Of the four phases of emergency management, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery, perhaps the place that individuals can make the biggest difference in their own state of resiliency and survival of a disaster is in the preparedness phase. Being prepared before a disaster strikes makes sense yet many people fail to take even simple, precautionary steps to reduce the consequences of destruction and mayhem produced by natural events such as earthquakes, volcanos and tornados (see Paton et al, 2001, Mileti and Peek, 2002; Tierney, 1993, Tierney et al, 2001).
Educating the public and getting them to take preparatory actions to better protect themselves in the face of natural hazards has led to extensive study of risk communication by social scientists and disaster researchers over the past half-century (Quarantelli, 1991). Lindell et al (2006) describe the reason for risk communication as “to initiate and direct protective action” relative to a hazardous threat (Lindell et al, 2006, p. 84). Better understanding of why people take protective actions has led to better risk communication directed at preparedness measures. Research has identified key ingredients regarding the effectiveness of risk communication messages as well as conditions conducive to adoption of improved preparedness practices.
For instance, Mileti and Peek (2002) found that when people are given clear information about risk, they can comprehend and remember the message and that self-efficacy, i.e. knowing they have the ability to do something about it, regarding preparedness, promotes more action (Mileti and Peek, 2002, p. 128). It is also widely accepted that people will seek out additional information about a threat, especially from their network of family and friends and that repeated, consistent risk communication messages from a variety of reputable sources, reinforces preparedness activities (Lindell et al, 2006, Tierney et al, 2001).
The need for the project
Mileti and Peek (2006) propose that hazard education corresponds with the objective of social marketing; it increases “the prevalence of a target behavior in a specific population” (Mileti and Peek, 2002, p. 125). Recognizing that the scope of disaster preparedness education must reach a very diverse population means the methods of delivering risk communication must also be broad and inclusive (Paton et al, 1999, as cited in Paton & Johnson, 2001, p. 272). Unfortunately, the over-dependence on social media and high-speed Internet connection has the potential to leave many people in this country without access to important disaster preparedness information. The Internet has increasing become the “go to” source for all types of information, about every subject imaginable, for large segments of the American population. Yet a sizable percentage of people in this country still lack a home computer or an Internet connection. Data obtained from the 2009 Current Population Survey (CPS) by the...