PULLMAN, Wash. — Steven Stehr, associate professor of political science at Washington State University, has been awarded an $82,000 National Science Foundation Grant to study the disaster assistance and relief process in the aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.
“This grant,” said Stehr, “allows me to continue work began immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks.” His work in the wake of the attacks was focused on victim identification and the management of mass casualties.
One area of examination in the current research is the processes surrounding victim identification and assistance. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than 55,000 people registered with that agency for state and federal disaster assistance. FEMA estimates more than $1.2 billion was administered through approximately 50 separate programs in the New York area by federal and state governments for disaster recovery and assistance. In addition, over $1.5 billion has been raised by over 200 nonprofit charities to provide aid to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
According to Stehr’s research proposal, relief efforts raise a number of vital questions. How are these agencies and groups processing large numbers of requests for assistance? How have victims been identified and who has been made eligible for aid? Who among the victims may be “falling through the cracks” of the relief system and how might they be identified? To what extent have pressures to render aid quickly affected decision-making processes? What role have Web-based technologies played in the disaster assistance system? What problems have disaster relief officials encountered and how have they been resolved?
The principal objective of Stehr’s research is to develop a more comprehensive and systematic understanding of the disaster assistance process and to answer the question to what extent should the efforts of multiple organizations with overlapping goals be coordinated?