In the United States, both coastal and inland communities are exposed to a range of natural hazards, including hurricanes, tropical storms, tornadoes, floods, and fires. Providing essential services in the aftermath of natural hazards places an immense burden on the capacities of government and nonprofit entities. Past research has established that residents that live in disaster-prone areas have some understanding of the risk, but also have an expectation that there will be a planned response from the government and/or nongovernmental organizations. The ideal scenario would be a collaborative response, employing government, nonprofits, and the community together. To be successful these organizations need citizen trust and confidence to mobilize resources and effectively respond to disasters. Few studies have focused on how individual residents perceive and evaluate the performance of government and nonprofit service providers during and after a significant natural disaster, and even less is known about perceptions around these same providers and their capacity to mitigate negative impacts of natural hazards. 

In their new work, “Growing Community Resilience from the Grassroots: Risk Awareness, Confidence in Institutions, and Civic Participation in a Natural Hazards Context,” published in the Natural Hazards Review, researchers Hyunseok Hwang, Arnold Vedlitz, and R. Patrick Bixler use Austin, Texas, as an inland community case study. The authors examine how individuals’ perceived hazard risk awareness affects their confidence in formal institutions of government agencies and nonprofit organizations in the Austin area. They present a literature review to establish a hypothesis, and then describe their methodology to empirically test confidence in government and nonprofit service providers in response to natural hazards. See the full paper at The abstract is below.


This article explores the factors that influence citizens’ confidence in public and nonprofit sectors in the context of natural hazards. Utilizing a survey of residents in Austin, Texas, USA, we model the influence of residents’ hazard risk awareness on the perceived confidence in formal institutions that are responsible for hazard preparedness and response. The empirical results of structural equation modeling show that perceived confidence in public and nonprofit sectors is differentially affected by residents’ hazard risk awareness. Importantly, we also find the role of civic participation to positively mediate the effect of hazard risk awareness on the levels of confidence. Our findings contribute to the growing literature on coproduction of services for preparing urban residents for the impacts of climate change and emphasize the importance of community-driven development of community resilience.

Learn more in the ASCE Library about achieving greater community buy-in on public and nonprofit agencies’ preparedness for disasters: