Uniting after disaster: What communities can learn from Ida's aftermath

After disaster hits a community, you might expect existing conflicts to intensify. But social science research tells us that people affected by disaster actually act more altruistically than they normally would, says Jason von Meding, Ph.D., a disaster-studies expert in the University of Florida's College of Design, Construction and Planning. 

That runs counter to news coverage of people fighting over scarce supplies. After a disaster, "people who would have normally behaved in a more competitive way towards each other are suddenly helping each other," he said. "That was a profound realization for me as a disaster researcher."

One example of a community pulling together is the work of mutual aid networks in New Orleans after Hurricane Ida. These networks could serve as a national model for community-led disaster recovery, von Meding said. 

Von Meding is available to provide expert perspective to journalists covering hurricane season and disaster recovery at jason.vonmeding@ufl.edu.

Alisson Clark September 3, 2021