American Sociological Association

July 11, 2005
Contact: Johanna Ebner or Lee Herring
(202) 247-9871

Sociologists Are Available to Discuss the Effects of, and Recovery from,
Disasters and Terrorist Attacks

Washington, DC — Hurricane Dennis. London's transit system bombing on July 7, 2005. South Asia’s Tsunami. Hurricane Andrew. September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. NASA’s Challenger and Columbia explosions. The Northridge earthquake. The Chicago heat wave. Chernobyl. The Exxon Valdez. TWA Flight 800. Whether a natural disaster, human error, or an intentional attack, there are social aspects and consequences to resulting disasters. Social scientists can comment on what is known about human and social relationships and structures that could help prevent or mitigate the consequences of disasters, dismiss common myths about disasters, analyze common mistakes in developing responses to disasters, and explain the mismatch between citizens’ needs and government and private industry responses. Sociologists can comment on how to improve preparedness for, response to, and recovery from, human-made and natural disasters.

Disaster experts include:

William A. Anderson (202-334-1523 or is associate executive director in the Division on Earth and Life Studies and director of the Disasters Roundtable in the National Research Council. From June 1999 to June 2001, he served as senior advisor in the Disaster Management Facility in the Infrastructure Division at the World Bank while on leave from the National Science Foundation (NSF). For more than 20 years, he held various positions at NSF, including program director, section head, and acting division director. While at NSF, his responsibilities included developing multidisciplinary natural hazards research programs and providing oversight for such large-scale research activities as the NSF-funded earthquake engineering research centers.

Lee Clarke, (732-445-5741 or, Associate Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, writes about organizations, culture, and disasters. His early work concerned how decision makers choose among risks in highly uncertain environments. His publications include: Organizations, Uncertainties, and Risk, edited by James F. Short, Jr. and Lee Clarke; Acceptable Risk? Making Decisions in a Toxic Environment; and Terrorism and Disaster: New Threats, New Ideas. He has written, and frequently lectures about, organizational failures, leadership, terrorism, panic, civil defense, evacuation, community response to disaster, organizational failure, and the World Trade Center disaster. His work was recently profiled in the New York Times and the Harvard Business Review. His latest book, Worst Cases: Imagining Terror and Calamity in the Modern Day, will be published in October.

Mathieu Deflem, (803-777-6596 office, or 803-256-9116 home,, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of South Carolina, is a specialist on the policing of terrorism, especially at the international level, and the security and intelligence dimensions of counter-terrorism. He can discuss the efforts that police and security agencies make to prevent terrorism, and the response that is needed at home and abroad. Deflem is the author of Policing World Society, and editor of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism: Criminological Perspectives. He has often contributed to the news media, including NPR, CNN International, BBC, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press.

Eric Klinenberg, (212-998-8375 or, Assistant Professor of Sociology at New York University, is author of Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, which has received awards from the Urban Affairs Association Book Prize, the Association of American Publishers Award, and received the American Sociological Association Urban Book Prize. His areas of interests include urban and community sociology, the sociology of science, technology, and knowledge, and the sociology of media and culture. He has written several academic and news articles about urban disaster, in the International Herald Tribune, the Guardian, and the Boston Globe; and his work has been profiled in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, NPR, and PBS.

Gary LaFree, (301-405-0714 or, Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland-College Park, is an expert on national and international macro-level crime trends. He is the Director of the Homeland Security Center of Excellence for Behavioral and Social Research on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism at the University of Maryland THe center's research will focus on areas such as how to disrupt the formation of terror networks and minimize the impact of future attacks. He has published widely, including, The Nature of Crime (2000) and Losing Legitimacy: Street Crime and the Decline of Social Institutions in America (1998). Along with Laura Dugan, he is currently developing a terrorism database that contains 70,000 events that took place around the world between 1970 and 1997. In addition to a series of research projects on terrorism, his current projects include studies of U.S. crime trends by race, the impact of political legitimacy and economic stress on world homicide rates.

Havidan Rodriguez, (302-831-6618 or, Director of the University of Delaware Disaster Research Center and Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware. He serves as a member of the Disaster Roundtables at the National Academies of Science. He is currently working on two research projects focusing on population composition, geographic distribution, natural hazards, and vulnerability in the coastal regions of Puerto Rico. Some of his recent publications include: Disasters, Vulnerability, and Society: An International and Multi-Disciplinary Approach (2004 – Invited Editor with Wachtendorf); The Role of Science, Technology, and the Media in the Communication of Risk and Warnings; and In Risk and Crisis Communication: Building Trust and Explaining Complexities When Emergencies Arise (2004).

Kathleen Tierney, (303-492-6427 or, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Natural Hazards Research Center, University of Colorado-Boulder, recently wrote Facing the Unexpected: Disaster Preparedness and Response in the United States. Since September 11, 2001, she has been directing a study on the organizational and community response in New York following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Prior to moving to the University of Colorado, she was the Director of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. With more than 25 years of experience in the disaster field, Tierney has studied many disaster events, including major earthquakes in California and Japan, floods in the Midwest, and Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew.

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The American Sociological Association, celebrating its centennial year, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions and use of sociology to society.

Last Updated on July 11, 2005
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