Then and Now: A New Look at Methods and Findings from the 1974 Xenia, Ohio (US) Tornadoes

Friday, July 18, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: Booth 48
Oral Presentation
Lauren CLAY , Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware, Newark, DE
Alex GREER , Disaster Science and Management, University of Delaware, Newark, DE
James KENDRA , School of Public Policy and Administration and Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware, Newark, DE
As part of a project constructing a Community Resilience Index (CRI) intended to predict community resilience pre-event, we undertook a series of historical case studies. The goal of the case studies was to explore elements of community resilience from disaster events. We used field study data from the E.L. Quarantelli Resource Collection at the Disaster Research Center. This article focuses on the 1974 Xenia, Ohio, USA tornadoes. This case study was the most fully developed with 23 boxes of primary documents and interview materials and offers the opportunity for comparison with the May 2013 Moore, OK, USA tornadoes. To develop the case studies, we looked for specific indicators of emergent, creative activities, which previous literature identified as indicators of resilience. Case studies served as a proof of concept for the CRI model.  

Researching historical disasters presents particular challenges. First, much of the data were in outdated or delicate format. A survey of children in Xenia was completed and the data were available on punch cards. Reports from various community groups were available for review on thin and faded paper. It was also challenging making sense of the data, given the shifts in terminology and theoretical orientations between 1974 and the present. This was especially relevant for this case study due to the focus on mental health. Disaster mental health policies and guidelines changed significantly since the 1970s. Nevertheless, this data set presented several advantages. We discovered that, while the data available was delicate and in outdated formats, there was more primary material available than some of the more recent studies. We hypothesize that this may be due to the influx of technological advances between 1975 and 2005. Since much material is now generated electronically, serendipitous field discoveries may be impeded, even as other data is widely available.