Communication problems are pervasive in many disaster situations. Nearly all the case studies of disasters occurring in the last 30 years describe communication problems of some sort. The general issues are: 1) external communication with the public (covered in another post); 2) internal communication among emergency response personnel and their agencies, discussed here. Technical problems are common Despite massive technological changes in recent years, communication problems ... Continue Reading
Communication in Disaster and Emergency Response
I first became interested in studying communication in disaster and emergency response in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. My primary focus has been to study how the Internet, social media and the web shape the psychological and behavioural responses to disasters by the public, emergency responders and disaster managers. For example, Internet communication affects decision-making, risk-taking, social influence, and group cohesion, all issues that are pertinent to emergency response.
Necessarily, given my research orientation, this has led me to study how groups behave around disaster situations and their effects on disaster and emergency response communications.
In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in the USA, Donna Ghezzi joined me to begin a project looking at how the Internet affected volunteering behaviour in the aftermath of the disaster. That project led on to Donna's PhD project, which examined volunteering behaviour in disaster situations more broadly and from a social identity perspective.
In another project I was commissioned to explore the range of social psychological responses to disaster shown by emergency responders, the public, and affected communities. Together with Paul Rogers who worked with me on the project, we trawled an initial haul of over 700 books, articles and disaster reports mentioning psychological issues that were either published or in the grey literature. Eventually, we whittled down the pile to just under 200 sources that were relevant for us. (You can read how we did it here). From these sources, we explored 20 aspects of disaster psychology.
Our work in this field has been funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), and the UK Government Cabinet Office.
You can read some of the issues we have studied in the following articles.
This article addresses the factors that affect the public response to a warning message and the processes that individuals are likely to go through before responding. These factors include obtaining confirmation of the warning from alternative sources; contacting friends and family; individual recipient characteristics; and features of the message itself (e.g. clarity, consistency). Individuals are unlikely to obediently follow all instructions, but much can be done to persuade them to take ... Continue Reading
First Responders comprise not only officials and professionals from the various emergency services, disaster agencies, local authority and health services, but also the general public (Clark, 2003). In fact some reports suggest that in many disasters, the public makes up a numerically larger proportion of first responders, assisting with rescue work and elementary disaster relief as well as an assortment of professional activities (Westgate, 1975). For example, in the case of the Mexico City ... Continue Reading
This article discusses the longer term impact that an incident may have on the affected community, the mechanisms by which the community recovers, and factors affecting successful recovery. The literature suggests that in contrast to the immediate social response, the long term community response to disaster may be more negative, characterised by community conflicts, stigmatisation of the affected area, and mistrust of authorities, which constrain community recovery. Community recovery presents ... Continue Reading
Disaster response is socially arranged in complex ways by group and organizational considerations. In this presentation I consider: Groups as causal factors e.g. negligent companies, terrorists Groups as processes Intra-group and inter-group e.g. mass psychogenic illness e.g. identification between helpers and victims e.g. inter-agency communication Groups as moderators e.g. influence of families, communities on responses Groups as outcomes victim groups – wider than primary ... Continue Reading