Linda Bourque

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How and When Do Households Prepare for Emergencies and Disasters?

Starting in 1971, researchers at UCLA in the Fielding School of Public Health and the Department of Sociology conducted seven local and national surveys to examine how households anticipated and responded to earthquakes and other natural and human-initiated disasters. Since 2006, analyses have focused on what encourages households to invest in preparedness and mitigation activities.  Consistent with prior research, findings consistently find that:

  • Household preparedness and mitigation increases immediately after a disaster during a “window of opportunity” but returns to baseline, endemic  levels within two to five years;
  • Household preparedness and mitigation focuses on the easiest, least costly, and usually most perishable supplies and activities (e.g., water, food, etc.);
  • Households are more likely to invest in supplies and activities that they perceive to have utility for situations other than emergencies and disasters;
  • Households engage in more preparedness and mitigation when they are exposed to more types of information from multiple sources and over multiple channels that is continuous, consistent and provides guidance about what to do and how to do it;
  • Households are more likely to prepare and mitigate when they see others prepare and when they actively seek information about preparedness and mitigation;
  • Information is of greater importance than traditional demographic factors in determining household preparedness and mitigation;
  • Increasing perceptions of risk do not appreciably increase preparedness and mitigation activities.
 

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