Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Peter B. Kraska

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


Natural disasters are an expected and uncontrolled part of history, and will continue and possibly worsen in the future. The humanitarian focus that has characterized disaster response throughout the years is changing, as is the way the federal government responds to large-scale natural disasters. In recent years, the primary concern in responding to these catastrophes has shifted from the well-being of citizens to the security and safety of the area impacted. Security and crime have become a main focus, with the military increasingly gaining a more prominent role in relief efforts. This thesis will provide evidence that the militarization of disaster response in the United States is a real phenomenon through a case study of Hurricane Katrina, and will delve into why the military has been used less as a support to civilian authorities and more as first responders. One of the key theories used as explanation is late modernity, which focuses on risk aversion and maintaining security. By focusing on policing the streets after a natural disaster, reporting on looting and crime, and keeping citizens in a controlled environment, our expectations after a natural disaster strikes have gone from lending a helping hand to ensuring surveillance and uncertainty about crime are the predominant focus.