Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography & Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience

Spring 2021 Virtual Seminar Series

"Emergency Management, Disaster Myths, and Protective Action Behavior Following IrMaria in the U.S. Virgin Islands"

Hans Louis-Charles
Virginia Commonwealth University

Monday, March 29, 2021
3:30 PM

Zoom link


In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria (IrMaria), there was a proliferation of media reports depicting mass looting and criminality in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The implications of such criminality have been shown to negatively influence household evacuation and sheltering behavior, as well as diverting much-needed emergency management resources during disaster response. This study utilizes a mixed-methods approach to investigate the human environment of post-IrMaria and the veracity of these looting claims in the U.S. territory. Post-disaster household interviews provided qualitative data and the Virgin Islands Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reports provided longitudinal statistical data. Findings reveal a pro-social communal environment in the immediate aftermath of IrMaria and a noticeable decrease in crime for the year following the storms. Household evacuation and sheltering behavior was not influenced by fears of looting but was influenced by participants' experience with previous hurricane false alarms.


Dr. Hans Louis-Charles is an assistant professor in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). At VCU, Louis-Charles teaches courses on risk and vulnerability assessment, disaster response, and disaster recovery in the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Program. Louis-Charles conducts applied and theoretical research focused on human and organizational behavior in disaster for better-informed policy and practice in the field of emergency management. His research utilizes a mixed-methods approach with specialization in post-disaster field research and the application of geographic information systems. His previous research has examined household preparedness during an imminent threat scenario, ethical considerations for post-disaster field research, risk of toxics mobility and environmental justice communities, media coverage of disasters, and environmental migration policy. Louis-Charles has earned National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded grants and his publications have appeared in in the American Behavioral Scientist, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Environmental Justice, Sustainability and Climate Change, and Communications Review. Louis-Charles is a founding fellow and current board member of the William A. Anderson Fund.

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