Current Research

The Center for Public Policy is currently working on a number of projects that span the interests of the community.

Recent Disaster Policy Publications

Williams, Brian D. and Gary R Webb (Forthcoming) “Social Vulnerability and Disaster: Understanding the Perspectives of Practitioners” Disasters


This research seeks to understand how local emergency managers perceive and define social vulnerability. While there has been a significant increase in research on social vulnerability recently, little is known about the extent to which that knowledge is being translated into practice. To address that void, we conducted semi-structured interviews with a sample of local emergency managers (N=24), asking them to describe what social vulnerability means to them. The analysis identified four primary perspectives on social vulnerability prevalent in the sample. These include social vulnerability as: (1) culture and poverty, (2) a moral imperative, (3) lack of security, and (4) lack of knowledge and awareness. Although these practitioner perspectives may not align perfectly with the definitions of social vulnerability prevalent in the hazards and disaster research literature, the results of this study do suggest a possible narrowing of the gap between research and practice as it relates to social vulnerability.

Williams, Brian D. and Gary R. Webb (Forthcoming) “Vulnerability and Disaster: Practitioner Strategies for Addressing the Needs of Vulnerable Populations” Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management


The strategies employed by emergency managers are intended to enhance rather than diminish the ability to meet society’s needs and specifically those of vulnerable populations. This study looks at the strategies that emergency management professionals employ to reach and meet the needs of vulnerable populations. Twenty - four interviews were conducted in 2016 with county and city level emergency management professionals from across the Houston – Galveston and Southeast Texas regions. The interview data reveals a common element of control. However, while some do talk about the need to leave disaster management activities to the professionals, the need to bring in volunteers and foster flexibility in a controlled environment are indeed important. The need to build buy-in and understand protocols reveals the need for future research to better understand the extent that emergency management combines discipline with agility to address the challenges of the unexpected and decrease the impact of vulnerability.