Disaster Science and Management UD graduate student Valerie Marlowe
has been working on the community wellbeing project with Johns Hopkins,
and also recently returned from a research reconnaissance trip to
Houston, her hometown. There she saw first hand some of the issues
facing communities, such as shelter management and the role of libraries
after a disaster. Marlowe’s family members had been evacuated after
“It was pretty stressful to watch it unfold on Facebook,” Marlowe
said. “But everyone from my family is now safe. During the crisis we
used Facebook the way we always have — staying in touch through Facebook
Messenger, posts and check-ins.”
UD alumnus Mike Kiley-Zufelt was a research assistant with the DRC
before joining the American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region and
weighed in with expertise he gathered from his own recent deployment to
help communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
DRC faculty member Victor Perez focused on social solidarity and the
importance of building and maintaining solid community connections and
how that foundation plays a role in a post-disaster world. Perez, an
environmental sociologist, has been working for several years with
community members in the Southbridge area of Wilmington.
He's examined some of the chronic flooding threats Southbridge
residents contend with and has conducted surveys there on residents’
perceptions of the risks of climate change and sea level rise. Through
his work, he met Marie Reed, president of the Southbridge Civic
Association, who grew up in the neighborhood and also attended the lunch
with Zuckerberg. Reed has worked tirelessly on trying to address the
hazards that threaten her community.
Also in attendance was Michael Kalmbach from the Creative Vision
Factory, a peer-run drop-in art space funded by the state’s Division of
Substance Abuse and Mental Health. A UD alumnus with a master of fine
arts, Kalmbach is currently teaching a class for the Department of Art
and Design. Kalmbach has been behind several recent art initiatives in
Wilmington, such as adding mosaic walls at Stubbs Elementary School and
Helen Chambers Park.
As Wachtendorf noted, "Contending with disasters demands bringing
together public officials, the private sector and community in crisis
response. But it also involves improving the conditions people live
routinely and the way organizations interact. All of the participants
around the table demonstrate that need, including the Creative Vision
Factory that might not typically see itself as building disaster
resilience, but is doing just that."
Also joining the chat was Janet Zeis, volunteer management
coordinator at the Chester County Department of Emergency Services. This
summer, Zeis, and the Resilient Chester County initiative she works
with, met with DRC directors Wachtendorf and Kendra regarding ways they
As Wachtendorf noted, "Be it presentations to a fifth grade science
class or at the American Red Cross, be it a discussion at the local
Medical Reserve Corps, a community group in a disaster impacted area, or
with the CEO of Facebook, our hope is to share the wealth of knowledge
we know in this field, open doors for community conversations, all in
the hope make significant advances for real change."
On Sept. 14, Facebook announced that it was bringing all of its
crisis response tools — Safety Check, Community Help and Fundraisers —
into a new place called Crisis Response.
Users are able to see more information from places where Safety Check
has been activated, along with relevant articles, photos and videos from
As the hour and a half lunch discussion came to a close, Zuckerberg
challenged the group to think about what needs to happen in their work
in 10 to 15 years to improve things, which sparked the most lively
discussion of the afternoon.
“This has been a great opportunity,” Zuckerberg said at the end of
the lunch. “Some of the research you are doing has given me a bunch of
ideas to push this forward.”
Article by Holly Norton; photos by Evan Krape