The northeastern Oklahoma city of Tulsa was one of the most flood-prone cities in the nation in the 1970’s. Now, Tulsa is known for its success in mitigating flood hazards. SCIPP researchers have published a study in Natural Hazards Review that examines Tulsa’s progression toward effective flood hazard mitigation. Jazz on Tulsa Time: The Remarkable Story of the Network of Flood Mitigation Champions behind the Tulsa Turnaround addresses two questions: First, does Tulsa’s nationally acclaimed model local hazard mitigation effort fit what the research points to as the standard model of hazard mitigation? Second, how have the characteristics and roles of local champions and the relationships between them shaped Tulsa’s successes?
Using a case study approach, University of Kansas Associate Professor Ward Lyles, University of Kansas Graduate Student Penn Pennel, and SCIPP Deputy Director Rachel Riley, collected primary documents, conducted and transcribed interviews, and made site visits to Tulsa. Their analysis found that Tulsa’s hazard mitigation effort shared many of the principal features of the standard model of hazard mitigation, thus confirming its importance. Additionally, analysis of the second research question gave insight into how local champions shaped the network of mitigation advocates in Tulsa. These findings highlighted the importance of following the standard model for hazard mitigation, as well as promoting a diverse group of stakeholders with regard to their professional roles, personal characteristics, and relationships, in order to cultivate the conditions for local champions of hazard mitigation to succeed.
The study offers four recommendations for practitioners and policy makers who are interested in replicating Tulsa’s successes in other locations: 1) Foster and sustain a team of champions, 2) Make room for multiple models of leadership, 3) Acknowledge the personal sacrifices that can arise for a mitigation champion, and 4) Approach hazard mitigation primarily as a community planning issue, not an emergency management function.