Dr. Smith is Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence, a consortium of universities across the U.S. He is currently engaged in planning and policy-related research within the center, including an assessment of the role governors and state agencies play in disaster recovery. Dr. Smith is also a Research Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning, part of the College of Arts and Sciences, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He has published numerous book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles and technical reports addressing topics including hazard mitigation, disaster recovery and climate change adaptation. In 2011 he completed "Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery: A Review of the United States Disaster Assistance Framework" (Island Press) as well as several book chapters addressing the linkage between hazards analysis, planning and sustainable development. He is co-editor of "Climate Change Adaptation: Lessons from Natural Hazards Planning" (Springer 2014).
Following Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Smith worked in the Mississippi Office of the Governor, serving as the Director of the Office of Recovery and Renewal. He testified before Congress twice, providing recommended policy changes to improve the delivery of post-disaster recovery and reconstruction activities.
Additional activities include advising nations, states, communities and federal agencies on hazard mitigation and disaster recovery-related topics. Recent examples include working with the State Department to discuss the connectivity between climate change adaptation and disaster management in Hong Kong and the Philippines, assisting the State of Vermont following Hurricane Irene, and advising FEMA's development of rules to implement the new National Disaster Recovery Framework.
Dr. Smith served as the Asst. Director for Hazard Mitigation in the State of North Carolina. During his tenure with the Division, the Mitigation Section administered mitigation and disaster recovery grant funds of more than $800 million associated with 10 Presidential disaster declarations, leading the acquisition and relocation or elevation of more than 5,000 and 500 homes, respectively. Following Hurricane Floyd, he served as an advisor to Gov. Hunt on policies and programs associated with long-term recovery in North Carolina, including the development of 22 state programs that addressed local needs not met by federal assistance.
Industry Expertise (6)
Areas of Expertise (9)
Leads Natural Hazards Resilience Certificate Program (professional)
Instructs graduate certificate program in natural hazards resilience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
1st Place, Partnership Award – Mississippi Renewal Forum (professional)
Dr. Smith was honored by the Environmental Protection Agency, Gulf Guardian Program in 2006.
Testimony before U.S. Congress (professional)
Dr. Smith testified before Congress twice in the wake of Hurricane Katrina:
- U.S. House of Representatives Testimony - House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina, Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity
- U.S. Senate Testimony - Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Hurricane Katrina
Adviser to two governors during post-storm recovery (professional)
Dr. Smith advised Governor Jim Hunt (D-NC) and Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS) following the worst disasters in each state’s respective history - Hurricane Floyd and Hurricane Katrina.
Advisor to other nations, states and local governments (professional)
Dr. Smith regularly advises other nations, including the Philippines, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia; other states, including Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Vermont, on issues surrounding hazard mitigation, disaster recovery and climate change adaptation.
Texas A&M University: Ph.D., Urban and Regional Planning
Specialization: Environmental Planning and Policy, Dispute Resolution, Hazard Mitigation
Texas A&M University: M.S., Sociology
Specialization: Politics of Urban Development, Demography
Texas A&M University: B.S., Sociology
Specialization: Urban Sociology
- American Planning Association : Member
- National Hurricane Conference : Mitigation Committee
- Southeast Disaster Recovery Partnership Governor’s South Atlantic Alliance: Advisory Committee
- State of North Carolina Disaster Recovery Task Force: Community Planning and Capacity Building Recovery Support Function Lead
- Multi-Hazard Mitigation Council and the National Institute for Building Safety Mitigation Saves 2.0: Technical Oversight Committee
- William Averette Anderson Fund (Bill Anderson Fund): Strategic Planning Committee
- State of Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority: Resiliency Technical Advisory Committee
- Steering Committee Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Recovery Planning Division American Planning Association: Chairman
- Center for Urban and Regional Studies University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Faculty Fellow
- Center for Law Environment Adaptation and Resources; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law: Affiliated Scholar
Media Appearances (2)
Environmental Outlook: Extreme Weather
The Diane Rehm Show (National Public Radio) radio
Interview on what can be learned from extreme weather events.
Extreme Floods May Be the New Normal
ClimateWire/Scientific American online
Interview on the lessons from flooding in Louisiana.
Event Appearances (4)
Need for Data and Use of Data – Refining Methodologies for Better Reliability of Risk Data (2015)
Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation and Resources Workshop on Private Sector Climate Change Adaptation University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The Role of the State in Disaster Recovery: A Comparative Analysis of Gubernatorial Leadership and State Agency Official Engagement, Collaboration and Capacity Building (2014)
6th Annual Texas Hurricane Center Conference University of Houston, Texas
Disaster Recovery and the Role of the Military (2014)
Strategic Fellows Program. Disaster Response and Recovery Program Panel. University of North Carolina, Institute for Defense and Business.
Lesson Drawing from Disaster Recovery in the United States (2014)
Institute of Technology, Department of City and Regional Planning Bandung, Indonesia
Sample Talks (5)
Adapting to Climate Change: International Lesson Drawing from Natural Hazards Planning in Venice, Italy and US Coastal Communities. August, 2016.
Adapting to Climate Change: Lessons from Natural Hazards Planning. August, 2016.
Global Water Resource and Climate Resiliency, Duke University
Issues and Opportunities to Advance Resilience through Natural Hazards Risk Management. February, 2016.
Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography and Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute Seminar Series, Old Dominion University
Planning for Natural Hazards and Climate Change Adaptation. January, 2016.
40th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop, Broomfield, Colorado
Disaster Recovery Health Impact Assessments Panel. Key Dimensions of Disaster Recovery and their Relevance to Public Health. July, 2015.
Natural Hazards Resilience Speaker Series
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Survey of Natural Hazards and Disasters
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Planning for Natural Hazards and Climate Change Adaptation
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
National Disaster Preparedness Training Center, University of Hawaii
Advanced Disaster Recovery Strategies for Local Communities (8-hour course) – Fall
2015 – Raleigh, North Carolina. Spring 2016 – Warwick, Rhode Island; Phoenix, Arizona.
Despite emergence of federal policy experiments, knowledge about the influence of federal policies on local land use policy is almost nonexistent. We examine the effects of a federal mandate and a federal incentive program on adoption of land use policies in local hazard mitigation plans. Comparative statistics were used to determine adoption rates by federal and state programs, followed by Poisson regressions to explain degree of adoption under the federal policies controlling for state policies and local contexts. We found that federal policies do not make a difference in local land use actions, but state policy exerts a strong influence.
Book co-written with Bruce Glavovic
Pre-event planning for postdisaster recovery helps to improve recovery outcomes following disasters by engaging the network of stakeholders involved in recovery and working to develop a degree of consensus around recovery priorities. States serve as a linchpin between local communities and federal agencies, and the development of comprehensive state recovery plans allows states to communicate recovery goals and decision-making processes. This article addresses the limitations of what we know about the role of the state in disaster recovery by describing the application of a plan quality evaluation tool to a sample of state recovery plans. The plans evaluated in this study tended to be heavily focused on federal and state programs and grants available following disasters. To effectively guide recovery decision-making and encourage community resilience, state recovery plans should help to set a direction for recovery and develop corresponding policies that may be implemented by the broad network of stakeholders involved in recovery.
Book written in 2011
Disaster recovery represents the least understood aspect of emergency management, from the standpoint of both the research community and practitioners (Berke, Kartez, & Wenger, 1993; Rubin, 1991). When compared to the other widely recognized phases of emergency management, that is, preparedness, response, and mitigation, scholars have yet to address fundamental questions, while practitioners have failed to establish an integrated policy framework or utilize readily available tools to improve disaster recovery outcomes (Berke et al., 1993; May and Williams, 1986; Mileti, 1999). Since the 1990s the concept of sustainability has been adopted by hazards researchers and applied to mitigation (Berke, 1995a; Burby, 1998; Godschalk, et. al., 1999; Mileti, 1999), recovery (Becker, 1994a; Berke, Kartez, & Wenger, 1993; Eadie et al., 2001; Oliver-Smith, 1990; Smith, 2004; United States Department of Energy, 1998), and to a lesser extent preparedness and response (Tierney, Lindell, & Perry, 2001). While recognized as a meaningful paradigm among scholars and a limited number of practitioners, achieving sustainable recovery following disasters is not a widespread phenomenon in the United States, owing in large part to the current recovery model in practice today. It is therefore the intent of this chapter to describe an improved policy implementation framework focused on achieving sustainable recovery. Emphasis is placed on the analysis of the United States model of recovery and the development of specific recommendations to improve the process. Key issues and research questions are identified in order to advance this agenda, including the need to develop a theory of recovery that emphasizes specific factors that facilitate or hinder this approach. Next, a review of the literature highlights the fact that while past research has addressed several recognized dimensions of sustainable recovery, the research has not been linked to a unifying theory that helps to clarify our understanding of how sustainable recovery can be achieved.