Growing up along the hurricane-prone Texas gulf coast, Patrick S. Roberts, an associate professor in the Center for Public Administration and Policy in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, developed an interest in how disaster and security organizations prepare for extreme events. 

His new book, “Disasters and the American State: How Politicians, Bureaucrats and the Public Prepare for the Unexpected,” just released through the Cambridge University Press, explores the captivating history of the U.S. government’s growing role in dealing with crisis, including Hurricane Katrina and 9/11.

Roberts’ book provides the only single-volume history of the development of federal government disaster management in the United States. The contents range from the origins of the disaster state between 1789 and 1914 to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security between 1993 and 2003 and include details behind the rise of emergency management and the formation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“His analysis of the change from a government in transition — from responding to events to trying to manage them — is a tremendously important and path-breaking contribution to a question that increasingly, and inevitably, demands the best thinking we can bring,” said Donald F. Kettl, dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.

FourDesign, Virginia Tech's faculty-led, student run design agency created the information graphics included for the book. The resulting 17 figures chronicle the development of disaster relief in the United States and track the toll of the disasters themselves.

“Disasters and the American State: How Politicians, Bureaucrats and the Public Prepare for the Unexpected” is available through numerous online outlets, and on GoodReads, there is a contest to win a hard copy of the book that runs through Oct. 14.

Patrick S. Roberts is the associate chair for the Center for Public Administration and Policy and the program director for the center’s National Capital Region location in Alexandria, Va. He received his doctoral degree in government from the University of Virginia, a master’s degree from Claremont Graduate University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dallas. 

During 2010-11, he was the Ghaemian Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Heidelberg Center for American Studies in Germany. He has also worked as a reporter for the Associated Press.

The School of Public and International Affairs, one of four schools in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, comprises three dynamic academic programs: Center for Public Administration and PolicyGovernment and International Affairs, and Urban Affairs and Planning. Each program consists of a robust cohort of faculty and researchers, led by a program chair who oversees the degree offerings across three Virginia locations in Blacksburg, Alexandria, and Richmond.