MSU researchers study crisis communication following natural disaster

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Professors at Michigan State University were recently given a $400,000 grant to further their research; thanks to the “National Science Foundation.”

The money will allow researchers to go to Puerto Rico following the aftermath of “Hurricane Maria” so they can explore the way information spreads before, during and after a natural disaster.

It was just a few days ago, “Hurricane Florence” wreaked havoc on the East Coast leaving a handful of people dead and causing significant flooding and damage for miles.

Fortunately first responders were able to warn people of the tropical storm before it struck allowing them to evacuate, but researchers including MSU professors Bruno Takahashi and Manuel Chavez say not everyone is that lucky.

“Each particular disaster has its own characteristics and there are communities that are more resilient than others. In the case of Puerto Rico we know that the level of resilience was fairly low because it was hit by Hurricane Irma two weeks before Hurricane Maria,” said Takahashi.

In January, Takahashi, Chavez and a team of researchers will head to Puerto Rico to study crisis communication, thanks to a grant given to Michigan State University.

“We’re looking into the policies, the implications that need to be taken in order to make sure the population is well protected and well informed about what has to be done in a natural disaster of this nature,” said Chavez.

In addition to that, Chavez says his team will research how journalists, news organizations and local government responded at the time when “Hurricane Maria” wiped out Puerto Rico.

“We’re studying people who are vulnerable on the one side because of language and then also because of age and because of infrastructure and the characteristics of the island,” Chavez stated.

These professors say with this research, they hope it could one day save lives.

“Being able to understand the level of resilience of different people in a disaster including the media and first responders and government officials, we will be able to better prepare them,” said Takahashi.

“What is what they have to do and what is what they need to be prepared on when something like a catastrophic event happens like this,” Chavez stated.

Chavez also says this research can apply to any natural disaster.

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