatial technologies to assess disaster impacts and outcomes with a specific focus on how vulnerable populations fare in recovery. Among his more recent publications are several focused on inequities in disaster recovery and what barriers exist in access to recovery programs and associated outcomes for vulnerable populations.

Emrich partners with citizens, local governments, other academics and UCF developers to build tools to help individuals and communities gain perspective on social vulnerability, disaster losses, and how to mitigate future impacts and build resilience.

Through funding from the National Academies of Sciences, Emrich has helped build a social vulnerability mapping application for any place in the nation. This map will help emergency and crisis management decision makers understand the areas that need special attention in their region.

As a result of his expertise, Emrich has been called upon regularly since 2016 to assess the impact of hurricanes in Florida. He’s also helped the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity formulate long-term recovery plans for areas recently hit by disasters, including Florida, Puerto Rico and South Carolina. And in Orlando and the surrounding region, he’s working with the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council to design strategies to measure the disaster risks the area faces.

Chris works alongside some of the nation’s leading scholars, including the emergency management and homeland security faculty, public administration faculty and public policy faculty.

Interface screenshot of the HazardAware site.

Researching to Build Resilience

Chris Emrich leads a $3.4 million, multi-institution project that looks at building community resilience through residential risk disclosure. The HazardAware project is funded by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program and involves researchers in the Sustainable Coastal Systems cluster and from across UCF. A recently released tool from the project shows how much hazards, such as winds and flooding, could cost a homeowner each year.

HazardAware Collaborators at UCF

  • Chris Emrich
  • Thomas Wahl
  • Kristy Lewis
  • Sergio Alvarez
  • Jacopo Baggio
  • Sonia Stephens
  • Claire Knox
  • Roel Fleuren
  • Susan Bethel
  • Eric Johnson
  • Tammie McClellan
  • Erica Recktenwald

Accolades:

  • Boardman Endowed Professor of Environmental Science and Public Administration
  • UCF Luminary Award
  • Principal Investigator of a $3.4 million, multi-institution UCF-led project funded by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program
  • R&D100 Award

Research Areas:

  • Hazards Geography
  • Social Vulnerability
  • Disaster Recovery & Resilience
  • Emergency Management Decision Support
  • Geospatial Information Science
headshot of Claire Connolly Knox

Meet Claire Connolly Knox

Ph.D. in Public Administration and Policy from FSU, M.P.A. in Public Administration from FSU, B.S. in Renewable and Sustainable Resources and B.A. in English from UL-Lafayette

“I geek out when it comes to analyzing post-disaster plans and policies. I’m really interested in can we capture those lessons learned, and can we translate those lessons learned into actionable policy and planning solutions?”

Claire Connolly Knox

Associate Professor in UCF’s School of Public Administration, part of the College of Community Innovation and Education; Founding Director of the Master in Emergency and Crisis Management Program

As a native of Coastal Louisiana, Claire Connolly Knox has experienced firsthand devastation to coastal zones and environmental injustices. She’s witnessed repeated hits from storms and hurricanes that have ravaged Louisiana’s coastlines, and she’s volunteered in underserved communities languishing in the infamous Cancer Alley that stretches from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.

It was during her time working as an interpretative specialist for the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act at the U.S. Geological Survey National Wetlands Research Center that she became interested in ways to use science to improve policymaking.

This interest has led Knox to where she is today, improving disaster plans and policies through research and teaching as an associate professor in UCF’s School of Public Administration and founding director of the Master in Emergency and Crisis Management Program.

Knox says that the challenge isn’t always just researching and documenting the lessons learned from past disasters but actually implementing them. There are political, financial and organizational hurdles that must be considered. However, these challenges are, in-part, what drive her passion for analyzing plans and policies.

She works to make sure that emergency management plans are linked to land use plans and that the plans involve the whole community, including vulnerable and underserved residents who may be most impacted by disasters. These efforts can help ensure positive impacts like avoiding development in flood zones, the equitable distribution of food and supplies during relief efforts, and nursing homes that are prepared for disasters.

National Recognition and Implementation

Knox’s work on disaster planning and cultural competency has local and national impacts. She was invited to join the National Pandemic Task Force because of her outstanding work. Her book is used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Social Equity Initiative specifically for emergency planning for shelters and disaster housing.

Knox’s recommendations have also been implemented across the state of Florida. She was part of a team who updated the behavioral component of Florida’s Statewide Regional Evacuation Study last year, which Florida counties use for evacuation planning and in local evacuation decision making.

Accolades:

  • 2022 Kay C. Goss Awardee for Innovation at the FEMA Higher Education Symposium
  • National Pandemic Task Force member
  • Co-edited the 2021 American Society of Public Administration’s Section on Democracy and Social Justice Book of the Year
  • Nearly $5 million in grants, including a National Science Foundation grant
  • 2015 Florida Emergency Preparedness Association’s Gary Arnold Awardee

Research Areas:

  • Environmental vulnerability and disaster response
  • Environmental policy and planning in coastal zones
  • Habermas’ critical theory
  • Cultural competency in emergency management

UCF is a Recognized Leader in Emergency Management

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UCF’s Master of Emergency and Crisis Management program placed No. 3 in the nation, ranking among the top ten in the country for the fifth consecutive year.

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The National Weather Service renewed UCF’s designation as a StormReady University through 2023 for the university’s commitment to practices that keep the campus community safe.

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The bachelor’s in emergency management program at UCF is the first undergraduate degree of its kind in the state of Florida.

UCF Researchers are Thinkers, Dreamers and Doers.

Get a quick glimpse into some of the latest innovative work that’s transforming the way to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

World-class Emergency Management Research in Orlando

With more than 8,000 miles of coastlines in the state, and teams of researchers who work across disciplines, UCF is a prime location to learn how to improve emergency management and homeland security readiness. Its abilities are bolstered by cutting-edge facilities, such as Research 1 that houses many of the interdisciplinary research team members; innovative and top-ranked public administration programs that prepare the next generation of leaders in their fields; and on-campus resources that help the university and the world better prepare for threats and hazards.

aerial photo of Florida coastline

National Center for Integrated Coastal Research

Our team of interdisciplinary researchers and scientists is committed to an evidence-based, whole-community approach to increase the resiliency and sustainability of coastal communities. UCF Coastal’s goal is to link the ecological security of coastal ecosystems with the economic security of coastal communities, ensuring the sustainability of our coastlines and economy for generations to come.

photo of Florida coastline being washed away

Sustainable Coastal Systems Faculty Research Cluster

UCF’s Sustainable Coastal System Cluster integrates science and societal needs to address coastal issues and teach students conservation and resource management.

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School of Public Administration

The UCF School of Public Administration is dedicated to preparing undergraduate and graduate students who will serve and lead in careers in nonprofit management, urban and regional planning, research administration, emergency management, public administration and public policy.

employees collaborating around a laptop during an emergency

UCF Office of Emergency Management

The Department of Emergency Management prepares UCF by enhancing partnerships and coordinating all activities necessary to build, sustain, and improve the university’s ability to mitigate, protect, and prevent against; respond to; and recover from natural, technological, and human-caused threats and hazards.

man pointing to a screen during a presentation

Coastal Risks & Engineering (CoRE) Lab

Research in the CoRE Lab mainly focuses on connecting engineering and various science disciplines (e.g., oceanography, hydrology, meteorology, climatology) to better understand the vulnerability of coastal societies, built infrastructure, and fragile ecosystems under climate change conditions.

World-class Academic Programs

UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education has curriculum and programs to help you land your next opportunity.

Emergency and Crisis Management News

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Associate Professor Abdul-Akeem Sadiq works with agencies so they can help families recover after disasters, including finding closure after losing loved ones.
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UCF Emergency Management Receives Recognition from National Weather Service Melbourne
The UCF Department of Emergency Management was named the 2021 WeatherReady Nation Ambassador of Excellence for East Central Florida in September. Each year, the National…

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