The Key to Disaster Survival? Friends and Neighbors

After political scientist Daniel Aldrich faced Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans he started thinking about how neighbors help one another during disasters. He decided to visit disaster sites around the world, looking for data. From New Orleans to Japan to Southeast Asia to India, he found that ambulances and fire trucks and government aid are not the ways most people survive and recover from a disaster.

The point isn’t that governments and the professional experts are dumb. It’s that communities are not the sum of their roads, schools and malls. They are the sum of their relationships.

“Really, at the end of the day,” he says, the people who will save you, and the people who will help you, they’re usually neighbors.”

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About the Lead Author

Shankar Vedantam Vedantam
Shankar Vedantam is a science correspondent for NPR. The focus of his reporting is on human behavior and the social sciences, and how research in those fields can get listeners to think about the news in unusual and interesting ways. More on Shankar... Photo: Gary Knight VII Photo Agency

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