DRC-Disaster Research Center

About the DRC

DRC was established at Ohio State University in 1963 by Professors E.L. Quarantelli, Russell Dynes, and Eugene Haas, and moved to its current location at the University of Delaware, in 1985. The Center was the first in the world devoted to the social scientific study of disasters. Social scientific research is still one of the core products produced by DRC even as we expand into multi-, inter-, and cross-disciplinary work. Historically, DRC has conducted field interviews and extended research projects on group, organizational, and community preparation for, response to, and recovery from natural and technological disasters and other community-wide crises. All DRC research is intended to yield both basic scientific knowledge on disasters and information that can be applied to develop more effective plans and policies to reduce disaster impacts.

Recognizing the broader research interests in disasters across the campus and the interdisciplinary nature of the research, the Center moved from the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice to the College of Arts and Sciences in the summer of 2006 and in June 2007 the Center moved again to come under the oversight of Research and Graduate Studies in the Office of the Provost. While much of the research at DRC has been interdisciplinary throughout its existence, DRC is now embarking on a new era as the Center builds on and maintains its foundation in social science while broadening its activities to embrace more explicitly interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and cross disciplinary research. Graduate and undergraduate training have been an integral component of DRC’s mission. Faculty members from the University of Delaware’s Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice oversee DRC projects and teach classes in the department’s graduate concentration in Collective Behavior, Social Movements, and Disasters, as well as the newly formalized undergraduate concentration in Emergency and Environmental Management. Graduate researchers from DRC have gone on to careers at leading universities, prominent research centers, key disaster-oriented government agencies, and private sector organizations that deal with disaster and risk issues.

Researchers at DRC have conducted over 600 field studies since the Center’s inception, traveling to communities throughout the United States and to a number of foreign countries. DRC researchers have carried out systematic studies on a broad range of disaster types, including but not limited to hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous chemical incidents, plane crashes, and civil disturbances.

Past DRC studies have focused on such topics as emergency medical and mental health service delivery in disasters, community responses to acute chemical hazards, mass evacuation and sheltering, preparations for and responses to major community disasters by lifeline organizations, community earthquake mitigation and emergency preparedness in the Central U. S. and the San Francisco Bay Area, disaster recovery in Charleston, South Carolina and Santa Cruz, California, a large-scale multi-year study on the implementation of the FEMA’s Project Impact initiative, and the utilization of earth science information in earthquake risk decision making.

In addition to maintaining its own databases, DRC serves as a repository for materials collected by other agencies and researchers. DRC's specialized library, which contains the world's most complete collection on the social and behavioral aspects of disasters--now numbering more than 55,000 items--is open to both interested scholars and agencies involved in emergency management. The Center has its own book, monograph, and report series with over 550 publications. DRC maintains ongoing contact with scholars from throughout the United States, Asia, Europe, and Mexico, some of whom have been visiting research associates at the Center for periods of up to a year. In recent years, DRC has also organized several multinational research conferences focusing on disaster issues in Central America, Southern Asia, Europe, Japan, Russia, and the former Soviet Union.

DRC activities have been supported by diverse sources, including the National Institute of Mental Health, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its preceding, the NOAA Sea Grant Program, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Major research funding is currently provided by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research, and the Public Entity Risk Institute.