Contents & Abstracts
Editorial : Preparing
for and Responding to Adverse Events: Perspectives on Natural and Political
by Douglas Paton
There is a considerable body of work concerning citizens’ perceptions of risk regarding volcanic hazards, with most studies conducted in the United States and New Zealand, No comparable study has been done in Italy, where millions of residents live in close proximity to Mt. Etna and Mt. Vesuvio. This study compared the survey responses of 516 participants at Etna and Vesuvio on topics such as salience of the volcanic hazard, various measures of risk perception, perceived control over eruption effects, perceived preparedness, confidence in government officials’ efforts to protect them from the eruption hazard, self efficacy and sense of community. While residents at Etna appeared to have an objective and informed perspective concerning the volcanic hazard, those residents living in the highest risk areas at Vesuvio demonstrated high levels of fear and perceived risk concerning an eruption, but low levels of perceived ability to protect themselves from the effects of an eruption. These Vesuvio residents also demonstrated low levels of awareness concerning evacuation plans, and low levels of confidence in the success of such plans.
This study investigated whether there is a relationship between the political violence that took place in Nepal and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and physical symptoms. Eighty-five Nepali citizens completed brief questionnaires assessing background information, whether they were directly exposed to political violence, the presence of PTSD-like symptomatology as well as physical complaints. Participants also completed a measure of perceived psychological proximity to the political events using a novel application of the Pictorial Representation of Illness and Self-Measure (PRISM). Old-age, little education and residing in a rural village were associated with more PTSD-like symptomatology. Both direct exposure and perceived psychological proximity to the political violence were associated with more PTSD-like symptoms. Most parameters were unrelated to physical symptoms. Interestingly, PRISM-distance moderated the effects of exposure to violence on PTSD-like symptoms: in participants exposed to violence, those with big PRISM-distances reported lower PTSD-like symptoms than those with little PRISM distances. The theoretical, methodological and cultural aspects of these results are discussed.
Debriefing sessions are widely implemented after stressful events. This manuscript questions the effectiveness of debriefing in collective societies where the common stressors come from within and threaten the integrity of the collective identity. Debriefing, in this case, may escalate the conflict and lead to the fragmentation of the collective self. Based on the Arab case, a culturally-sensitive modification of stress management programs is suggested. More implementations are needed to modify and validate a model that fits collective societies.
Although many people are at risk of natural disasters such as floods, volcanoes, and earthquakes, they are often less prepared than they could be. One factor likely to hinder preparation is an optimistic bias, the judgment that negative events are less likely to happen to oneself than to other people. A study of residents in Wellington (New Zealand) (n = 358) examined optimistic bias in relation to earthquake preparation. Bias was indicated by positive self-judgments relative to two targets: an acquaintance or other Wellingtonians in general. Bias was assessed in relation to three criteria: preparation for an earthquake, the likelihood of suffering injury in an earthquake, and the likelihood of damage to ones residence in an earthquake. As predicted, participants judged that they were better prepared for a major earthquake than both comparison targets; they also judged that they were personally less likely than these others to suffer injury in a major earthquake. However, they judged that their own home was more likely to be damaged in an earthquake than other peoples homes. These findings clarify suitable targets for interventions aimed at enhancing preparedness for earthquakes and other disasters.
Massey University, New Zealand
Last changed June 24, 2005