Landscapes of trust: An investigation of posthurricane engagement and recovery

Darien Alexander Williams, Fayola Jacobs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: This project interrogates how nonprofessionals are included or excluded in a professional-led disaster recovery process after Hurricane Michael along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Disaster nonprofessionals, often volunteers, engaged in disaster work perceive their efforts as necessary to the recovery of impacted communities. Methods: Participant observation, semi-structured interview, and web response across three sites in the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael generate insight into how different actors working in the same space perceive their work and develop or maintain fictions of institutional incongruences and barriers to coordination. Results: Findings identify vital processes that produce organizational incongruencies with grave and lasting implications for disaster-impacted geographies. These processes include volunteer intake, federal match funding, and exacerbated crises. Discussion: This tenuous dynamic, created by a lack of alignment of goals, exists primarily due to communication incongruencies, local history, and relationships built on professional forms of trust. Such trust, when tied to overwhelmingly white professions, can be racialized and classed, entailing potential environmental justice challenges. Narrative and organizational memory from past disasters drive feelings of trust and betrayal between these two groups working in the same context. Conclusion: This study reveals how disaster professionals and nonprofessionals perceive their work as part of or distinct from an accessible and unified government-managed disaster recovery process. Our findings demonstrate that the exclusion of certain populations from early recovery work has uneven, long-term implications for hurricane-impacted communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-197
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Justice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by a grant from the University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center through its Quick Response Grant Program, which is funded by National Science Foundation grant number CMMI1635593.

Publisher Copyright:
© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.


  • Disaster
  • Emergency management
  • Hurricane
  • Recovery
  • Volunteer


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