Theme: Active Hope in an Era of Environmental Extremes
Since 1975, the Natural Hazards Center has hosted the Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Colorado. Today the Workshop brings together federal, state, and local mitigation and emergency management officials and planning professionals; representatives of nonprofit, private sector, and humanitarian organizations; hazards and disaster researchers; and others dedicated to alleviating the impacts of disasters.
Project Presentation by Dr. Katlyn Turner of the Space Enabled research group: "Invisible Variables: Personal Security Among Vulnerable Populations During the COVID-19 Pandemic"
The rapid spread of COVID-19 in 2020 required decision-makers to act quickly to reduce the risk of disease spread. While appropriately implemented social distancing measures demonstrably slow the spread of COVID-19, which remains a top priority of policymakers at this time, these measures exacerbate other conflicts and issues in society such as: homelessness, income insecurity, domestic violence, food insecurity, healthcare insecurity, and mental health. Though in “lockdown”, the everyday needs of individuals and societies do not come to a halt. Due to the unprecedented nature of COVID-19, the adverse impacts of government-mandated social distancing measures on individuals were generally unexpected and unknown, with new information coming daily. However: what are policymakers to do about these adverse impacts when the nature of COVID-19 mandates strict social distancing to manage the pandemic? Vulnerable populations, such as individuals from particular job sectors impacted by COVID-19: for example contract workers, workers who rely on tips, informal workers, and students—face unique challenges managing their safety, means, and autonomy in response to the policies implemented on local levels to curb the spread of COVID-19. In order to collect data on how social distancing policies have impacted individuals in a city that began as one of the COVID-19 hotspots, the Invisible Variables project has collected qualitative data from individuals living in Greater Boston during 2020. One-on-one interviews with individuals from vulnerable populations aim to bring out the unseen conflicts and issues that social distancing has caused in their lives. In order for municipal policymakers to implement more effective societal support during natural hazards, such as pandemics, we aim to understand the invisible variables that contribute to vulnerable individual’s personal security during the hardships imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and institutional response.