Human Response to Disasters

March 1985 (VOL. 3, NO. 1)

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We first discuss psychological response and coping behavior in disaster situations. We confirm earlier findings that people have a tendency to interpret the signs of danger within their daily context and to underestimate the possibility of a disaster. It is suggested that the repetitive and consistent information would help to induce adaptive responses. The typical coping patterns found were: 1) information gathering behavior, 2) activities closely related to one’s family, 3) preventive or protective behaviors, and 4) self protection by moving. We found the following six psychological determinants of coping behavior: 1) recognizing the seriousness of the situation, 2) knowing appropriate behavior for the situation faced, 3) expecting the projected coping response to be feasible, 4) perceiving the cost and reward of acting, 5) feeling of imminence of danger and, 6) the state of emotion of those involved. \r\nIn the last part of the article we examine evacuation behavior in particular, based on our surveys in four communities in Japan. The central factors which determine evacuation decisions were: 1) direct perception of threat, 2) exposure to the evacuation advice, 3) factors relating to family, 4) community preparedness, 5) demographic characteristics. We distinguish three basic phases in the evacuation process, that is, the timing of evacuation, the choice of transportation, and the sheltering activity. Threat conditions, exposure to evacuation advice, and one’s location were found to relate to the timing of evacuation. Most people evacuated by car. No consistent pattern was found in the choice of shelters. \r\n