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Joe Trainor - University of Delaware. Newark, DE, US

Joe Trainor Joe Trainor

Professor and Deputy Dean, Biden School of Public Policy & Administration | University of Delaware


Can discuss behavioral responses to disasters, including household risk management and decision making about warnings and evacuation orders.






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Joe Trainor earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Delaware. His research work is conducted as a core faculty member of the Disaster Research Center (DRC) where he focuses on human behavior and decision-making related to mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery from disasters. He also studies organizational and multi-organizational disaster response systems and policies.

He regularly publishes and presents in a variety of settings. Notable recent efforts include co-editing the widely acclaimed Springer Handbook of Disaster Research and serving as a member of the National Academy of Science Committee on Advancing Social and Behavioral Science Research and Application within the Weather Enterprise.

To date, Trainor has been the PI or co-PI on grants totaling over $7m from a wide range of agencies. In addition to contributing to fundamental knowledge, Joe is a champion for the translation of disaster science to policy and practice as well as the integration of practical concerns into research.

Trainor regularly works with agencies including Impact360 Alliance, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Weather Service, and the United Nations as well as private companies including Google, to bring Disaster Science and Emergency Management insights into practice.

Industry Expertise (1)

Environmental Services

Areas of Expertise (8)

Public and organizational behavior in disasters

Disaster Mitigation

Smart Warning Systems

Mobile Warning Systems

Disaster Warning Systems

Disaster Response

Disaster Research

Disaster housing

Media Appearances (5)

Yes, FEMA has enough money to cover unemployment and disaster relief

CNN  online


“It’s not uncommon for Congress to do that in the event of a major disaster. But it is a little bit like rolling the dice, especially in an election year,” said Joseph Trainor, a faculty member at the University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center.

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How to Prepare Your Electronic Devices for a Natural Disaster

Consumer Reports  online


Getting the right weather and public-safety information is crucial to making smart decisions during a disaster, and you have more options than ever, says Joseph Trainor, director of the disaster science program at the University of Delaware.

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Is Delaware's enforcement of coronavirus restrictions on out-of-state visitors legal?

The News Journal  online


"The reality is, that for everyday people, their lives don't necessarily work that way," said Joseph E. Trainor, a University of Delaware associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration.

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Analysis | Why Trump's tweets about Puerto Rico are obviously untrue

The Washington Post  online


Shortly after the storm struck the island, The Post spoke with University of Delaware professors Joe Trainor and Benigno Aguirre, who work with the school’s Disaster Research Center. We wondered how difficult it would be to determine the actual number of deaths from the storm, and Trainor and Aguirre confirmed that it was far from trivial.

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The ‘second disaster’ following hurricanes: Years of stressful recovery

CNBC  online


“After an event like this there is a tough decision households have to make as to whether they are going to stay or go,” said Joe Trainor, Disaster Science and Management program director and an associate professor of public policy and administration at the University of Delaware. Trainor served as one of the faculty members who led the project Greer worked on as a doctoral student at Delaware.

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Articles (5)

Mitigation insights from emergency managers on working with stakeholders

Journal of Emergency Management

2023 Emergency managers have the important responsibility of planning and implementing mitigation policies and programs to reduce losses to life and property. To accomplish these goals, they must use limited time and resources to ensure the communities they serve have adequately mitigated against potential disasters. As a result, it is common to collaborate and coordinate with a wide variety of partner agencies and community organizations. While it is well established that strengthening relationships and increasing familiarity improve coordination, this article advances that narrative by providing direct insights on the ways a select group of local, state, and federal emergency managers view relationships with other mitigation stakeholders. Using insights from a 1-day workshop hosted at the University of Delaware to gather information from mitigation stakeholders, this article provides a discussion of commonalities and challenges workshop participants identified with other stakeholder groups. These insights can inform other emergency managers about potential collaborators and coordination opportunities with similar stakeholders in their own communities.

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Modeling Evacuees’ Intended Responses to a Phased Hurricane Evacuation Order

Applied Sciences

2023 Phased evacuation is an under-studied strategy, and relatively little is known about compliance with the phased process. This study modelled households’ responses to a phased evacuation order based on a household behavioral intention survey. About 66% of the evacuees reported that they would comply with a phased evacuation order. A latent class logit model sorted evacuees into two classes (“evacuation reluctant” and “evacuation keen”) by their stakeholder perceptions (i.e., whether government agencies have responsibility for the safety of individuals) and evacuation perceptions (i.e., whether evacuation is an effective protective action), while risk perception becomes non-significant in interpreting their compliance behavior to a phased evacuation order. Those that evacuate to the home of friends/relatives and/or bring more vehicles during evacuation are less likely to follow phased evacuation orders. “Evacuation reluctant” individuals with a longer housing tenure are more likely to follow phased evacuation orders. “Evacuation keen” individuals with a longer travel delay expectation are more likely to comply with phased evacuation orders. This study not only unveiled the impacts of incorporating three psychological perceptions (i.e., risk, stakeholder, and evacuation perceptions) in modeling compliance behavior (e.g., parameter sign/significance shift) but also provides insights of evacuees’ compliance behavior to phased evacuation orders.

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Dynamic modeling of public and private decision‐making for hurricane risk management including insurance, acquisition, and mitigation policy

Risk Management and Insurance Review

2022 We develop a computational framework for the stochastic and dynamic modeling of regional natural catastrophe losses with an insurance industry to support government decision-making for hurricane risk management. The analysis captures the temporal changes in the building inventory due to the acquisition (buyouts) of high-risk properties and the vulnerability of the building stock due to retrofit mitigation decisions. The system is comprised of a set of interacting models to (1) simulate hazard events; (2) estimate regional hurricane-induced losses from each hazard event based on an evolving building inventory; (3) capture acquisition offer acceptance, retrofit implementation, and insurance purchase behaviors of homeowners; and (4) represent an insurance market sensitive to demand with strategically interrelated primary insurers. This framework is linked to a simulation-optimization model to optimize decision-making by a government entity whose objective is to minimize region-wide hurricane losses. We examine the effect of different policies on homeowner mitigation, insurance take-up rate, insurer profit, and solvency in a case study using data for eastern North Carolina. Our findings indicate that an approach that coordinates insurance, retrofits, and acquisition of high-risk properties effectively reduces total (uninsured and insured) losses.

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Regional county-level housing inventory predictions and the effects on hurricane risk

Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences

2022 Regional hurricane risk is often assessed assuming a static housing inventory, yet a region's housing inventory changes continually. Failing to include changes in the built environment in hurricane risk modeling can substantially underestimate expected losses. This study uses publicly available data and a long short-term memory (LSTM) neural network model to forecast the annual number of housing units for each of 1000 individual counties in the southeastern United States over the next 20 years. When evaluated using testing data, the estimated number of housing units was almost always (97.3 % of the time), no more than 1 percentage point different than the observed number, predictive errors that are acceptable for most practical purposes. Comparisons suggest the LSTM outperforms the autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) and simpler linear trend models. The housing unit projections can help facilitate a quantification of changes in future expected losses and other impacts caused by hurricanes. For example, this study finds that if a hurricane with characteristics similar to Hurricane Harvey were to impact southeastern Texas in 20 years, the residential property and flood losses would be nearly USD 4 billion (38 %) greater due to the expected increase of 1.3 million new housing units (41 %) in the region.

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‘Inspired to Action’: Immigrants’ Faith-Based Organizations’ Responses across Two Pandemics

Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies

2022 Sources of disaster resilience represent important (but understudied) dimensions of the interplay between immigrants and disasters, as do immigrants’ disaster response activities. Using key informant interviews, we examine immigrant faith-based organizations’ (FBO) responses to two contemporary pandemics. Additionally, we assess for the presence of disaster-relevant social capital in immigrant FBOs. FBOs were found to possess key components of social capital and to actively engage in pandemic response activities, including provision of health risk communication, education, leadership, infection control measures, cash and in-kind contributions, advocacy, and psychosocial support. For immigrant communities, FBO-based social capital contributes to effective disaster and pandemic responses.

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Education (2)

University of Delaware: PhD, Sociology 2009

University of Delaware: MA, Sociology 2004

Languages (1)

  • English

Event Appearances (5)

Bridging Research and Practice

(2019) Natural Hazards Workshop  Broomfield, CO

Uncertainty from a Sociological Perspective

(2019) American Meteorological Society Annual Meetings  Phoenix, AZ

Converging Research and Practice

(2019) Natural Hazards Workshop  Broomfield, CO

Living Labs as a Method to Foster Practice-Relevant Research

(2018) New Directions in Academic-Practitioner Research Collaborations Meeting  Barcelona, Spain

Onwards: Identifying and Overcoming Barriers to Action

(2018) Natural Hazards Workshop  Broomfield, CO