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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions 4 Research on Disaster Response and Recovery This chapter and the preceding one use the conceptual model presented in Chapter 1 (see Figure 1.1) as a guide to understanding societal response to hazards and disasters. As specified in that model, Chapter 3 discusses three sets of pre-disaster activities that have the potential to reduce disaster losses: hazard mitigation practices, emergency preparedness practices, and pre-disaster planning for post-disaster recovery. This chapter focuses on National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) contributions to social science knowledge concerning those dimensions of the model that are related to post-disaster response and recovery activities. As in Chapter 3, discussions are organized around research findings regarding different units of analysis, including individuals, households, groups and organizations, social networks, and communities. The chapter also highlights trends, controversies, and issues that warrant further investigation. The contents of this chapter are linked to key themes discussed elsewhere in this report, including the conceptualization and measurement of societal vulnerability and resilience, the importance of taking diversity into account in understanding both response-related activities and recovery processes and outcomes, and linkages between hazard loss reduction and sustainability. Although this review centers primarily on research on natural disasters and to a lesser degree on technological disasters, research findings are also discussed in terms of their implications for understanding and managing emerging homeland security threats. The discussions that follow seek to address several interrelated questions: What is currently known about post-disaster response and recovery,
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions and to what extent is that knowledge traceable to NEHRP-sponsored research activities? What gaps exist in that knowledge? What further research—both disciplinary and interdisciplinary—is needed to fill those gaps? RESEARCH ON DISASTER RESPONSE Emergency response encompasses a range of measures aimed at protecting life and property and coping with the social disruption that disasters produce. As noted in Chapter 3, emergency response activities can be categorized usefully as expedient mitigation actions (e.g., clearing debris from channels when floods threaten, containing earthquake-induced fires and hazardous materials releases before they can cause additional harm) and population protection actions (e.g., warning, evacuation and other self-protective actions, search and rescue, the provision of emergency medical care and shelter; Tierney et al., 2001). Another common conceptual distinction in the literature on disaster response (Dynes et al., 1981) contrasts agent-generated demands, or the types of losses and forms of disruption that disasters create, and response-generated demands, such as the need for situation assessment, crisis communication and coordination, and response management. Paralleling preparedness measures, disaster response activities take place at various units of analysis, from individuals and households, to organizations, communities, and intergovernmental systems. This section does not attempt to deal exhaustively with the topic of emergency response activities, which is the most-studied of all phases of hazard and disaster management. Rather, it highlights key themes in the literature, with an emphasis on NEHRP-based findings that are especially relevant in light of newly recognized human-induced threats. Public Response: Warning Response, Evacuation, and Other Self-Protective Actions The decision processes and behaviors involved in public responses to disaster warnings are among the best-studied topics in the research literature. Over nearly three decades, NEHRP has been a major sponsor of this body of research. As noted in Chapter 3, warning response research overlaps to some degree with more general risk communication research. For example, both literatures emphasize the importance of considering source, message, channel, and receiver effects on the warning process. While this discussion centers mainly on responses to official warning information, it should be noted that self-protective decision-making processes are also initiated in the absence of formal warnings—for example, in response to cues that people perceive as signaling impending danger and in disasters that occur without warning. Previous research suggests that the basic deci-
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions sion processes involved in self-protective action are similar across different types of disaster events, although the challenges posed and the problems that may develop can be agent specific. As in other areas discussed here, empirical studies on warning response and self-protective behavior in different types of disasters and emergencies have led to the development of broadly generalizable explanatory models. One such model, the protective action decision model, developed by Perry, Lindell, and their colleagues (see, for example, Lindell and Perry, 2004), draws heavily on Turner and Killian’s (1987) emergent norm theory of collective behavior. According to that theory, groups faced with the potential need to act under conditions of uncertainty (or potential danger) engage in interaction in an attempt to develop a collective definition of the situation they face and a set of new norms that can guide their subsequent action.1 Thus, when warnings and protective instructions are disseminated, those who receive warnings interact with one another in an effort to determine collectively whether the warning is authentic, whether it applies to them, whether they are indeed personally in danger, whether they can reduce their vulnerability through action, whether action is possible, and when they should act. These collective determinations are shaped in turn by such factors as (1) the characteristics of warning recipients, including their prior experience with the hazard in question or with similar emergencies, as well as their prior preparedness efforts; (2) situational factors, including the presence of perceptual cues signaling danger; and (3) the social contexts in which decisions are made—for example, contacts among family members, coworkers, neighborhood residents, or others present in the setting, as well as the strength of preexisting social ties. Through interaction and under the influence of these kinds of factors, individuals and groups develop new norms that serve as guidelines for action. Conceptualizing warning response as a form of collective behavior that is guided by emergent norms brings several issues to the fore. One is that far from being automatic or governed by official orders, behavior undertaken in response to warnings is the product of interaction and deliberation among members of affected groups—activities that are typically accompanied by a search for additional confirmatory information. Circumstances that complicate the deliberation process, such as conflicting warning information that individuals and groups may receive, difficulties in getting in touch with others whose views are considered important for the decision-making process, or disagreements among group members about any aspect of the 1 Note that what is being discussed here are group-level deliberations and decisions, not individual ones. Actions under conditions of uncertainty and urgency such as those that accompany disaster warnings should not be conceptualized in individualistic terms.
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions threat situation, invariably lead to additional efforts to communicate and confirm the information and lengthen the period between when a warning is issued and when groups actually respond. Another implication of the emergent norm approach to protective action decision making is the recognition that groups may collectively define an emergency situation in ways that are at variance from official views. This is essentially what occurs in the shadow evacuation phenomenon, which has been documented in several emergency situations, including the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident (Zeigler et al., 1981). While authorities may not issue a warning for a particular geographic area or group of people, or may even tell them they are safe, groups may still collectively decide that they are at risk or that the situation is fluid and confusing enough that they should take self-protective action despite official pronouncements. The behavior of occupants of the World Trade Center during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack illustrates the importance of collectively developed definitions. Groups of people in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center decided that they should evacuate the building after seeing and hearing about what was happening in Tower 1 and after speaking with coworkers and loved ones, even when official announcements and other building occupants indicated that they should not do so. Others decided to remain in the tower or, perhaps more accurately, they decided to delay evacuating until receiving additional information clarifying the extent to which they were in danger. Journalistic accounts suggest that decisions were shaped in part by what people could see taking place in Tower 1, conversations with others outside the towers who had additional relevant information, and directives received from those in positions of authority in tenant firms. In that highly confusing and time-constrained situation, emergent norms guiding the behavior of occupants of the second tower meant the difference between life and death when the second plane struck (NIST, 2005). The large body of research that exists regarding decision making under threat conditions points to the need to consider a wide range of individual, group, situational, and resource-related factors that facilitate and inhibit self-protective action. Qualitatively based decision-tree models developed by Gladwin et al. (2001) demonstrate the complexity of self-protective decisions. As illustrated by their work on hurricane evacuation, a number of different factors contribute to decisions on whether or not to evacuate. Such factors range from perceptions of risk and personal safety with respect to a threatened disaster, to the extent of knowledge about specific areas at risk, to constraining factors such as the presence of pets in the home that require care, lack of a suitable place to go, counterarguments by other family members, fears of looting (shown by the literature to be unjustified; see, for example, Fischer, 1998), and fear that the evacuation process may
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions be more dangerous than staying home and riding out a hurricane. Warning recipients may decide that they should wait before evacuating, ultimately missing the opportunity to escape, or they may decide to shelter in-place after concluding that their homes are strong enough to resist hurricane forces despite what they are told by authorities. In their research on Hurricane Andrew, Gladwin and Peacock describe some of the many factors that complicate the evacuation process for endangered populations (1997:54): Except under extreme circumstances, households cannot be compelled to evacuate or to remain where they are, much less to prepare themselves for the threat. Even under extraordinary conditions many households have to be individually located and assisted or forced to comply. Segments of a population may fail to receive, ignore, or discount official requests and orders. Still others may not have the resources or wherewithal to comply. Much will depend upon the source of the information, the consistency of the message received from multiple sources, the nature of the information conveyed, as well as the household’s ability to perceive the danger, make decisions, and act accordingly. Disputes, competition, and the lack of coordination among local, state, and federal governmental agencies and between those agencies and privately controlled media can add confusion. Businesses and governmental agencies that refuse to release their employees and suspend normal activities can add still further to the confusion and noncompliance. The normalcy bias adds other complications to the warning response process. While popular notions of crisis response behaviors seem to assume that people react automatically to messages signaling impending danger—for example, by fleeing in panic—the reality is quite different. People typically “normalize” unusual situations and persist in their everyday activities even when urged to act differently. As noted earlier, people will not act on threat information unless they perceive a personal risk to themselves. Simply knowing that a threat exists—even if that threat is described as imminent—is insufficient to motivate self-protective action. Nor can people be expected to act if warning-related guidance is not specific enough to provide them with a blueprint for what to do or if they do not believe they have the resources required to follow the guidance. One practical implication of research on warnings is that rather than being concerned about panicking the public with warning information, or about communicating too much information, authorities should instead be seeking better ways to penetrate the normalcy bias, persuade people that they should be concerned about an impending danger, provide directives that are detailed enough to follow during an emergency, and encourage pre-disaster response planning so that people have thought through what to do prior to being required to act.
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions Other Important Findings Regarding the Evacuation Process As noted earlier, evacuation behavior has long been recognized as the reflection of social-level factors and collective deliberation. Decades ago, Drabek (1983) established that households constitute the basic deliberative units for evacuation decision making in community-wide disasters and that the decisions that are ultimately made tend to be consistent with pre-disaster household authority patterns. For example, gender-related concerns often enter into evacuation decision making. Women tend to be more risk-averse and more inclined to want to follow evacuation orders, while males are less inclined to do so (for an extensive discussion of gender differences in vulnerability, risk perception, and responses to disasters, see Fothergill, 1998). In arriving at decisions regarding evacuation, households take official orders into account, but they weigh those orders in light of their own priorities, other information sources, and their past experiences. Information received from media sources and from family and friends, along with confirmatory data actively sought by those at risk, generally has a greater impact on evacuation decisions than information provided by public officials (Dow and Cutter, 1998, 2000). Recent research also suggests that family evacuation patterns are undergoing change. For example, even though families decide together to evacuate and wish to stay together, they increasingly tend to use more than one vehicle to evacuate—perhaps because they want to take more of their possessions with them, make sure their valuable vehicles are protected, or return to their homes at different times (Dow and Cutter, 2002). Other social influences also play a role. Neighborhood residents may be more willing to evacuate or, conversely, more inclined to delay the decision to evacuate if they see their neighbors doing so. Rather than becoming more vigilant, communities that are struck repeatedly by disasters such as hurricanes and floods may develop “disaster subcultures,” such as groups that see no reason to heed evacuation orders since sheltering in-place has been effective in previous events. NEHRP-sponsored research has shown that different racial, ethnic, income, and special needs groups respond in different ways to warning information and evacuation orders, in part because of the unique characteristics of these groups, the manner in which they receive information during crises, and their varying responses to different information sources. For example, members of some minority groups tend to have large extended families, making contacting family members and deliberating on alternative courses of action a more complicated process. Lower-income groups, inner-city residents, and elderly persons are more likely to have to rely on public transportation, rather than personal vehicles, in order to evacuate. Lower-income and minority populations, who tend to have larger families, may
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions also be reluctant to impose on friends and relatives for shelter. Lack of financial resources may leave less-well-off segments of the population less able to afford to take time off from work when disasters threaten, to travel long distances to avoid danger, or to pay for emergency lodging. Socially isolated individuals, such as elderly persons living alone, may lack the social support that is required to carry out self-protective actions. Members of minority groups may find majority spokespersons and official institutions less credible and believable than members of the white majority, turning instead to other sources, such as their informal social networks. Those who rely on non-English-speaking mass media for news may receive less complete warning information, or may receive warnings later than those who are tuned into mainstream media sources (Aguirre et al., 1991; Perry and Lindell, 1991; Lindell and Perry, 1992, 2004; Klinenberg, 2002; for more extensive discussions, see Tierney et al., 2001). Hurricane Katrina vividly revealed the manner in which social factors such as those discussed above influence evacuation decisions and actions. In many respects, the Katrina experience validated what social science research had already shown with respect to evacuation behavior. Those who stayed behind did so for different reasons—all of which have been discussed in past research. Some at-risk residents lacked resources, such as automobiles and financial resources that would have enabled them to escape the city. Based on their past experiences with hurricanes like Betsey and Camille, others considered themselves not at risk and decided it was not necessary to evacuate. Still others, particularly elderly residents, felt so attached to their homes that they refused to leave even when transportation was offered. This is not to imply that evacuation-related problems stemmed solely from individual decisions. Katrina also revealed the crucial significance of evacuation planning, effective warnings, and government leadership in facilitating evacuations. Planning efforts in New Orleans were rudimentary at best, clear evacuation orders were given too late, and the hurricane rendered evacuation resources useless once the city began to flood. With respect to other patterns of evacuation behavior when they do evacuate, most people prefer to stay with relatives or friends, rather than using public shelters. Shelter use is generally limited to people who feel they have no other options—for example, those who have no close friends and relatives to take them in and cannot afford the price of lodging. Many people avoid public shelters or elect to stay in their homes because shelters do not allow pets. Following earthquakes, some victims, particularly Latinos in the United States who have experienced or learned about highly damaging earthquakes in their countries of origin, avoid indoor shelter of all types, preferring instead to sleep outdoors (Tierney, 1988; Phillips, 1993; Simile, 1995). Disaster warnings involving “near misses,” as well as concerns about the possible impact of elevated color-coded homeland security warnings,
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions raise the question of whether warnings that do not materialize can induce a “cry-wolf” effect, resulting in lowered attention to and compliance with future warnings. The disaster literature shows little support for the cry-wolf hypothesis. For example, Dow and Cutter (1998) studied South Carolina residents who had been warned of impending hurricanes that ultimately struck North Carolina. Earlier false alarms did not influence residents’ decisions on whether to evacuate; that is, there was little behavioral evidence for a cry-wolf effect. However, false alarms did result in a decrease in confidence in official warning sources, as opposed to other sources of information on which people relied in making evacuation decisions—certainly not the outcome officials would have intended. Studies also suggest that it is advisable to clarify for the public why forecasts and warnings were uncertain or incorrect. Based on an extensive review of the warning literature, Sorensen (2000:121) concluded that “[t]he likelihood of people responding to a warning is not diminished by what has come to be labeled the ‘cry-wolf’ syndrome if the basis for the false alarm is understood [emphasis added].” Along those same lines, Atwood and Major (1998) argue that if officials explain reasons for false alarms, that information can increase public awareness and make people more likely to respond to subsequent hazard advisories. PUBLIC RESPONSE Dispelling Myths About Crisis-Related Behavior: Panic and Social Breakdown Numerous individual studies and research syntheses have contrasted commonsense ideas about how people respond during crises with empirical data on actual behavior. Among the most important myths addressed in these analyses is the notion that panic and social disorganization are common responses to imminent threats and to actual disaster events (Quarantelli and Dynes, 1972; Johnson, 1987; Clarke, 2002). True panic, defined as highly individualistic flight behavior that is nonsocial in nature, undertaken without regard to social norms and relationships, is extremely rare prior to and during extreme events of all types. Panic takes place under specific conditions that are almost never present in disaster situations. Panic only occurs when individuals feel completely isolated and when both social bonds and measures to promote safety break down to such a degree that individuals feel totally on their own in seeking safety. Panic results from a breakdown in the ongoing social order—a breakdown that Clarke (2003:128) describes as having moral, network, and cognitive dimensions: There is a moral failure, so that people pursue their self interest regardless
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions of rules of duty and obligation to others. There is a network failure, so that the resources that people can normally draw on in times of crisis are no longer there. There is a cognitive failure, in which someone’s understanding of how they are connected to others is cast aside. Failures on this scale almost never occur during disasters. Panic reactions are rare in part because social bonds remain intact and extremely resilient even under conditions of severe danger (Johnson, 1987; Johnson et al., 1994; Feinberg and Johnson, 2001). Panic persists in public and media discourses on disasters, in part because those discourses conflate a wide range of other behaviors with panic. Often, people are described as panicking because they experience feelings of intense fear, even though fright and panic are conceptually and behaviorally distinct. Another behavioral pattern that is sometimes labeled panic involves intensified rumors and information seeking, which are common patterns among publics attempting to make sense of confusing and potentially dangerous situations. Under conditions of uncertainty, people make more frequent use of both informal ties and official information sources, as they seek to collectively define threats and decide what actions to take. Such activities are a normal extension of everyday information-seeking practices (Turner, 1994). They are not indicators of panic. The phenomenon of shadow evacuation, discussed earlier, is also frequently confused with panic. Such evacuations take place because people who are not defined by authorities as in danger nevertheless determine that they are—perhaps because they have received conflicting or confusing information or because they are geographically close to areas considered at risk (Tierney et al., 2001). Collective demands for antibiotics by those considered not at risk for anthrax, “runs” on stores to obtain self-protective items, and the so-called worried-well phenomenon are other forms of collective behavior that reflect the same sociobehavioral processes that drive shadow evacuations: emergent norms that define certain individuals and groups as in danger, even though authorities do not consider them at risk; confusion about the magnitude of the risk; a collectively defined need to act; and in some cases, an unwillingness to rely on official sources for self-protective advice. These types of behaviors, which constitute interesting subjects for research in their own right, are not examples of panic. Research also indicates that panic and other problematic behaviors are linked in important ways to the manner in which institutions manage risk and disaster. Such behaviors are more likely to emerge when those who are in danger come to believe that crisis management measures are ineffective, suggesting that enhancing public understanding of and trust in preparedness measures and in organizations charged with managing disasters can lessen the likelihood of panic. With respect to homeland security threats, some researchers have argued that the best way to “vaccinate” the public
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions against the emergence of panic in situations involving weapons of mass destruction is to provide timely and accurate information about impending threats and to actively include the public in pre-crisis preparedness efforts (Glass and Shoch-Spana, 2002). Blaming the public for panicking during emergencies serves to diffuse responsibility from professionals whose duty it is to protect the public, such as emergency managers, fire and public safety officials, and those responsible for the design, construction, and safe operation of buildings and other structures (Sime, 1999). The empirical record bears out the fact that to the extent panic does occur during emergencies, such behavior can be traced in large measure to environmental factors such as overcrowding, failure to provide adequate egress routes, and breakdowns in communications, rather than to some inherent human impulse to stampede with complete disregard for others. Any potential for panic and other problematic behaviors that may exist can, in other words, be mitigated through appropriate design, regulatory, management, and communications strategies. As discussed elsewhere in this report, looting and violence are also exceedingly rare in disaster situations. Here again, empirical evidence of what people actually do during and following disasters contradicts what many officials and much of the public believe. Beliefs concerning looting are based not on evidence but rather on assumptions—for example, that social control breaks down during disasters and that lawlessness and violence inevitably result when the social order is disrupted. Such beliefs fail to take into account the fact that powerful norms emerge during disasters that foster prosocial behavior—so much so that lawless behavior actually declines in disaster situations. Signs erected following disasters saying, “We shoot to kill looters” are not so much evidence that looting is occurring as they are evidence that community consensus condemns looting. The myth of disaster looting can be contrasted with the reality of looting during episodes of civil disorder such as the riots of the 1960s and the 1992 Los Angeles unrest. During episodes of civil unrest, looting is done publicly, in groups, quite often in plain sight of law enforcement officials. Taking goods and damaging businesses are the hallmarks of modern “commodity riots.” New norms also emerge during these types of crises, but unlike the prosocial norms that develop in disasters, norms governing behavior during civil unrest permit and actually encourage lawbreaking. Under these circumstances, otherwise law-abiding citizens allow themselves to take part in looting behavior (Dynes and Quarantelli, 1968; Quarantelli and Dynes, 1970). Looting and damaging property can also become normative in situations that do not involve civil unrest—for example, in victory celebrations following sports events. Once again, in such cases, norms and traditions governing behavior in crowd celebrations encourage destructive activities
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions (Rosenfeld, 1997). The behavior of participants in these destructive crowd celebrations again bears no resemblance to that of disaster victims. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, social scientists had no problem understanding why episodes of looting might have been more widespread in that event than in the vast majority of U.S. disasters. Looting has occurred on a widespread basis following other disasters, although such cases have been rare. Residents of St. Croix engaged in extensive looting behavior following Hurricane Hugo, and this particular episode sheds light on why some Katrina victims might have felt justified in looting. Hurricane Hugo produced massive damage on St. Croix, and government agencies were rendered helpless. Essentially trapped on the island, residents had no idea when help would arrive. Instead, they felt entirely on their own following Hugo. The tourist-based St. Croix economy was characterized by stark social class differences, and crime and corruption had been high prior to the hurricane. Under these circumstances, looting for survival was seen as justified, and patterns of collective behavior developed that were not unlike those seen during episodes of civil unrest. Even law enforcement personnel joined in the looting (Quarantelli, 2006; Rodriguez et al., forthcoming). Despite their similarities, the parallels between New Orleans and St. Croix should not be overstated. It is now clear that looting and violent behavior were far less common than initially reported and that rumors concerning shootings, rapes, and murders were groundless. The media employed the “looting frame” extensively while downplaying far more numerous examples of selflessness and altruism. In hindsight, it now appears that many reports involving looting and social breakdown were based on stereotyped images of poor minority community residents (Tierney et al., forthcoming). Extensive research also indicates that despite longstanding evidence, beliefs about disaster-related looting and lawlessness remain quite common, and these beliefs can influence the behavior of both community residents and authorities. For example, those who are at risk may decide not to evacuate and instead stay in their homes to protect their property from looters (Fischer, 1998). Concern regarding looting and lawlessness may cause government officials to make highly questionable and even counterproductive decisions. Following Hurricane Katrina, for example, based largely on rumors and exaggerated media reports, rescue efforts were halted because of fears for the safety of rescue workers, and Louisiana’s governor issued a “shoot-to-kill” order to quash looting. These decisions likely resulted in additional loss of life and also interfered with citizen efforts to aid one another. Interestingly, recent historical accounts indicate that similar decisions were made following other large-scale disasters, such as the 1871 Chicago fire, the 1900 Galveston hurricane, and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and firestorm. In all three cases, armed force was used to stop
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions experiences for affected social units by encouraging the adoption of mitigation measures and stimulating preparedness activity. While this idea seems intuitively appealing, the literature is in fact quite equivocal with regard to the extent to which disasters actually promote higher levels of safety. On the one hand, at the community and societal levels, there is considerable evidence to suggest that disasters constitute “windows of opportunity” for those seeking to enact loss reduction programs, making it possible to achieve policy victories that would not have been possible prior to those events (Alesch and Petak, 1986). Disasters have the potential to become “focusing events” (Birkland, 1997) that can alter policy agendas through highlighting areas in which current policy has failed, energizing advocates, and raising public awareness. On the other hand, many disasters fail to become focusing events and have no discernible impacts on the adoption and implementation of loss-reduction measures. For example, Burby et al., (1997), who studied communities in five different states, found no relationship between disaster experience and adoption of mitigation measures. Birkland (1997) suggests that these differences are related in part to the extent to which advocacy coalitions exist, are able to turn disaster events to their advantage, and are able to formulate appropriate policy responses. Further complicating matters, policies adopted in the aftermath of disasters, like other policies, may meet with resistance and be only partially implemented—or implemented in ways that were never intended. While it is possible to point to examples of successful policy adoption and implementation in the aftermath of disasters, such outcomes are by no means inevitable, and when they do occur, they are typically traceable to other factors, not just to disaster events themselves. Research does suggest that households, businesses, and other entities affected by disasters learn from their experiences and take action to protect themselves from future events. Those who have experienced disasters may, for example, step up their preparedness for future events or be more likely to heed subsequent disaster warnings. At the same time, it is also clear that there is considerable variability in the relationship between experience and behavioral change. While some studies document the positive informational effects of experience, others show no significant impact, and some research even indicates that repeated experiences engender complacency and lack of action (for a review of the literature, see Tierney et al., 2001). Role of Prices and Markets Mainstream economic theory, models, and analytical tools (e.g., benefit-cost analysis) assume that markets generally function efficiently and equilibrate. Barring various situations of market failure, prices serve a key role as signals of resource scarcity. In this context, two broad areas of research
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions needs can be identified. One is the role of prices and markets in pre-disaster mitigation (see also Chapter 3). Market-based approaches to reducing disaster risk involve such questions as how prices can serve as better signals of risk taking and risk protection, and the potential for new approaches to risk sharing (e.g., catastrophe bonds). At the same time, better understanding is also needed of market failures in mitigation (e.g., externalities in risk taking and risk protection). The second broad research need concerns markets in post-disaster loss and recovery. Little empirical research has been conducted on the degree to which assumptions of efficient markets actually hold in disasters, especially those having catastrophic impacts, and the degree to which markets are resilient in the face of disasters. Research is also needed on how economic models can capture the adjustment processes and disequilibria that are important as economies recover from disasters, and how economic recovery policies can influence recovery trajectories. Disaster Recovery and Sustainability As discussed in more detail in Chapter 6, which focuses on international research, disaster theory and research have increasingly emphasized the extent to which vulnerability to disasters can be linked to unsustainable development practices. Indeed, the connection between disaster loss reduction and sustainability was a key organizing principle of the NEHRP-sponsored Second Assessment of Research on Natural Hazards. The title of the summary volume for the Second Assessment, Disasters by Design (Mileti, 1999b), was chosen to emphasize the idea that the impacts produced by disasters are the consequence of prior decisions that put people and property at risk. A key organizing assumption for the Second Assessment was the notion that societies and communities “design” the disasters of the future by failing to take hazards into account in development decisions; pursuing other values, such as rapid economic growth, at the expense of safety; failing to take decisive action to mitigate risks to the built environment; and ignoring opportunities to enhance social and economic resilience in the face of disasters. Conversely, communities and societies also have the ability to design safer futures by better integrating hazard reduction into their ongoing policies and practices in areas such as land-use and development planning, building codes and code enforcement, and quality-of-life initiatives. Just as disasters dramatically highlight failures to address sources of vulnerability, the post-disaster recovery period gives affected communities and societies an opportunity to reassess pre-disaster plans, policies, and programs, remedy their shortcomings, and design a safer future (Berke et al., 1993). The federal government seeks to promote post-disaster mitigation through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, as well as programs
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions that seek to reduce repetitive flood losses through relocating flood-prone properties. The need to weave a concern with disaster loss reduction into the fabric of ongoing community life has also guided federal initiatives such as Project Impact, FEMA’s Disaster Resistant Communities program. Yet the research record suggests that those opportunities are often missed. While it is clear that some disaster-stricken communities do act decisively to reduce future losses, for others the recovery period brings about a return to the status quo ante, marked at most by gains in safety afforded by reconstruction to more stringent building codes. The section above noted that disasters create “windows of opportunity” for loss reduction advocates, in part by highlighting policy failures and temporarily silencing opponents. At the same time, however, research evidence suggests that even under those circumstances, it is extremely difficult to advance sustainability goals in the aftermath of disasters. Changes in land use are particularly difficult to enact, both during nondisaster times and after disasters, despite the fact that such changes can significantly reduce vulnerability. Land use decision making generally occurs at the local level, but local jurisdictions have great difficulty enacting controls on development in the absence of enabling legislation from higher levels of government. Even when land-use and zoning changes and other mitigation measures are seen as desirable following disasters, community leaders may lack the political will to promote such efforts over the long term, allowing opponents to regroup and old patterns to reassert themselves (see, for example, Reddy, 2000; for more detailed discussions on land-use and hazards, see Burby, 1998). Assessing reconstruction following recent U.S. disasters, Platt (1998:51) observed that “[d]espite all the emphasis on mitigation of multiple hazards in recent years, political, social and economic forces conspire to promote rebuilding patterns that set the stage for future catastrophe.” Overall, the research record suggests that while the recovery period should ideally be a time when communities take stock of their loss reduction policies and enact new ones, post-disaster change tends to be incremental at best and post-disaster efforts to promote sustainability are rare. RESEARCH RECOMMENDATIONS This chapter closes by making recommendations for future research on disaster response and recovery. As the foregoing discussions have indicated, existing research has raised numerous questions that need to be addressed through future research. This concluding section highlights general areas in which new research is clearly needed, both to test the limits of current social science knowledge and to take into account broad societal changes and issues of disaster severity and scale.
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions Recommendation 4.1: Future research should focus on further empirical explorations of societal vulnerability and resilience to natural, technological, and willfully caused hazards and disasters. Discussions of factors associated with differential vulnerability and resilience in the face of disasters appear in many places in this report. What these discussions reveal is that researchers have only begun to explore these two concepts and much work remains to be done. It is clear that vulnerability is produced by a constellation of psychological, attitudinal, physical, social, and economic factors. However, the manner in which these factors operate and interact in the context of disasters is only partially understood. For example, while sufficient evidence exists to indicate that race, gender, and ethnicity are important predictors of hazard vulnerability and disaster-related behavior, research has yet to fully explore such factors, their correlates, and their interactions across different hazard and disaster contexts. In many cases age is associated with vulnerability to disasters (see Ngo, 2001; Anderson, 2005), but other factors such as ethnicity and socioeconomic status have differential effects within particular age groups (Bolin and Klenow, 1988), and the vulnerability of elderly persons may be related not only to age but also to other factors that are correlated with age, such as social isolation, which can cut off older adults from sources of lifesaving aid under disaster conditions (Klinenberg, 2002). Even less is known about how to conceptualize, measure, and enhance resilience in the face of disasters—whether that concept is applied to the psychological resilience of individuals or to the resilience of households, communities, local and regional economies, or other units of analysis. Resilience can be conceptualized as the ability to survive disasters without significant loss, disruption, and stress, combined with the ability to cope with the consequences of disasters, replace and restore what has been lost, and resume social and economic activity in a timely manner (Bruneau et al., 2003). Other dimensions of resilience include the ability to learn from disaster experience and change accordingly. The large volume of literature on psychological resilience and coping offers insights into factors that facilitate resilient responses by individual disaster victims. Other work, such as research on “high-reliability organizations,” organizational adaptation and learning under crisis conditions, and organizational effectiveness (Roberts, 1989; La Porte and Consolini, 1998; Comfort, 1999; Drabek, 2003) also offers insights into correlates of resilience at the organizational and interorganizational levels. As suggested in Chapter 6, the social capital construct and related concepts such as civic engagement and effective collective action are also related to resilience. The challenge is to continue research on the resilience concept while synthesizing theoretical insights from these disparate literatures, with the ultimate objective of developing an empirically grounded
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions theory of resilience that is generalizable both across different social units and across different types of extreme events. Recommendation 4.2: Future research should focus on the special requirements associated with responding to and recovering from willful attacks and disease outbreaks. A better understanding is needed of likely individual, group, and public responses to intentional acts of terrorism, as well as disease outbreaks and epidemics. As indicated in this chapter, there appears to be no strong a priori reason for assuming that responses to natural, technological, or intentionally caused disasters and willful or naturally occurring disease outbreaks will differ. However, research on hazards and disasters also calls attention to factors that could well prove to be important predictors of responses to such occurrences, particularly those involving unique hazards such as chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological agents. Research on individual and group responses to different types of disasters has highlighted the importance of such factors as familiarity, experience, and perceptual cues; perceptions about the characteristics of hazards (e.g., their dread nature, lethality and other harms); the content, clarity, and consistency of crisis communications; knowledge of appropriate self-protective actions; and feelings of efficacy with respect to carrying out those measures (see, for example, classic work on risk perception, discussed in Slovic, 2000, as well as Lindell and Perry, 2004). Recent research has also highlighted the importance of emotions in shaping perceptions of risk. Hazards that trigger vivid images of danger and strong emotions may be seen as more likely to occur, and more likely to produce harm, even if their probability is low (Slovic et al., 2004). If willful acts engender powerful emotions, they could potentially also engender unusual responses among threatened populations. The potential for ambiguity and confusion with respect to public communications may also be greater for homeland security threats and public health hazards such as avian flu than for other hazards. For example, warning systems and protocols are more institutionalized and more widely understood for natural hazards than for homeland security and public health threats. While it is generally recognized that organizations such as the National Hurricane Center and the U.S. Geological Survey constitute reliable sources of information on hurricanes and earthquakes, respectively, members of the public may be less clear regarding responsibilities and authorities with respect to other risks, particularly since such threats and the expertise needed to assess them are so diverse. These kinds of differences could translate into differences in public perceptions and subsequent responses. Research is needed on the manner in which the distinctive features of particular homeland security and public
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions health threats, such as those highlighted here, as well as official plans and management strategies, could affect responses during homeland security emergencies. Recommendation 4.3: Future research should focus on the societal consequences of changes in government organization and in emergency management legislation, authorities, policies, and plans that have occurred as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as well as on changes that will almost certainly occur as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The period since the 2001 terrorist attacks has been marked by major changes in the nation’s emergency management system and its plans and programs. Those changes include the massive government reorganization that accompanied the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); the transfer of FEMA, formerly an independent agency, into DHS; the shifting of many duties and responsibilities formerly undertaken by FEMA to DHS’s Office of Domestic Preparedness, which was formerly a part of the Justice Department; the development of the National Response Plan, which supercedes the Federal Response Plan; Presidential Homeland Security Directives 5 and 8, which make the use of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) mandatory for all agencies and organizations involved in responding to disasters and also mandate the establishment of new national preparedness goals; and increases in funding for special homeland security-related initiatives, particularly those involving “first responders.” Other changes include a greater emphasis on regionalized approaches to preparedness and response and the growth at the federal, state, and local levels of offices and departments focusing specifically on homeland security issues—entities that in many cases exist alongside “traditional” emergency management agencies. While officially stressing the need for an “all-hazards” approach, government initiatives are concentrating increasingly on preparedness, response, and recovery in the context of willful attacks. These changes, all of which have taken place within a relatively short period of time, represent the largest realignment of emergency management policies and programs in U.S. history. What is not known at this time—and what warrants significant research—is how these changes will affect the manner in which organizations and government jurisdictions respond during future extreme events. Is the system that is evolving more centralized and more command-and-control oriented than before September 11? If so, what consequences will that have for the way organizations and governmental entities respond? What role will the general public and emergent groups play in such a system? How will NIMS be implemented in future disasters, and to what effect? What new forms will emergent multiorganizational networks assume in future
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions disasters? Which agencies and levels of government will be most central, and how will shifts in authority and responsibility affect response and recovery efforts? Will the investment in homeland security preparedness translate into more rapid, appropriate, and effective responses to natural and technological disasters, or will the new focus on homeland security lead to an erosion in the competencies required to manage other types of emergencies? A major research initiative is needed to analyze the intended and unintended consequences in social time and space of the massive changes that have taken place in the nation’s emergency management system since September 11, 2001. These concerns loom even larger in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That disaster revealed significant problems in virtually every aspect of intergovernmental preparedness and response. The inept management of the Katrina disaster was at least in part a consequence of the myopic institutional focus on terrorism that developed in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks—a focus that included marginalizing and underfunding FEMA and downplaying the challenges associated with responding to large-scale natural disasters (Tierney, 2006, forthcoming). Katrina is certain to bring about further efforts at reorganizing the nation’s response system, particularly at the federal level. These reorganizations and their consequences merit special attention. Recommendation 4.4: Research is needed to update current theories and findings on disaster response and recovery in light of changing demographic, economic, technological, and social trends such as those highlighted in Chapter 2and elsewhere in this report. It is essential to keep knowledge about disaster response and recovery current. The paragraphs above highlight the need for new research on homeland security threats and institutional responses to those threats. Research is also needed to update what is known about disaster response and recovery in light of other forms of social change and to reassess existing theories. Technological change is a case in point. Focusing on only one issue—disaster warnings—the bulk of the research that has been conducted on warning systems and warning responses was carried out prior to the information technology and communications revolutions. With the rise of the Internet and interactive Web-based communication, the proliferation of cellular and other wireless media, and the growing potential for ubiquitous communications, questions arise regarding the applicability of earlier research findings on how members of the public receive, interpret, and act on warnings. Changes in the mass media, including the rise of the 24-hour news cycle and the trend toward “narrowcasting” and now “podcasting” for increasingly specialized audiences, also have implications for the ways in which the public learns about hazards and receives warning-related
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions information. In many respects, warning systems reflect a preference for “push-oriented” information dissemination approaches. However, current information collection practices are strongly “pull oriented.” These and other trends in communications technology introduce additional complexity into already complex processes associated with issuing and receiving warnings, decision making under uncertainty, and crisis-related collective behavior. New research is needed both to improve theories and models and to serve as the basis for practical guidance. Much the same can be said with respect to organizations charged with responding during disaster events. Along with being affected by policy and programmatic changes such as those discussed above, crisis-relevant agencies are also being influenced by the digital and communications revolution and by the diffusion of technology in areas such as remote sensing, geographic information science, data fusion, decision support systems, and visualization. In the more than 15 years since Drabek (1991b) wrote Microcomputers and Emergency Management, which focused on the ways in which computers were affecting the work of local emergency management agencies, technological change has been rapid and massive. How such changes are affecting organizational performance and effectiveness in disasters is not well understood and warrants extensive systematic study. Recommendation 4.5: More research is needed on response and recovery for near-catastrophic and catastrophic disaster events. Chapter 1 discusses issues of determining thresholds of disastrous conditions. NEHRP-sponsored social science research indicates that, in the main, U.S. communities have shown considerable resilience even in the face of major disasters. Similarly, at the individual level, U.S. disasters have produced a range of negative psychosocial impacts, but such impacts appear to have been neither severe nor long-lasting. While recognizing that disasters disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in U.S. society and acknowledging that recovery is extremely difficult for many, disasters have been less devastating in the United States and other developed societies than in the developing world. Disaster-related death tolls have also been lower by orders of magnitude, and economic losses, although often large in absolute terms, have also been lower relative to the size of the U.S. economy. At least that was the case until Hurricane Katrina, a catastrophic event that has more in common with disasters in the developing world than with the typical U.S. disaster. The vast majority of empirical studies on which such generalizations are based have not focused on truly catastrophic disasters, and therefore research results may not be “scalable” to such events. Katrina clearly demonstrates that the nation is at risk for events that are so large that they overwhelm response systems and produce almost insurmountable post-
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions disaster recovery challenges. What kinds of social and economic impacts and outcomes would result from a large earthquake under downtown Los Angeles, a 7.0 earthquake event on the Hayward Fault in the San Francisco Bay area, a repeat of Hurricane Andrew directly striking Miami, or another hurricane landfall in the already devastated Gulf Coast region? What about situations involving multiple disaster impacts, such as the 2004 hurricane season in Florida and multiple disaster events that produce protracted impacts over time, such as the large aftershocks that are now occurring after the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami? To move into the realm of worst cases, what about an attack involving weapons of mass destruction, or simultaneous terrorist attacks in different cities around the United States? Such events are not outside the realm of possibility. There is a need to envision the potential social and economic effects of very large disasters, to learn from catastrophic events such as Hurricane Katrina, and to analyze historical and comparative cases for the insights they can provide. Recommendation 4.6: More cross-societal research is needed on natural, technological, and willfully caused hazards and disasters. Most of the research discussed in this chapter has focused on studies conducted within the United States, but it is important to recognize that findings from U.S. research cannot be overgeneralized to other societies. Disaster response and recovery challenges are greater by many orders of magnitude in smaller and less developed societies than in larger and more developed ones. Disaster impacts, disaster responses, and recovery processes and outcomes clearly vary across societies. Although the earthquakes that struck Los Angeles in 1994, Kobe in 1995, and Bam, Iran, in 2003 were roughly equivalent in size, they differed in almost every other way: lives lost, injuries, extent of physical damage, economic impacts, and subsequent response and recovery activities. Research suggests that such cross-societal differences are attributable to many factors, including differences in physical and social vulnerability; governmental and institutional capacity; government priorities with respect to loss reduction; and response and recovery policies and programs (see, for example, Davis and Seitz, 1982; Blaikie et al., 1994; Berke and Beatley, 1997; Olson and Gawronski, 2003). NEHRP has made significant contributions to cross-societal research through initiatives such as the U.S.-Japan research program on urban earthquake hazards, which was launched following the Northridge and Kobe earthquakes, as well as a similar initiative that was developed after the 1999 Turkey and Taiwan earthquakes. In some cases, these initiatives have led to longer-term research partnerships; Chapter 6 contains information on one such collaboration, involving the Texas A&M University Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center and the National Center for Hazards Mitigation at the National
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions Taiwan University. Significantly more cross-national and comparative research is needed to further document and explain cross-societal variations in response and recovery processes and outcomes across different scales and different disaster events. Disasters such as the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami merit intensive study because they allow for rich comparisons at various scales (individuals, households, communities, and institutional and societal levels), providing an opportunity to greatly expand existing social science knowledge. Recommendation 4.7: Taking into account both existing research and future research needs, sustained efforts should be made with respect to data archiving, sharing, and dissemination. As noted in detail in Chapter 7, attention must be paid to issues related to data standardization, data archiving, and data sharing in hazards and disaster research. NEHRP has been a major driving force in the development of databases on response and recovery issues. However, vast proportions of these data have yet to be fully analyzed. For social scientists to be able to fully exploit the data that currently exist, let alone the volume of data that will be collected in the future, specific steps have to be taken to make available and systematically collect, preserve, and disseminate such data appropriately within the research community. As recommended in Chapter 7, information management strategies must be well coordinated, formally planned, and consistent with federal guidelines governing the protection of information on human subjects. Assuming that these foundations are established, the committee supports the creation of a Disaster Data Archive organized in ways that would encourage broader use of social science data on disaster response and recovery. Contents of this archive would include (but not be limited to) survey instruments; cleaned databases in common formats; code books, coding instructions and other forms of documentation; descriptions of samples and sampling methods; collections of papers containing analyses using those databases; photographs and Internet links (where applicable); and related research materials. Procedures for data archiving and sharing would build on existing protocols set out by organizations such as the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (e.g., ICPSR, 2005). The distributed Disaster Data Archive would perform a number of important functions for social science hazards and disaster research and for the nation. The existence of the archive would make it much more likely that existing data sets will be used to their full potential by greatly improving accessibility. The archive would serve as an important tool for undergraduate and graduate education by making data more easily available for course projects, theses, and dissertations. By enabling researchers to access instruments used in previous research and incorporate past survey and
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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions interview items into their own research, the archive should help make social science research on disasters more cumulative and replicable. An archive would also make it easier for newcomers to the field of disaster research to become familiar with existing research and enable researchers to identify gaps in past research and avoid unnecessary duplication. The archive would also serve an important function in preserving data that might otherwise be lost. Finally, such an archive would enable social science disaster research to better respond to agency directives regarding the desirability of data sharing. For an effort of this kind to succeed, a number of conditions must be met. Funds will be needed to support the development and maintenance of the archive, and researchers must be willing to make their data sets and all relevant documentation available. This second condition is crucial, because the committee is aware of a number of important data sets that are not currently being shared, and the archive cannot succeed without broad researcher support. Challenges related to human subjects review requirements, confidentiality protections, and disclosure risks must be fully explored and addressed. Other issues include challenges associated with the development and enforcement of quality control standards, rules and standards for data sharing, procedures to ensure that proper acknowledgment is given to project sponsors and principal investigators, and questions about long-term management of the archive. Related to the need for better data archiving, sharing, and dissemination strategies, social scientists must be poised to take advantage of new capabilities for data integration and fusion. Strategies are needed to integrate social science data with other types of data collected by both pervasive in situ and mobile ad hoc sensor networks (Estrin et al., 2003), such as networks that collect data on environmental and ecological changes and disaster impacts. In light of the availability of such a wide array of data, the hazards and disasters research community must recognize that hazards and disaster informatics—the application of information science and technology to disaster research, education, and practice—is an emerging field. To realize this potential, and with the foundation established through implementing recommendations in Chapter 7, the committee further supports the creation of a Data Center for Social Science Research on Hazards and Disasters. In addition to maintaining the Disaster Data Archive, this center would conduct research on automated information extraction from data, including the development of efficient and effective methods for storing, querying, and maintaining both qualitative and quantitative data from disparate and heterogeneous sources.
Representative terms from entire chapter: