The influence of risk perception on disaster recovery: A case study of new Jersey families impacted by hurricane sandy

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Introduction: Risk perceptions of extreme weather events have been explored extensively through the lens of emergency preparation, but the influence of pre-storm risk perceptions on resilience and recovery trajectories are understudied. The objective of this qualitative analysis is to explore 1) the factors which shape residents' perception of risk prior to an event, and 2) how these factors contribute to ‘sensemaking,’ after the storm to influence experiences of recovery. Methods: Eight focus groups and ten in-depth interviews (N = 38) from the Hurricane Sandy Child Impact Study were analyzed using grounded theory. The sample comprised of New Jersey residents who experienced housing damage or displacement during Hurricane Sandy. Verbatim transcripts were coded using iterative phases of open, axial, and selective coding. Results: Grounded theory analysis identified three major themes: 1) Local ecological knowledge and place-based intergenerational memory shaped respondents’ initial risk perceptions, their framing of the event, and its consequences; 2) Unclear institutional decision-making complicated recovery planning and actions; 3) Inaccurate pre-storm risk perceptions led to traumatic memories and decreased self-efficacy in managing recovery. This mismatch in perception and outcome led participants to feel that they had been ill-informed before and during the storm and created skepticism of government recommendations and services during the recovery phase. Conclusions: Local ecological knowledge and intergenerational memory are critical factors that shape pre-storm risk perception and can subsequently influence trust in officials, service utilization, and perceptions of recovery. Themes identified in this analysis suggest the need for future longitudinal research to investigate the extent to which pre-storm risk perception is predictive of post-disaster recovery and resilience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104220
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Disaster recovery
  • Hurricane
  • Place attachment
  • Qualitative
  • Resilience
  • Risk communication
  • Risk perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Safety Research
  • Geology


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