Learning from stress: Transforming trauma into sustainable risk reduction


  • Louise K. Comfort image/svg+xml University of Pittsburgh, Visiting Researcher University of California, Berkeley

    Louise K. Comfort is Professor Emerita and former Director, Center for Disaster Management, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh. She is a Visiting Researcher, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, University of California, Berkeley. A Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, she received the 2020 Fred Riggs Award for Lifetime Achievement, Section on International Comparative Administration, American Society for Public Administration. Her recent books include The Dynamics of Risk: Changing Technologies and Collective Action in Seismic Events, Princeton University Press, 2019, and Hazardous Seas: A Sociotechnical Framework for Early Tsunami Detection and Warning, Island Press, 2023, co-edited with H.P. Rahayu. She studies the dynamics of decision making in response to urgent events: earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wildfire, and COVID-19.

  • Süleyman Çelik image/svg+xml Anadolu University

    Süleyman Çelik serves as Professor at Department of Public Administration, Anadolu University, Eskişehir, Turkey. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 2006, with a dissertation titled Socio-Technical Approaches to Complex Phenomena: An Analysis of The Turkish Disaster Management System Under Stress. Dr. Celik has taken on various roles, including research positions at the University of Pittsburgh and Gazi University, and later as a faculty member at Anadolu University. His expertise lies in the field of Public Administration with a specialization in Disaster Management. He has actively contributed to research projects on risk reduction, serving as coordinator for several projects funded by the European Union. His work extends to the analysis of dynamic disaster environments, organizational learning, and research methods.

  • Berna Burçak Başbuğ Erkan image/svg+xml Middle East Technical University

    Berna Burçak Başbuğ Erkan is a Professor of Statistics and Disaster Science at the Middle East Technical University (METU). She was Course Director of MSc Disaster Management and Resilience at Coventry University, United Kingdom between August 2019 and August 2020 and Director, METU Disaster Management Centre, Ankara,Türkiye between 2008 and 2018. She serves as board member of the CODATA International Data Policy Committee since 2022. She has 25 years of experience in disaster risk reduction, disaster risk management, policy development, resilience, disaster risk finance, disaster risk management education, and has engaged in field studies for Syrian Refugee Camps 2015, 2011 Van Earthquakes, May 2014 Soma Mine Fire, 2020 Giresun Flood, 2020 Izmir Earthquake, 2023 Kahramanmaraş Earthquakes.




collective learning, knowledge acquisition, resilience, sustainable risk reduction, transforming trauma


This study explores the collective learning process that evolved in the cities, towns, and districts damaged in the February 6, 2023, Kahramanmaraş earthquakes in Türkiye. Employing a multi-methods approach and a dataset comprising a review of relevant documents, semi-structured interviews, and field observations, we examine four fundamental stages of collective learning – knowledge acquisition, information distribution, interpretation, and organizational memory – in assessing the learning process in communities exposed to the devastation and trauma of the earthquakes. The study highlights the importance of adaptation, change, and collective growth as communities struggle to cope with the demands incurred by the disaster, and identifies factors that inhibit such growth in practice. In the aftermath of the Kahramanmaraş earthquakes, individuals and organizations sought to adapt their existing knowledge and practices to meet the challenges posed by recovery from this disaster and to build a consensual understanding of changes needed to achieve sustainable reduction of continuing seismic risk. The study underscores the vital Importance of timely and accurate Information In enabling Individuals and organizations to make informed decisions during and after the chaos engendered by the earthquakes. It highlights the pivotal role of technology in bridging communication gaps and facilitating the flow of critical information. The study concludes by identifying inaccurate information as the most harmful characteristic inhibiting collective learning, and by emphasizing the importance of aligning collective learning processes simultaneously among diverse groups within the community and across jurisdictional levels of operation. This study offers valuable insights into how to translate collective learning from traumatic events into sustained measures to reduce the risk of future disasters, going beyond resilience to achieve sustainable risk reduction. By understanding the factors that drive collective learning and the challenges that can arise, policymakers and practitioners can develop more effective strategies for supporting collective learning in the aftermath of extreme events.


Metrics Loading ...


  • AFAD. (2023). 06 February 2023 Pazarcık-Elbistan (Kahramanmaraş) Mw: 7.7 – Mw: 7.6 Earthquakes Report. T.C. İçişleri Bakanlığı Afet ve Acil Durum Yönetimi Başkanlığı. https://deprem.afad.gov.tr/assets/pdf/Kahramanmaraş%20Depremi%20%20Raporu_02.06.2023.pdf
  • Arnsten, A. F. (2009). Stress signaling pathways that impair prefrontal cortex structure and function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(6), 410–422. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn2648
  • Aspinall, E. (2005). Helsinki agreement: A more promising basis for peace in Aceh? East-West Center.
  • Ayyub, B. M. (2021). Hazard-resilient infrastructure analysis and design. American Society of Civil Engineers.
  • Basbug-Erkan, B., & Yilmaz, O. (2015). Successes and failures of compulsory risk mitigation: Re‐evaluating the Turkish Catastrophe Insurance Pool. Disasters, 39(4), 782–794. https://doi.org/10.1111/disa.12129
  • Bogel-Burroughs, N., Kovaleski, S. F., Hubler, S., & Mellen, R. (2023, August 15). How fire turned lahaina into a death trap. New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/15/us/hawaii-maui-lahaina-fire.html
  • Calvo, M. G., & Gutiérrez García, A. (2016). Cognition and Stress. In G. Fink (Ed.), Stress: Concepts, cognition, emotion, and behavior (Vol. 1, pp. 139–144). Academic Press, an imprint of Elsevier.
  • Comfort, L.K. (2019). The Dynamics of Risk: Changing Technologies and collective action in seismic events. Princeton University Press.
  • Comfort, L.K., Boin, A. & Demchak, C.C. (2010). Designing resilience: Preparing for extreme events. University of Pittsburgh Press.
  • Comfort, L.K., Celik, S. & Erkan, B. (2023). Communication and Coordination Networks in the 2023 Karimnagar’s Earthquakes. Quick Response Report, Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado, Boulder.
  • Comfort, L.K. & Rhodes, M.L. (2022). Global Risk Management: The Role of Collective Cognition in Response to COVID-19. Elsevier Inc.
  • Comfort, L.K., Soga, K., McElwee, M., Ecosse, C., & Zhao, B. (2021). Collective action in communities exposed to recurring hazards: The campfire, Butte County, California, November 8, 2018. International Journal on Advanced Science, Engineering and Information Technology, 11(4), 1678. https://doi.org/10.18517/ijaseit.11.4.14845
  • Çetin, K. Ö., Bray, J. D., Frost, J. D., Hortacsu, A., Miranda, E., Moss, R. E. S., & Stewart, J. P. (2023). February 6, 2023 Türkiye Earthquakes: Report on Geoscience and Engineering Impacts. (GEER Association Report 082). Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, LFE Program. https://www.eeri.org/about-eeri/news/16294-geer-and-eeri-release-joint-report-on-2023-kahramanmaras-earthquakes
  • Çetin, K. Ö., Ilgaç, M., Can, G., & Çaker, E. (2023). Preliminary Reconnaissance Report on the February 6, 2023, Pazarcik Mw=7.7 and Elbistan Mw=7.6 Kahramanmaraş - Türkiye Earthquakes. Earthquake Engineering Research Center (Report No. METU/EERC 2023-01), Middle East Technical University. https://eerc.metu.edu.tr/en/system/files/documents/DMAM_Report_2023_Kahramanmaras-Pazarcik_and_Elbistan_Earthquakes_Report_final_ENG.pdf
  • Davis, C. A., Mostafavi, A., & Wang, H. (2019). Establishing characteristics to operationalize resilience for Lifeline Systems. Natural Hazards Review, 19(4), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1061/(asce)nh.1527-6996.0000303
  • Douglas, M., & Wildavsky, A. B. (1982). Risk and culture: An essay on the selection of technological and environmental dangers by Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky. University of California Press.
  • Druker, S. (2023). Death toll from Turkey-Syria earthquake surpasses 25,000. WORLD NEWS, Feb. 11, 2023 / 1:14 PM. https://www.upi.com/top_news/world-news/2023/02/11/turkey-earthquake-death-toll-rising-violence-damage/9091676136694/
  • Erdik, M., Tümsa, M. B. D., Pınar, A., Altunel, E., & Zülfikar, A. C. (2023). A preliminary report on the February 6, 2023 earthquakes in Türkiye. https://temblor.net/temblor/preliminary-report-2023-turkey-earthquakes-15027/
  • Fink, G. (2016). Stress: Concepts, cognition, emotion, and behavior: Handbook of stress series volume 1. Elsevier Science.
  • Finnan, A. (2022, DECEMBER 23). The Day Apartheid Ended in South Africa. https://aswica.co.za/the-day-apartheid-ended-in-south-africa/
  • Gülkan, P., 2001. Revision of the Turkish development law No. 3194: Governing urban development and land use planning, in Mitigation and financing of seismic risks: Turkish and International Perspectives (P. R. Kleindorfer & M. R. Sertel Eds.), Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands, 191–206.
  • Hautz, J., Seidl, D., & Whittington, R. (2017). Open Strategy: Dimensions, Dilemmas, Dynamics. Long Range Planning 50(2017) 298-309.
  • Huber, G. P. (1991). Organizational learning: The contributing processes and the literatures. Organization Science, 2(1), 88–115. https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2.1.88
  • Klein, G. A. (1993). A recognition-primed decision (RPD) model of rapid decision making. In G. A. Klein, J. Orasanu, R. Calderwood, & C. E. Zsambok (Eds.), Decision making in action: Models and methods (pp. 138–147). Ablex Publishing.
  • Krakauer, G. (2020). Complex time. Santa Fe Institute Seminar Series. https://www.santafe.edu/research/themes/complex-time.
  • Lindau, M., Almkvist, O., & Mohammed, A. H. (2016). Effects of Stress on Learning and Memory. In G. Fink (Ed.), Stress: Concepts, cognition, emotion, and behavior (pp. 153–160). Academic Press, an imprint of Elsevier.
  • Lund, B. (2023). The 2023 Kahramanmaraş Earthquake Sequence: A Seismological Introduction. Swedish National Seismic Network, Uppsala University, available upon request at https://www.cnds.se/research/.
  • Lupien, S.J. (2009). Stress and Cognition. In Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. Elsevier Ltd., 445-450. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-008045046-9.00081-4
  • Merino, D. & Ware, G. (2021). Haiti’s history of political fragility makes its recovery from disaster even harder. The Conversation. Podcast. Published 9/9/21. https://theconversation.com/haitis-history-of-political-fragility-makes-its-recovery-from-disaster-even-harder-podcast-167566
  • National Research Council. (2012). Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/13457
  • Nelson, R. R., & Winter, S.G. (1982). An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change. Harvard University Press.
  • OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance). (2023). Türkiye: 2023 Earthquakes Situation Report No. 1, As of 16 February 2023. Relief Web. https://reliefweb.int/report/turkiye/turkiye-2023-earthquakes-situation-report-no-1-16-february-2023. Updates filed daily.
  • Simon, H. A. (1962). The Architecture of Complexity. Proceedings of the American Philosphical Society 106(6), 467-82.
  • Soga, K. (2022). Designing Smart, Sustainable Risk Reduction in Hazard-Prone Communities. National Science Foundation grant #2230636, SCC-IRG Track 1. Smart and Connected Communities. 2022-2025. University of California, Berkeley. Study in progress, 2022 – 2025.
  • Taleb, N. N. (2012). Antifragility: Things That Gain From Disorder. Random House.
  • Tedeschi, R. G. & Calhoun, L. G. (2004). Commentaries on “posttraumatic growth: Conceptual foundations and empirical evidence.” Psychological Inquiry, 15(1), 1 18. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327965pli1501_02
  • Turkey Strategy & Budget Directorate, (2023). Turkey Earthquakes Recovery and Reconstruction Assessment. Republic of Turkey Presidency. https://www.sbb.gov.tr/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Turkiye-Recovery-and-Reconstruction-Assessment.pdf
  • Turkish Building Earthquake Regulation, No. 30364, (March 18, 2018). Government of Turkey, 2019, Notification on the Implementation Principles for Buildings to be Constructed within the Scope of Turkey Building Earthquake Regulation, Turkish Ministry of Internal Affairs, 17 July 2019, Official Gazette No. 30834, Ankara https://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2019/07/20190717-6.htm
  • Turkish Medical Association. (2023). TTB and THHP Announces Asbestos Report: Asbestos Detected in Kahramanmaraş Center and Elbistan District and Adıyaman. https://www.ttb.org.tr/haber_goster.php?Guid=640aeab6-74bd-11ee-9552-48095692dc98. In Turkish.
  • Turkish Parliament (TBMM), Law on Construction Supervision, July 13, 2001. No.24461, Law,No.4708, https://www.mevzuat.gov.tr/mevzuat?MevzuatNo=4708&MevzuatTur=1&MevzuatTertip=5
  • Yin, R. K. (2016). Case study research: Design and methods. Sage Publication.




How to Cite

Comfort, L. K., Çelik, S., & Başbuğ Erkan, B. B. (2023). Learning from stress: Transforming trauma into sustainable risk reduction. Journal of Design for Resilience in Architecture and Planning, 4((Special Issue), 25–38. https://doi.org/10.47818/DRArch.2023.v4si107



Resilience in Crisis

Funding data