Natural disasters and evacuations as a communication and social phenomenon

Goudie, Doug (2017) Natural disasters and evacuations as a communication and social phenomenon. In: Meyers, Robert A., (ed.) Encyclopedia of Complexity and Systems Science. Encyclopedia of Complexity and Systems Science, 1 (2017). Springer, Berlin, Germany, pp. 1-40.

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This article intends to show how system and complexity science can contribute to an understanding and improvement of evacuation processes, especially considering the roles of engaged communities at risk, the concepts of community self help,and clear communication about local threats and remedies. Evacuation ahead of a natural disaster impact is perhaps among the more extreme actions private citizens are encouraged to make by authorities to help them “get safe and stays afe” – the core goal of all disaster risk management and effective risk communication. This article shows researchers in Complexity and Systems Science (CSS) a social science approach to maximize effective and precautionary evacuation, maximize safety, minimize loss, and speed full recovery. The computational and analytical modeling tools of CSS may be considered to apply to a complex interaction of community awareness and inclination to accept the reality of a natural disaster threat, along with achieving background and final preparations to maximize safety and recovery from a natural disaster impact. This article may stimulate CSS researchers to develop detailed models of the complex systems and complexity of melding information from weather bureaus and disaster managers, via contacts and intervening media to communities at risk, with the shared social goal of maximizing safety. This social science task requires cross-disciplinary approaches of respect and response. The old disaster management model lacked the predictive and rapid communication systems now available and developing in disaster predictive models (such as flood maps). An approach to modeling the great complexity of human behavior responding to threat is provided. Such a model must include people’s prior knowledge of a threat type, and consider such fine detail as the overarching language used in a country with threat zones, and the dominant languages of all under threat. Itis hoped this article stimulates CSS models to further engage in this social good of helping people get safe and stay safe through natural disasters by providing predictive tool to authorities to better inform and encourage those at risk to action, including the possible need for precautionary evacuations ahead of a predicted impact. Disaster management in Australia, and increasingly, globally, is focused on mitigation as part of a “threat continuum,” from acceptance that some2 Natural Disasters and Evacuations as a Communication and Social Phenomenon locations are vulnerable to a hazard impact to recovery (COAG 2004). Emergency warnings and a possible need to evacuate are embedded as “spikes” on that continuum. Thus, this article stresses the importance of developing ways, incentives, to mobilize aware at-risk community members to precautionary self-evacuation. For this to happen, people need to know and internalize the reality that they are in a hazard zone. Thus, in the cost-effective philosophy of engendering self-help, the process of understanding the complexity of achieving the shared social goal in maximizing safety and minimizing loss is to engender creation of empowered communities with a high motivation for safety-oriented and precautionary action. This is likely to lead to minimized loss and disruption and maximized recovery. This article details many elements of that process and invites detailed development of the sustainability implementation research (SIR)to achieve that goal through CSS. To model the path to collective safety, the complexity of the dynamics at play need to be clarified: impact preparedness, including possible evacuation, is a communication and social issue. This article demonstrates that mapping hazard zones (where natural hazards can impact) and sharing with those at risk is important for those at risk to internalize the fact they may be at risk as a first psychological step in taking responsibility to do things to minimize that risk. Involving the community in the acceptance of threat and needed action, developing a safety-oriented social norm feeds back to individuals [SoEaES1] and households.[SoEaES1] Each Under “Preparations” Evacuation modeling is needed only for those whose homes may be at real threat of a disaster impact. For those living in a hazard zone (e.g., Figs. 2, 7, 11, and 15), a fully informed community, who have internalized the reality of the threat and have worked for maximum background preparation and have mechanisms to receive alerts and warnings of a looming threat, a community predisposed to precautionary evacuations will result. Evacuation modeling is also needed for those who may manage the travel routes or receive evacuees. Capturing this complexity is the challenge for modelers. Evacuation is about hazard zone residents actively monitoring a looming threat via refined communication channels detailed in this article, within a developed social predisposition to act. Some examples are given. For consideration by scientists and students internationally, this article introduces the Communication Safety Triangle(CST) and the seven steps to community safety on the preparedness continuum, within the new research frame of sustainability implementation research (SIR).

Item ID: 50853
Item Type: Book Chapter (Reference)
ISBN: 978-3-642-27737-5
Keywords: evacuation, community safety, risk, effective communication
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This is an updated version of a Living Reference Work. Previous versions are available in ResearchOnline at the related URL.

Funders: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Australian Research Council, Australian Bushfire Cooperative Research Center, University of Tasmania
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2017 03:50
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2099 Other Language, Literature and Culture > 209999 Language, Communication and Culture not elsewhere classified @ 30%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0599 Other Environmental Sciences > 059999 Environmental Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 30%
12 BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN > 1205 Urban and Regional Planning > 120504 Land Use and Environmental Planning @ 40%
SEO Codes: 89 INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES > 8998 Environmentally Sustainable Information and Communication Services > 899899 Environmentally Sustainable Information and Communication Services not elsewhere classified @ 20%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9610 Natural Hazards > 961099 Natural Hazards not elsewhere classified @ 60%
88 TRANSPORT > 8899 Other Transport > 889999 Transport not elsewhere classified @ 20%
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