Louise Comfort

3426 Posvar Hall
Curriculum vitae


  • PhD, Political Science, Yale University, 1975
  • MA, Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, 1960
  • BA, Political Science and Philosophy, Macalester College, 1956


Louise K. Comfort is Professor of Public and International Affairs and Director, Center for Disaster Management, University of Pittsburgh. She holds a B.A. in political science and philosophy, Macalester College, a M.A. in political science, University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in political science, Yale University. She is a Fellow, National Academy of Public Administration, and author or co-author of six books, including Designing Resilience: Preparing for Extreme Events, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010 and Mega-Crises: Understanding the Prospects, Nature, Characteristics and the Effects of Cataclysmic Events, Charles C. Thomas, 2012. Her primary research interests are in decision making under conditions of uncertainty and rapid change, and the uses of information technology to develop decision support systems for managers operating under urgent conditions. She teaches courses in organizational theory and design, systems thinking, and public policy. She has published articles on information policy, organizational learning, and sociotechnical systems, and is Editor, Safety Science, and Book Review Editor, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis.  She has engaged in field studies following nineteen earthquake disasters in fourteen countries, including the EERI reconnaissance study of September 30, 2009 Padang Earthquake, Indonesia, an NSF RAPID response study of the January 12, 2010 Haiti Earthquake, and a recovery study of the March 11, 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, Japan.

Teaching and Research Areas

Organizational theory, innovation and behavior, complex adaptive systems, policy analysis design, program implementation, information technology policy and management, disaster response management.

Select Publications and Funded Research

  • Editor of special issue of  Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis on “Designing Disaster Resilience and Public Policy,”  Vol. 14, Issues 2-3, 2012.
  • “Emergency Management Research and Practice in Public Administration: Emergence, Evolution, Expansion, and Future Directions,” Public Administration Review, 30 APR 2012, (with W.L. Waugh, Jr. and B.A. Cigler).
  • Designing Resilience:Preparing for Extreme Events. Lead editor with Arjen Boin and Chris C. Demchak. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 2010.
  • "A Bad Time for Disaster: Economic Stress and Disaster Resilience." Administration & Society, 2011 (with D.E.A. Johnson and R.L. Skertich).
  • “Vulnerability Assessment for Flooding in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Region,” funded by The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Buhl Foundation, 2006-2007
  • “Asymmetric Information Processes in Extreme Events:  The 26 December 2004 Sumatran Earthquake and Tsunami,” Communicable Crises:  Prevention, Response and Recovery in the Global Arena.  Information Age Publishing, 2007.
  • “Communication, Coherence, and Collective Action:  The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Communications Infrastructure,” Public Works Management and Policy 11 no. 1 (2006):  1-16. 
  • “Cities at Risk:  Hurricane Katrina and the Drowning of New Orleans,” Urban Affairs Review 41 no. 4 (2006):  501-516.
  • “Inter-organizational Coordination in Extreme Events:  The World Trade Center Attacks, September 11, 2001,” Natural Hazards Vol. 39 (2006):  309-327.
  • Co-edited with U. Rosenthal and A. Boin.  Managing Crises:  Threats, Dilemmas and Opportunities.  Charles C. Thomas, 2001.

Consultancies, Public Service, and Awards/Honors

  • Provost’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring, University of Pittsburgh, 2008
  • Fellow, National Academy of Public Administration, 2006
  • Fellow, Fulbright Senior Scholar, Argentina, 2006
  • Chair, Board of Directors, Emergency Information
  • Consultant to the Municipality of Bogota, Columbia, 2005
  • Infrastructure Partnership, 2000-2005
  • Consultant to the Inter-American Development Bank, 2003

Other Faculty and Academic Administration Positions

  • Director, Center for Disaster Management, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh
  • Public and Urban Affairs Division Director, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh
  • Visiting Professor, Research Center for Urban Safety and Security, Kobe University, Kobe, Japan, 1999-2000

Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
3601 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260