Our research is dedicated to understanding and improving the process of recovery in communities that are affected by natural disasters. Our specific area of expertise is post-disaster relocation, particularly relocation facilitated by home buyout programs.

We operate from an ecological framework that emphasizes the relationship between individuals and their broader context. Disasters are best understood from an ecological perspective, as disruptions in preexisting complex systems. When disasters strike, these systems are affected at multiple levels, from individuals to households to entire communities. At the same time, the system dynamics that were in place prior to the disaster influence the community’s experience of the disaster and help shape the subsequent recovery process.

Read more about our research below.


Current studies:

An Ecological Assessment of New York’s Home Buyout Program: Exploring Lived Experiences and Implications for Affected Households and Communities (National Science Foundation Award #1536217)

PI: Charlene K. Baker, PhD

Co-PI: Sherri Brokopp Binder, PhD

This study examines the experiences of households impacted by postdisaster home buyout programs implemented in New York after Hurricane Sandy. Recently, states impacted by major natural disasters have attempted to facilitate the large-scale relocation of residents out of at-risk areas through the implementation of home buyout programs. While these programs offer potential benefits as disaster mitigation policy tools, previous studies have suggested that postdisaster relocation may negatively impact residents, and significant gaps exist in our understanding of the broader impacts of home buyout programs on participating and affected, non-participating communities. Building on a 2013 study that explored the role of community resilience in buyout decision-making in communities affected by a post-Sandy home buyout program in New York, this study examines the experiences of households and communities in the mid-term relocation and recovery period.

Place attachment and households’ residential recovery decisions after the 2013 Moore tornado

PI: Ali Nejat, PhD

Co-PIs: Sherri Brokopp Binder, PhD and Alex Greer, PhD

This study examines post-disaster residential-recovery in Moore, OK, a community that was devastated by an EF5 tornado in May 2013, with a focus on the role of place attachment in relocation decision-making at the household level. Place attachment has emerged as a possible factor in relocation decisions (Binder, Baker, & Barile, 2015; Greer, 2015; Henry, 2013; Kick et al., 2011; Sanders, Bowie, & Bowie, 2003). In the disaster literature, studies on the role of place attachment are fairly limited, though the work that has been done suggests that place attachment may be particularly salient as disasters harm the built and natural environments, in some cases damaging them to the point where they are no longer recognizable or habitable (Norris, Stevens, Pfefferbaum, Wyche, & Pfefferbaum, 2008). While studies of post-disaster relocation have indicated that place attachment may play of role in household decision-making, there are challenges in terms of the application of existing measures of place attachment in disaster contexts. Specifically, place attachment scales have been primarily applied in studies of leisure and recreation, making their applicability to primary homes and communities unclear.

Previous studies

Postdisaster home buyouts and relocation: Integrating context and community concerns into disaster mitigation policy

PI: Sherri Brokopp Binder, PhD

Co-PI: Charlene K. Baker, PhD

At present, policy and practice related to home buyout programs are outpacing research. This study seeks to address this gap by linking community-based research to policy outcomes, and by integrating community experiences and concerns into the national debate on the efficacy and impacts of home buyout programs. Specifically, this study examines participants’ experience of the buyout or rebuilding process in the 18 months since New York’s post-Sandy Home Buyout Program was fully implemented. Using mixed-methods, this study focuses on the experience of the buyout process and the early relocation and reintegration phase for households that relocate (and, for comparison, the early recovery phase for households that chose to rebuild in their original communities), and includes a specific focus on documenting experiences, perceptions, and recommendations that have implications for buyout and postdisaster relocation policy.

Resilience and postdisaster relocation: A study of New York’s Home Buyout Plan in the wake of Hurricane Sandy

PI: Sherri Brokopp Binder, PhD

Natural disasters can have catastrophic impacts on communities. In the most severe cases, disaster survivors whose homes have been destroyed may choose or be forced to relocate. This is the decision faced by many residents of New York whose homes or communities were damaged by Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012. In the aftermath of this disaster, New York launched programs designed to encourage residents to permanently relocate out of the hardest hit areas. Home buyout programs such as these are becoming increasingly popular as postdisaster mitigation measures, though little is known about what factors influence homeowners to rebuild or resettle after a catastrophic event. This study used mixed-methods to assess the relationship between resilience and the relocation decision in two communities that, despite similar exposure to Sandy, made different decisions regarding whether or not to pursue a buyout. Results suggested that resilience (specifically, measures of connection and caring, transformative potential, resources, sense of community, and sense of place) played an important role in moderating the relationship between contextual community factors and the buyout decision. Further, while both communities displayed resilient responses to Sandy, contextual factors (including the community’s history of natural disasters, local cultural norms, and place attachment) helped to explain the trajectory of resilience in each community, influencing one community toward rebuilding and one toward relocation as an adaptive response.

Resilience and disaster recovery in American Sāmoa: A case study of the 2009 South Pacific Tsunami

PI: Sherri Brokopp Binder

On September 29, 2009, an earthquake off the coast of American Samoa generated a tsunami that struck the islands minutes later. The local response to the physical impacts of the tsunami was swift and efficient, reflecting a core cultural competency of physical resilience. Cultural mechanisms for dealing with grief, however, proved insufficient in helping people manage the emotional trauma caused by the disaster. Certain groups within American Samoa set an example of how the culture can adapt by forging culturally grounded methods for addressing the emotional needs that arose in the tsunami’s wake. Outside aid was critically helpful in some respects, though the amount of aid received and methods of distribution resulted in a significant disruption of local response efforts, social networks, and village hierarchies. The unique experiences of special populations (the elderly and immigrants) were assessed, and events were analyzed through the lens of the social support deterioration deterrence model.