Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis

Colorado State University 
B-258 Clark Building
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1784 

Colorado State Professor Lori Peek Talks Natural Disasters Impact on Children

Video by CTV News Reporter Patrick Enslow

Colorado State University professor and researcher Dr. Lori Peek gave a presentation on Tuesday night about the impact of natural disasters on children and youth.

It is the third installment of the President’s Community Lecture Series that are set to occur twice a semester, covering various topics.

Peek is a natural disaster researcher, focusing on populations that are vulnerable to natural disasters. She noted that she shifted her focus to specifically children and youth, and she attributes this shift to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005.

She discussed the many misconceptions about the way children deal with and respond to disasters, one of them being that they are powerless in the recovery.

“The ‘vulnerable victims myth’ is the idea that children, in the face of disasters, become completely helpless and unable to respond to these extreme events — that they are rendered completely incapacitated and incapable of contributing in meaningful ways,” Peek said.

With what appeared to be tears welling in her eyes, Peek shared three specific stories of individuals that revealed to her just how instrumental children and youth can be in the wake of a natural disaster.

One of the stories in particular centered around 21-year-old Sam Johnson, who was directly affected by a catastrophic earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011.

Instead of partaking in the parties thrown by others in the community to celebrate surviving the earthquake, he used Facebook to organize a relief effort that was referred to as a “student volunteer army.”

Dr. Lori Peek discusses the way children and youth deal with and respond to natural disasters at the LSC theater. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer)

“By the end, with the power of social media, Sam brought tens of thousands of people to work together on the recovery,” Peek recalled.

Although there is potential for youth empowerment centered around relief projects, Peek also acknowledged that children can be an exceptionally vulnerable population when they experience a disaster.

“Children tend to suffer longer and more-enduring mental health impacts, a number of large-scale quantitative studies have taught us that,” she said. “We also can turn to a number of studies that show that when given the opportunity, children can and do volunteer at very high rates in the aftermath of disaster.”

Last year, CSU partnered with Columbia University to form a youth empowerment group called SHOREline. Their main goal, among many others, is to teach children and youth what it takes for their own population to recover from a natural disaster and to help them reach out to other children currently struggling with the detrimental consequences.

The acronym SHORE stands for Skills, Hope, Opportunities, Recovery and Engagement, which, according to Peek, are the five things that children need the most when coping with a natural disaster.

“We are giving children and youth the research skills … and the capacity to solve their own problems,” Peek said.

SHOREline currently operates at six high schools along the Gulf Coast, but they hope to expand to Colorado in the coming years.

Dr. Lori Peek is an associate professor of sociology and co-director of Colorado State University’s Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis. She also holds the title of Associate Chair of the Social Sciences Research Council Task Force on Hurricane Katrina and Rebuilding the Gulf Coast. Peek is the recipient of many high honors and awards, including the Early Career Award for Outstanding Scholarship in 2009.

Collegian Reporter Haleigh McGill can be reached at, or on Twitter @HaleighMcGill.

Somewhere in the world, a disaster occurs each day. Sometimes the impacts are felt locally, such as the recent wildfires near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colorado, that destroyed 605 homes. Other times, the event reaches across state and national boundaries, such as Hurricane Sandy along the east coast, and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Globally, the number of natural disasters has increased fourfold during the past three decades—from about 120 per year during the 1980s to roughly 500 per year now.  These disasters, which claim tens of thousands of lives each year, exert a disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable individuals.

At the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis (CDRA) at Colorado State University, we engage in interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach activities for the primary purpose of reducing human vulnerability to disasters and increasing individual and community capacity to prepare for and recover from hazard events.

To learn more, visit us on facebook

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The Katrina Bookshelf

The Media, Copycat Behaviors, and Disasters

Please join us in welcoming Phil Campbell on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 for his presentation on the media, copycat behaviors, and disaster. This event will be held at Colorado State University in the Lory Student Center, room 310 from 9:00-10:00 a.m.

SHOREline Project Overview

Please check out this video featuring Dr. David Abramson and Dr. Lori Peek, the co-founders and co-directors of SHOREline! Here they are describing the background and development of this post-disaster recovery and youth empowerment program.

SHOREline Recruitment Video

Are you a high school student during the 2013-2014 academic year? Do you see challenges in your community that young people could address if they had the chance? Would you like to make a difference and meet new people from across the Gulf Coast and beyond? If you answered "Yes!" and you attend one of the following five high schools in the Gulf Coast areas, get an application at today. Grand Isle School, LA; Benjamin Franklin High School, LA; South LaFourche High School, LA; Gulfport High School, MS; and Bryant High School, AL.

Youth Creating Disaster Recovery

Brett Blair is a master's student in intercultural and international communication at Royal Roads University. Through a compelling video piece, Brett showcases the work of SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship-funded colleague Robin Cox, who studies youth empowerment as part of disaster recovery. Emphasizing the research's model of participatory, creative engagement, Blair's video also explores the increasingly-vocal youth demographic and its impact on shaping disaster policy and practice.

Gulf Oil Spill Research Goes Mobile with AT&T

August 23, 2012 - Following disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health deploys a field team to collect research on the health, social and economic impacts on people who live within disaster zones. Under an agreement with AT&T, the NCDP uses the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 on AT&T's network to conduct surveys in the field and instantly share feedback with their team in New York.

For more information, please visit:

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: The Dispersant Experiment

July 28, 2012 - The BP oil spill made international headlines two summers ago as images of stained beaches and oil-soaked pelicans portrayed what might have been the nation’s greatest ecological disaster.  Along with their massive PR efforts, British Petroleum had another method of keeping the spill from sinking their business – the chemical dispersant Corexit.  In the months following the spill, over two million gallons were sprayed and injected into the Gulf of Mexico and so began the great experiment…

After six months of filming in the Gulf in 2010, our first project, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: The Dispersant Experiment” draws from local residents, a variety of experts, and an in-depth lab experiment to exposes the truth about BP’s cleanup in the Gulf.

Please help share our piece as we aim to spread this truth and combat the multi-million dollar PR campaign that claims all is well.  As legal battles continue to play out, it is not too late to bring justice to the people of the Gulf.

NEED TO KNOW: Preserving memories after Sandy

The Brooklyn-based nonprofit "Care for Sandy" has emerged as one of the critical grassroots groups helping residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy save some of their most cherished memories. For more:




Please note that our web site is a work in progress. We encourage you to visit the site regularly for updated information.

Congratulations to CSU Disaster Researchers and Affiliates from Many Other Universities!

Colorado State University has been selected to establish a federal center devoted to helping local governments decide how to best invest resources to lessen the impact of extreme weather and other hazards on buildings and infrastructure — and to recover rapidly in their aftermath.

Colorado State University

John W. van de Lindt, CSU’s George T. Abell Distinguished Professor of Infrastructure and a professor in CSU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, serves as principal investigator and co-director of the Community Resilience Center of Excellence. Bruce Ellingwood, also a professor of civil and environmental engineering at CSU, is the other co-director.

The Fort Collins-based center is funded by a $20 million cooperative agreement awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). CSU will work with NIST researchers and partners from 10 other universities to develop computer tools to aid in increasing community disaster resilience. This includes preparing for anticipated hazards, adapting to changing conditions, and withstanding and recovering rapidly from disruptions.

“This center complements NIST’s long-standing efforts to improve the performance of the built environment against natural hazards — such as tornadoes, coastal flooding, wildfires and earthquakes — as well as large-scale, human-caused disruptions,” said Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May. “The tools developed by the center will help to further advance the important goal of disaster resilience from ambitious concepts to cost-effective solutions that communities can implement over time.”

A multi-disciplinary team

The award was announced today at the NIST Disaster Resilience Workshop in Del Mar, Calif. The center will receive $4 million annually for five years and NIST has the option to renew the award for five additional years, depending on performance and the availability of funds.

“In light of increasingly extreme weather, cities and towns across the country are working to find innovative ways to learn from and prepare for natural disasters,” said U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colorado. “Colorado State University’s talent and resources have once again allowed them to be a leader in this nationwide initiative to enhance our ability to respond and recover.  This impressive work will help local governments more efficiently and cost-effectively prepare for and rebuild after these disasters, and make our communities more resilient.”

The center’s multi-disciplinary team includes experts in engineering, economics, data and computing, and social sciences from the University of Oklahoma, Rice University, Texas A&M University, the University of Washington, the University of South Alabama, the California Polytechnic University in Pomona and Texas A&M-Kingsville.

Associate directors are Paolo Gardoni, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Daniel Cox, professor of civil and construction engineering at Oregon State University.

“The center will focus on developing tools that individual communities can use to assess their resilience,” van de Lindt explained. “I am extremely honored that CSU has been selected to lead this important work, and look forward to collaborating with colleagues across the nation to help evaluate the effectiveness of alternative measures to minimize post-disaster disruption and recovery time at the local level, in a way that makes the most sense for residents most affected.”

Van de Lindt’s research has focused on various methods of retrofitting buildings in earthquake prone areas to mitigate damage from seismic events.

About the center

Work at the new center will support NIST as it drafts its Disaster Resilience Framework. The framework focuses on buildings and infrastructure systems, such as power, communication, water and transportation. It also will address how to maintain social services and institutions vital to meeting the needs of community residents — health care delivery, education, social services, financial institutions — as well as economic functions.

The centerpiece of the center’s effort will be NIST-CORE — the NIST-Community Resilience Modeling Environment. Built on an open-source platform, the computer model and associated software and databases will incorporate a risk-based approach to decision-making that will enable quantitative comparisons of different resilience strategies.

As NIST-CORE is developed, its performance will be tested against data gathered from past disasters. Ultimately, NIST-CORE will be able to learn from one analysis to the next, a capability that does not exist in any other risk or disaster-resilience model in the world.

Original story available here.