Psychology holds key to getting people out before disaster strikes

phys.org | 10/13/2017 | Staff
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Natural disasters are becoming more frequent and intense. Recent hurricanes, floods, bushfires and earthquakes have highlighted the significant potential for mass trauma. Yet we know relatively little about the psychology of decision-making in dangerous conditions.

The focus of this year's International Day for Disaster Reduction, October 13, is the second target in the United Nations' Sendai Framework: reducing the number of people affected by disasters by 2030.To achieve this, governments and organisations must work with communities to ensure effective disaster preparedness and response.

Evacuation - Strategy - City - Residents - Study

Evacuation is a key strategy for keeping city residents safe. Yet our study, conducted in Hong Kong and recently published in the International Journal of Public Health, identifies several barriers to evacuation in high-density cities. Importantly, psychological factors could affect decision-making in these situations.

The combination of climate change and increasingly urbanised populations has elevated the risk of large and complex natural disasters for cities.

Hong - Kong - Risk - Disaster - Ten

Hong Kong is predicted to be at significant risk of a climatic disaster in the next ten years. Despite this, in our city-wide assessment, only 11% of residents surveyed reported feeling prepared to respond to a natural disaster.

Timely evacuation in emergencies can be critical for survival. It ensures vulnerable members of society are safe and have access to medical and social support.

People - Homes - Study - People - Reason

However, people are not always willing and able to leave their homes. In our study,two out of every five people identified a reason that would stop them evacuating.

The most commonly reported barrier was not knowing where to go. A smaller proportion reported disability or mobility issues that limited their capacity to evacuate quickly. This is particularly important for older people, families with young children, and residents of high-rise buildings. Others were concerned about theft and looting should they leave their homes.

Studies - Australia - Japan - United - States

Similar studies from Australia, Japan, and the United States suggest these barriers are not limited...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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