October 29, 2007

Symposium looks at academic response to disasters

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. — First it was floods, now it's fire. Natural catastrophes on a several-billion-dollar scale have been at the forefront of the news all too often in recent years. Jane Adams, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale professor in the departments of anthropology and history, organized a symposium, "Disaster Planning and Response: What Can the Academy Bring to the Table?" to examine the academic response to disaster, specifically the floods that devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.

The symposium begins at noon on Thursday, Nov. 1, in the Fourth Floor Video Lounge in the SIUC Student Center. The event is free and open to the public.

The event begins with keynote speaker Gregory Button, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee and an adjunct lecturer of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan. Button has more than 20 years of research in disasters and public health crises. His recent research focuses on the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina on those displaced by the hurricane, particularly as it affected St. Bernard Parish, which includes part of the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Several panelists will discuss how academics can assist in disaster preparedness, with time for questions and answers. The symposium ends at about 1:30 p.m.

The panelists are:

Roberto Barrios, assistant professor of anthropology at SIUC, worked in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch in 2000, and studies post-disaster redevelopment efforts generally. Now he studies the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Michael Brazley, assistant professor in the School of Architecture at SIUC, works with the Master Planning Projects, including the Post-Katrina Urban Design and Community Project in New Orleans' Ninth Ward. He recently accompanied a group of architecture students to New Orleans to study urban design and assist in rebuilding projects.

Bill Lovecamp, an assistant professor of sociology at Eastern Illinois University and an SIUC alum, studies the sociology of disasters – how preparedness, recovery and vulnerability is affected by factors such as race and ethnicity and gender, social class, collective behavior and social movements.

Nicholas Pinter, a professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Resources and Policy Program at SIUC, studies how human activity and natural occurrences affect river systems and flooding.

Mike Chamness, chair of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, headed the Illinois Emergency Management Agency for four years, ending in 2003.