White House talk
UD's Wachtendorf sits on White House panel to discuss disasters, resiliency
4:31 p.m., Oct. 2, 2012--The American Red Cross tapped a University of Delaware professor to share her expertise during its 2012 Day at the White House last month.
Tricia Wachtendorf, associate director of the Disaster Research Center, sat on a panel discussing organizational resiliency. A specialist in the coordination between organizations in disasters, her work includes field research conducted in the aftermath of several notable disasters including tsunamis in Japan and the Indian Ocean, Hurricane Katrina, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Learning from leeches
The talk was one activity in a day dedicated to the theme of building resilient communities. Wachtendorf’s panel took place just before a speech delivered by the day’s marquee speaker, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Other presenters included the president of the American Red Cross and high-level White House staffers. The main event celebrated select Red Cross staff and volunteers as “Champions of Change” working in communities across the country to keep families and individuals safe in emergencies.
“Although it was wonderful to be able to serve as a subject matter expert on a White House panel, it was truly inspiring to hear about all the important work these volunteers from around the county are doing in their communities on a daily basis,” Wachtendorf said.
Wachtendorf has seen the importance of “champions” like the honorees. During the panel, she discussed two very different entities that share the common thread of resilience. The New York City Mayor's Office of Emergency Management lost its facility in the 9/11 attacks, yet bounced back, adjusted and responded to the event. After the Japanese tsunami, she said she saw a group of small, women-owned businesses display the same resiliency by banding together.
“The successes of these individuals, organizations, and communities are not entirely by chance,” she said. “There are common features among them, feature others can strive for and work toward. “
Those features were highlighted during the day’s events. Wachtendorf said the Red Cross impressed her by deeming it important to hear from subject matter experts during their Day at the White House.
“It gives everyone a chance to see how the social science research on disasters resonates when considered alongside the compelling stories from practitioners,” she said.
Article by Andrea Boyle Tippett
Photos courtesy of the American Red Cross