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Professor Dennis Mileti Died from COVID-19

He was one of the great ones!

(Monday, Feb. 1)

Many of you will not know who Dennis Mileti was. When I meet people, I keep notes of when and where I met them. My annotation for meeting Dennis says this, "7-07-06 Met at the Natural Hazards Workshop in Boulder. He is the former Director of the Natural Hazards Center. Rode the bus from the airport with him." This was a bit of a longer ride from the Denver airport. I sat next to him on the bus and chatted him up, having no idea who he was! Heck, he used to run the joint and the conference I was attending for the first time. 

Dennis was no mild-mannered scientist and he was not afraid of making bold pronouncements about things he knew a lot about. His specialty was public warning. Here is a PrepTalk from 2018 that he gave — I recommend you watch it and take heed of his advice!

Below we learn that unfortunately he died of COVID-19. Unfortunate, but appropriate that he spent his academic career on trying to get people to understand public warnings. I guess you can say the "captain went down with the ship, still at the helm, doing what he could to get our attention." The biggest disaster of the modern era is taking way to many lives due to, first and foremost, "a failure to warn" by our most senior political leader. The misunderstanding about what causes panic is another issue that Dennis could have done a lesson on, and contributed to the demolition of our public health response. I could go on and on. I can just see Dennis shaking his head in disgust while watching the news or briefings from the past administration. 

All that said, Dennis has left his mark on science and the emergency management community. When our time comes, when these fingers of mine lie dead and cold in the grave (bury a keyboard with me please), what will they say about me? What will they say about you? 

Thank you Dennis for your contribution, your sage advice through the years and what lives on in your writings and presentations.

See the notice below passed on to me by Claire Rubin:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am writing to share the heartbreaking news that Dennis Mileti passed away yesterday evening due to COVID-19. I know that he has touched so many of your lives, and you, in turn, influenced him along the way.

We are working to build a tribute page through the Natural Hazards Center website, so that the many people who knew Dennis can share their memories and we, in turn, can share those with Ric and other members of Dennis’s family as well as the broader community. We also will ensure that this year’s Workshop includes proper tribute to Dennis, although we recognize there are no simple gestures that can possibly capture the scope of his contributions.  

After months of unrelenting loss and suffering, I am so very sorry to share this news on this quiet Sunday. Please know that we will do our best to continue to honor all of the work that Dennis has written into the fabric of our world.   

Much love to you all,


Lori Peek, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Sociology

Director, Natural Hazards Center

Principal Investigator, Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure CONVERGE Facility, Social Science Extreme Events Research (SSEER) Network, and Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Extreme Events Research (ISEEER) Network

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.