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Release Date: Thursday, October 3, 2013 1:47 PM
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Sholnn Freeman
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Howard Researcher Studies Earthquake First Responders in Japan
Terri Adams Ph.D.

WASHINGTON (July 1, 2013) –Terri Adams Ph.D., Howard University associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, traveled to Japan in May to examine the challenges experienced by first responders during the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. 

The disaster is considered one of the worst nuclear catastrophes in modern times and claimed more than 20,000 lives. Adams was able to interview individuals of various ranks of a first responder agency that played a pivotal role after the disaster.

The research in Japan is part of a larger study being conducted by Adams. The study examines resilience and role conflict among first responders who are personally impacted by the disasters in which they are expected to respond. Adams has examined similar issues during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans and Gulfport, Miss., as well as the earthquake and tsunami in Santiago and Constitución Chile in 2010.

Adams is principal investigator on the project. Her weeklong visit was funded by the National Center for the Study of Preparedness and Catastrophic Event Response, known as PACER, at Johns Hopkins University.

While in Japan, Adams traveled with Makiko Toge-Lawson, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology who played a key role in the data collection process. Toge-Lawson, a native of Japan who has lived in the United States for more than a decade, provided the project with important cultural awareness and acted as a translator.

During the visit, Japanese officials warmly welcomed Adams and Toge-Lawson.  The officials shared best practices and personal challenges. Officials gave the researchers a tour of some of the impacted areas in Sendai, the largest city of Tōhoku region.

The tour of the region reinforced a sense of the magnitude of the disaster and the horrors faced by the citizens and the first responders. The researchers saw large swaths of barren areas that once contained thriving neighborhoods, busy streets, schools and businesses.

Adams said the team hopes to secure additional funding to return to Japan in the near future to continue data collection.


Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, two Truman Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, 30 Fulbright Scholars and 11 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University's Web site at

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