Dr. Louise Comfort accepted the 2017 B. Wayne Blanchard Award for Academic Excellence in Emergency Management in Higher Education from North Dakota State University this year. The award is given annually to scholars who have made contributions to the field of emergency management, a field to which Dr. Comfort has dedicated her career. Not only has she conducted her own research and written books on disaster management and decision-making, but she also established the Center for Disaster Management (CDM) within GSPIA in 2009, with the support of Dean Keeler.
Dr. Comfort began her career at GSPIA in 1984, when the school itself was in a mode of transition. Though she advocated for a specific center for emergency management, it was not until 2009 that the center became fully integrated with GSPIA. The CDM focuses on decision-making for public managers in the face of rapidly-changing environments, where information is piecemeal and constantly emerging. It also seeks to equip students to conduct research in the “complex environments of disaster risk, response, and recovery.” Notably, Dr. Comfort received a grant in 2013 that enabled her to conduct research in Padang, Indonesia, a city that suffered great damage in the 2009 Sumatra earthquake. Her research there led to the development of a tsunami detection system that takes only “three to five minutes instead of the five to 45 minutes,” typical of the current buoy system. Needless to say, Dr. Comfort was an excellent candidate for the Blanchard Award for her dedication to emergency management, both within the classroom and without.
Dr. Comfort will be retiring as the Director of the CDM and from teaching responsibilities in GSPIA in August 2017. She will continue to conduct research in projects that are already underway at CDM and to direct doctoral students involved in these projects.. Her acceptance of the Blanchard Award could not have occurred at a more opportune moment, to honor the lifelong achievements of Dr. Comfort for her vigorous endeavors and creating an academic center for emergency management at GSPIA.