James Kendra, professor of Public Policy and Administration and co-director of the Disaster Research Center, researches emergency planning, crisis management and organizational improvisation and resilience.
Industry Expertise (2)
Areas of Expertise (7)
Organizational Improvisation and Resilience
Emergency Management Technology
Media Appearances (3)
‘Not living in the same reality.’ Why COVID data settles zero arguments.
San Antonio Express-News online
Individual risk perception also drives conflicting interpretations of the same information, said James Kendra, director of the Disaster Research Center and a professor at the University of Delaware’s Biden School of Public Policy and Administration. What is unacceptably dangerous to one person is worth the risk to another.
Dozens Are Killed as Tornadoes and Severe Weather Strike Southern States
The New York Times online
James Kendra, director of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware, said he is worried that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has been tasked with taking a lead on the pandemic response, could find itself stretched thin if natural disasters pile up.
America’s heartland is expected to flood again — but this time amid coronavirus
“They were stressed even before the pandemic,” James Kendra, co-director of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware, told Grist. FEMA was still working to resolve a number of disaster declarations from previous years — formal requests from cities, counties, or states for aid — before it was asked to join the effort to combat the coronavirus. To boot, the agency is chronically understaffed, even before President Trump reallocated some of its funding to immigration detention centers last summer.
Searching for signal and borrowing wi-fi: Understanding disaster-related adaptations to telecommunications disruptions through social mediaInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
2023 Disaster events can expose the vulnerability of telecommunications infrastructure to service disruptions. During these traumatic events, when connectivity is most needed, it sometimes takes days, or even weeks or months, for normal service to return. Affected people and communities attempt to adapt to these disruptions in creative ways, but this can lead to changing demands on other parts of the infrastructure. To understand the societal impacts of disasters and inform disaster preparation and response, it can be valuable to understand these behavior changes. In this research, we look to social media (Twitter) to provide insight into how people in Puerto Rico adapted to extended telecommunications disruptions after Hurricane Maria in September 2017. First, to address the challenge of limited signal within the noise of online discourse, we articulate an approach for using machine learning to detect adaptations to telecommunication disruptions in a massive Twitter dataset. Next, using a grounded approach, we developed and applied a qualitative coding scheme that revealed the different ways that people adapted to disruptions in cell service, Wi-Fi access, and electricity for their communication devices.
Reproductive Improvisation and the Virtues of Sameness: The Art of Reestablishing New York City's Emergency Operations CenterInternational Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters
2023 Based on an inductive analysis of qualitative in-depth interviews, extensive field observation, and document material, we introduce the concept of reproductive improvisation, an improvisation form that emphasizes reproducing something valued that is lost. We address how an organization might choose sameness in turbulent and ambiguous environments, and how it achieves that goal. Using the reestablishment of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) following its destruction during the September 1l, 2001 World Trade Center disaster in New York City, we discuss how factors such as system stability, pressures to maintain the status quo, substitution accessibility, and retaining a preexisting mental map that develops into a shared vision all facilitate reproductive improvisation. This research differs from most other work on improvisation (e.g., Weick, 1998) that focuses on improvising to generate something new. Here we focus on improvising to generate something that is, as much as possible, the same as a previous model. We therefore add a new perspective on the usual thinking of improvisation and organizations responding to changing environments.
Differences in Household Preparedness and Adaptation for COVID-19Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
2022 Objective: To quantify differences in preparedness for and adaptations to COVID-19 in a cohort sample of New York City residents. Methods: A proportional quota sample (n=1,020) of individuals residing in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic participated in a Qualtrics web survey. Quotas were set for age, sex, race, and income to mirror the population of New York City based on the 2018 American Community Survey. Results: Low self-efficacy, low social support, and low sense of community increased the odds of securing provisions to prepare for COVID-19. Being an essential worker, poor mental health, and children in the household reduced the likelihood of engaging in preparedness practices. Essential workers and individuals with probable serious mental illness were less likely to report preparedness planning for the pandemic. Conclusions: The findings contribute to evolving theories of preparedness. There are differences across the sample in preparedness types, and different kinds of preparedness are associated with different household characteristics. Findings suggest that public officials and others concerned with population wellbeing might productively turn attention to education and outreach activities indexed to these characteristics.
Household Adaptations to Infrastructure System Service InterruptionsJournal of Infrastructure Systems
2022 When critical infrastructure system services are disrupted, households typically respond by reducing, delaying, or relocating their demand (e.g., delaying laundry), or augmenting supply (e.g., using a generator). While this phenomenon is well known, there has been little systematic empirical investigation of it. Focusing on electric power and water service interruptions and using revealed and stated preference survey data from Los Angeles County, California, we develop 24 mixed logit models, one each to predict the probability an individual undertakes a specified adaptation as a function of outage duration and characteristics of the individual. The analysis aims to determine: (1) how common different household adaptations are; (2) how adaptation implementation varies with infrastructure type, outage duration, and uses of the service; (3) what household characteristics are associated with implementation of different adaptations; and (4) how adaptations tend to occur together. The percentage of individuals who report doing an adaptation varies greatly across adaptations and outage durations, from 2% to 88%. In general, adaptations that require moving out of the home are the least common of those investigated. For electric power outages, adaptations that could be done at home are less likely as the outage duration increases, while those that require going somewhere are more likely as the duration increases. For water outages, all adaptations (except delaying consumption) are more likely as an outage lasts longer. Using electric power or water for medical devices and/or work and business has a large effect on the likelihood of implementing many adaptations. Preevent conservation habits are also associated with an increased likelihood of implementing adaptations. The influence of household characteristics varies greatly across adaptations. There is evidence that some adaptations tend to occur together (e.g., using water from lakes and the government) and others tend not to (e.g., delaying electricity use and going to a hotel).
Household impacts of interruption to electric power and water servicesNatural Hazards
2022 Critical infrastructure systems derive their importance from the societal needs they help meet. Yet the relationship between infrastructure system functioning and societal functioning is not well-understood, nor are the impacts of infrastructure system disruptions on consumers. We develop two empirical measures of societal impacts—willingness to pay (WTP) to avoid service interruptions and a constructed scale of unhappiness, compare them to each other and others from the literature, and use them to examine household impacts of service interruptions. Focusing on household-level societal impacts of electric power and water service interruptions, we use survey-based data from Los Angeles County, USA, to fit a random effects within-between model of WTP and an ordinal logit with mixed effects to predict unhappiness, both as a function of infrastructure type, outage duration, and household attributes. Results suggest household impact increases nonlinearly with outage duration, and the impact of electric power disruptions is greater than water supply disruptions. Unhappiness is better able to distinguish the effects of shorter-duration outages than WTP is. Some people experience at least some duration of outage without negative impact. Increased household impact was also associated with using electricity for medical devices or water for work or business, perceived likelihood of an emergency, worry about an emergency, past negative experiences with emergencies, lower level of preparation, less connection to the neighborhood, higher income, being married, being younger, having pets, and having someone with a medical condition in the house. Financial, time/effort, health, and stress concerns all substantially influence the stated level of unhappiness.