Public Release: 

Post-Sept. 11 study results published by U. of Colorado Center

University of Colorado at Boulder

Within three days of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, university researchers joined emergency personnel at Ground Zero and other locations to begin studying the events' aftermath and recovery efforts.

The results of their studies were published this week by the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center based at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

"Beyond September 11th: An Account of Post-Disaster Research" contains 600 pages of work by researchers and graduate students from more than 20 universities, including CU-Boulder. Every study is intended to help the nation better cope with future catastrophic events and all were funded by the center's Quick Response Research Program and the National Science Foundation.

The book's introduction states, "The information they gathered forms a unique set of data that could only have been captured in the short time frame that followed the impact of the disaster." The CU-Boulder Natural Hazards Center is the nation's leading repository of knowledge on human behavior in disasters of all types, including natural and technological disasters and those caused by terrorist acts.

Topics of the 22 individual studies included creativity in emergency response to the World Trade Center disaster, corporate responses and interactions with the public sector, volunteer behavior, implications of the 9-11 events for federal emergency management, impacts on Muslim college students and risk communication and public warning.

"This volume discusses both what was unique about the terrible events of Sept. 11 and what 9-11 has in common with other types of community crises, such as natural disasters," said sociology Professor Kathleen Tierney, director of the Natural Hazards Center. "The 9-11 disaster highlighted our society's vulnerability to extreme events, and at the same time illustrated ways in which groups, organizations and communities are resilient in the face of those events."

Based on findings from these studies, the book includes numerous conclusions and recommendations for how public policy and disaster response can be improved. Some of the recommendations on ways to better cope with terrorist attacks include:

  • Law enforcement and investigative personnel need to be integrated into disaster planning, training and exercises because they will have a central role in terrorist disasters.
  • More media attention to the broader political, social, religious and other aspects of Sept. 11 and similar disasters could help Americans better understand the terrorism risk and the consequences of preventative actions the country might take.
  • Researchers and practitioners need to communicate information on the best protective actions that people can take in response to terrorism, so that proper warnings and instructions can be formulated.
  • A consistent policy is needed that balances the public's and the research community's need to know versus the need to keep information and databases about critical infrastructure systems secure.

"Lessons learned from research on natural and technological disasters have direct applicability for the management of community crises brought about by intentional acts designed to terrorize our society," Tierney said. "Sept. 11, 2001 sends a powerful message about the need to enhance the ability of society and its institutions to prepare, respond and recover from large-scale disasters, whatever their causes."

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The Natural Hazards Center, part of CU's Institute of Behavioral Science, is funded by several agencies including NSF and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The center is an information clearinghouse for disaster professionals and publishes several periodicals including a newsletter sent to more than 15,000 recipients around the world.

For more information on the CU-Boulder Natural Hazards Center see http://www.colorado.edu/hazards. "Beyond September 11th" is available for $25 plus shipping by e-mailing janet.kroeckel@colorado.edu or calling 303-492-6819.

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