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Recent research in community disaster education and its implications for emergency management

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Community disaster education is an integral component of emergency management around the world. Its main goal is to promote public safety and, to a lesser extent, reduce disaster damages. However, there has been relatively little research into the appropriateness and effectiveness of the community disaster education programs and learning activities, including those provided by emergency agencies. This is due largely to the general lack of evaluation of these programs, the difficulty in isolating education as a causal factor in aspects of disaster management performance, and disaster education not being embraced strongly by the academic field of education. Compounding this situation is the call by many governments around the world to build community disaster resilience in addition to public safety, with education viewed as a critical mechanism. There is therefore an urgent need to not only examine current community disaster education practices based on education theory and practice, but also to align them to the broader goal of disaster resilience. In response, an exploratory research methodology was utilised to examine possible learning content and processes that could be used by emergency agencies and other organisations to design Learning for Disaster Resilience (LfDR) plans, programs and activities for local communities. The research found that disaster resilience learning content should not only cover preparedness aspects, but also learning about improving recovery for people, organisations (e.g. businesses) and communities. It found that disaster resilience learning should also include learning about the community itself, including how to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen resilience. Opportunities for disaster resilience learning were identified in four broad learning domains – behavioural, cognitive, affective and social. The findings demonstrated that many current disaster education programs are only using limited parts of this learning 'spectrum', although this would be significantly increased by further embracing social media as a disaster resilience learning medium.
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RECENT RESEARCH IN COMMUNITY DISASTER
EDUCATION AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR EMERGENCY
MANAGEMENT
Neil Dufty
Molino Stewart Pty Ltd, Australia
1
Keywords
Learning for Disaster Resilience (LfDR), public safety, emergency management, disaster
education, social media
Abstract
Community disaster education is an integral component of emergency management around
the world. Its main goal is to promote public safety and, to a lesser extent, reduce disaster
damages. However, there has been relatively little research into the appropriateness and
effectiveness of the community disaster education programs and learning activities, including
those provided by emergency agencies. This is due largely to the general lack of evaluation of
these programs, the difficulty in isolating education as a causal factor in aspects of disaster
management performance, and disaster education not being embraced strongly by the
academic field of education.
Compounding this situation is the call by many governments around the world to build
community disaster resilience in addition to public safety, with education viewed as a critical
mechanism. There is therefore an urgent need to not only examine current community disaster
education practices based on education theory and practice, but also to align them to the
broader goal of disaster resilience.
In response, an exploratory research methodology was utilised to examine possible learning
content and processes that could be used by emergency agencies and other organisations to
design Learning for Disaster Resilience (LfDR) plans, programs and activities for local
communities.
The research found that disaster resilience learning content should not only cover
preparedness aspects, but also learning about improving recovery for people, organisations
(e.g. businesses) and communities. It found that disaster resilience learning should also
include learning about the community itself, including how to reduce vulnerabilities and
strengthen resilience.
Opportunities for disaster resilience learning were identified in four broad learning domains –
behavioural, cognitive, affective and social. The findings demonstrated that many current
disaster education programs are only using limited parts of this learning ‘spectrum’, although
this would be significantly increased by further embracing social media as a disaster
resilience learning medium.
1
Molino Stewart, PO Box 614, Parramatta CBD BC, Parramatta, NSW, Australia 2124
www.molinostewart.com.au
Introduction
Community disaster education is an integral component of emergency management around
the world. Its main goal is to promote public safety and, to a lesser extent, reduce disaster
damages.
Emergency agencies provide a range of educative services to people and communities
including public relations, warning communications, formal education programs (e.g. with
schools), volunteer training and community engagement. These services can be carried out by
different sections or divisions of the agencies. As a result, there is a tendency for emergency
agencies to divide disaster educative services into at least community ‘education’,
‘communications’ and ‘engagement’, each of which have slightly different processes (Dufty,
2013a). What is common with education, communications and engagement (ECE) is that they
all contribute to disaster-related learning for people, organisations (e.g. businesses) and
communities.
Although the ECE division is used by many emergency agencies in practice, the holistic term
‘disaster education’ is appropriate in strategic discussion as it is synonymous with ‘disaster
learning’. This stance is supported by the Latin roots of the word ‘education’: educare, means
‘to train or to mold’, and educere, means to ‘lead out’. Thus, in this paper the term ‘disaster
education’ will be used for all activities that lead to learning before, during and after a
disaster.
There has been considerable action in community disaster education across the world,
particularly with the advent of social media. The range of these initiatives has been well-
researched e.g. Molino Stewart (2012) categorised current disaster learning activities into four
main groups:
1. Public communications, information products and services e.g. publications, internet
sites, displays, promotional products, media liaison, advertising/marketing, social
media.
2. Training, development and industry-specific programs e.g. skills development
courses, leadership training, mentoring, emergency drilling and exercising.
3. Community engagement programs e.g. public participation programs, forums,
discussion groups, events, developing networks, social media.
4. Comprehensive personal education programs e.g. school curriculum, university
curriculum, personal development courses, action research programs, community
education courses.
However, there has been relatively little research into the appropriateness and effectiveness of
the community disaster education programs and learning activities, including those provided
by emergency agencies. This is due largely to the general lack of evaluation of these
programs (Elsworth et al, 2009) and the difficulty in isolating education as a causal factor in
aspects of disaster management performance (e.g. preparedness levels, evacuation rates,
business continuity).
The paucity of this research is also due to disaster education not being embraced strongly by
specialist educators that are versed in education theory and practice. As Preston (2012, p.1)
states “there is surprisingly little writing in the field of education/pedagogy itself”. This is
largely due to disaster education being a “new area of enquiry in the field of education”
(Preston 2012, p.1) and because many of the disaster education programs are designed by
non-educators (e.g. engineers, planners) from emergency agencies and other organisations. As
a result, there is a large amount of disaster education activity around the world with little
technical research into its educational veracity.
Compounding this issue is the call by governments around the world to build community
disaster resilience, and not only strive for public safety. The concept of resilience has been in
the disaster management literature since the 1980s (Wildavsky, 1988) but has come into
vogue as an overriding goal in the past decade. There are a multitude of definitions of
‘disaster resilience’. The original notion of resilience, from the Latin word resilio, means to
‘jump back’ or ‘bounce back’. According to de Bruijne, Boin and van Eeten (2010, p. 13), “In
the past decades, research on resilience has been conducted at various levels of analysis – the
individual level, the group level, and the organizational or community level – in a wide
variety of disciplines including psychology, ecology, organization and management sciences,
group/team literature and safety management”.
Several researchers (e.g. Longstaff, 2005) have made an interdisciplinary effort to further
refine the concept of resilience in relation to disaster management. However, a dilemma for
researchers and planners is whether disaster resilience should involve the ability of a
community to ‘bounce back’ (i.e. resume its normal functioning) as per the original notion, or
to ‘bounce forward’ after a disaster (Manyena et al, 2011). Some researchers such as Paton
(2006) opt for the latter notion arguing that the ‘bounce back’ idea neither captures the
changed reality after a disaster, nor encapsulates the new possibilities wrought by a disaster.
Although the academic debate continues on what precisely is disaster resilience, many
governments around the world have developed strategic policies and plans that aim to guide
countries toward achieving it. Education (learning) is seen as a critical component of most
resilience building strategies. For example, the Hyogo Framework for Action (International
Strategy for Disaster Reduction, 2005) was an outcome of the 2005 World Conference on
Disaster Reduction held in Kobe, Japan. One of its five priorities for action is using
“knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience”.
In summary, there is an urgent need to not only examine current community disaster
education practices based on education theory and practice, but also to align them to the
broader goal of disaster resilience.
Theory and Method
The challenge for an examination of what could be appropriate and effective disaster
resilience education is unravelling the complexities of the relevant disaster research. Preston
(2012, p.1) notes that “the disciplinary boundaries of disaster education are fluid and the
literature on the topic can be found within the sociology of disasters, public health and health
promotion, humanitarian response, political communication and public relations”. ‘Normal’
confirmatory research used regularly in emergency management will struggle with this type
of complex strategic and conceptual examination.
Exploratory research heavily used in marketing and the social sciences – was identified as
an appropriate research approach for this examination. According to Davies (2006, p.1),
“Exploratory research is a methodological approach that is primarily concerned with
discovery and with generating or building theory. In a pure sense, all research is exploratory.
In the social sciences exploratory research is wedded to the notion of exploration and the
researcher as explorer”. Two of its main uses are to “gain additional insights before an
approach can be developed” and to “isolate key variables and relationships for further
examination” (Bhatia, 2010).
Exploratory research is by its very nature inter-disciplinary, and as required in this
examination, should freely cast across the different social sciences. “It is precisely by
adopting, comparing, and trying out a linguistic, ethnographic, anthropological, geographical,
sociological, economical, or political science gaze that a new insight can emerge and rich
exploration can occur” (Reiter, 2013 p. 15).
Although exploratory research is more unstructured than confirmatory research, it still
requires a general framework for focus in this case into disaster resilience learning. The
main academic fields for this research were the disaster-related social sciences education,
psychology and sociology – along with disaster management itself. The exploration was
confined to a review of secondary data (e.g. papers, reports, websites) across these academic
fields.
The exploration was divided into the two components of disaster education programs: content
and process. These components are interlinked to design a learning program or activity.
Content
For ‘content’, exploration was conducted in relation to what should be included in disaster
resilience education for before, during and after an emergency or disaster. It concentrated on
the nexus between disaster risk reduction, emergency management and the dynamics of
affected communities (although there are other factors involved e.g. governance, institutions).
This strategic relationship is supported by the Australian National Climate Change Adaptation
Research Plan for Emergency Management (Pearce et al, 2009, p. 4) which states that “When
natural disasters occur, the consequences of damage and loss are a function of the
effectiveness of the disaster mitigation strategies that have been implemented, the activities of
the emergency services, and the resilience of the communities and economic sectors
affected”.
Based on this relationship, as shown in Figure 1 (before a disaster), disaster education is
located at the interfaces between both disaster risk reduction and emergency management,
and the affected individuals and communities. Disaster education is thus a learning conduit
between the organisations responsible for disaster risk reduction and emergency management
and affected individuals/communities.
Prior to a disaster, the aim of disaster risk reduction is to reduce the risk to people and
property. During and immediately after a disaster, emergency management works with
individuals and communities within the ‘residual risk’ after disaster risk reduction
interventions. For those hazards that are sudden (e.g. earthquakes, terrorist attacks), the
disaster learning may largely be derived from warning and other communications
immediately after the event. On the other hand, there is opportunity for a range of disaster
education activities to be used if there is a long warning time and/or duration of the event (e.g.
riverine floods, ‘campaign’ bushfires/wildfires).
Figure 1: Research framework for the exploration of disaster resilience education content
(before a disaster)
After a disaster, individuals rely largely on economic support (e.g. insurance, humanitarian
aid), ongoing assistance from emergency organisations, and from others in their communities.
Learning in this relationship helps in the recovery phase to return individuals and
communities to normal functioning (a key measure of resilience).
Disaster education Disaster education
Process
For the ‘process’ component of the research, exploration was conducted across the robust
academic fields of disaster psychology and sociology which were then related to learning
theory to identify potential ways in which people may best learn. This research framework is
shown in Figure 2.
Central to this exploration of appropriate and potentially effective disaster resilience learning
processes is ‘learning theory’ which is derived mainly from education psychology. Theories
about human learning can be grouped into four broad ‘domains’. They are:
1. Behaviourism - focus on observable behaviour
2. Cognitive - learning as purely a mental/ neurological process
3. Affective - emotions and affect play a role in learning
4. Social - humans learn best in group activities.
Figure 2: Research framework for the exploration of disaster resilience education process
Results
Content
The exploration into the content component of disaster resilience learning found that if
disaster education provided by emergency agencies is to help build disaster resilience through
learning then it needs to not only be geared to public safety and reducing risks to property, but
also to attaining an efficient recovery to ‘bounce back’ through the post-disaster relationships.
Furthermore, to help with a ‘bounce forward’ approach to building disaster resilience,
learning should also be obtained by post-disaster evaluation conducted not only by agencies
(e.g. after action reviews) but also with impacted communities (e.g. community de-brief
meetings, resilience forums, webinars).
For weather-related hazards (e.g. flood, heatwave, drought, wildfire/bushfire), learning related
to climate change adaptation should be added, as it will impact on the other content. An
example of a program that couples climate change adaptation learning with public safety and
risk mitigation learning is described by Stevens et al (2012).
The exploration also found that the learning content of disaster resilience education plans and
programs should include both learning in response to the ‘hazard’, plus that related to the
‘host’: the at-risk people, organisations and communities.
Even though there have been great improvements (including technological) in disaster risk
reduction and emergency management over the past decade, there has been no change in the
general trend of increasing global disaster costs (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of
Disasters, 2012). This trend can be partly attributed to climate change, but human and societal
factors appear to be a main cause (Haque and Etkin, 2012).
Disaster Psychology Disaster Sociology
Learning Theories
Disaster Resilience Education
The idea of disasters being related to social systems is not new. In 1975, White and Haas
published a pioneering report on the United States’ ability to withstand and respond to natural
disasters. They found that research on disasters was dominated by physical scientists and
engineers; little attempt had been made to tap the social sciences to better understand the
economic, social and political ramifications of extreme natural events. Hewitt (1983)
suggested that too much causality was attributed to the geophysical processes: everyday
societal forces and patterns of living play a great role.
It therefore appears that people, organisations and their communities need to not only learn
how to resist and recover from the hazard, but also to reflect on and learn ways to improve
their social fabric ready for future disasters.
The research (see also Dufty, 2013b) found that this introspective societal learning should be
conducted at least across three broad areas:
1. Urban planning and landuse controls
2. Social vulnerability and resilience (including capacity-building)
3. Institutions and policies.
A summary of the potential content of disaster resilience learning resulting from the
exploration is provided in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Suggested main learning content areas for disaster resilience learning
Landuse Controls Social Resilience Policies
Development Planning Social Vulnerability Institutions
INTERNAL (‘HOST’)
EXTERNAL (‘HAZARD’)
Risk Preparedness Response Recovery
Mitigation Precautions Warning Post-disaster
evaluation
LEARNING FOR
DISASTER
RESILIENCE
Process
The exploration into the process component of disaster resilience learning identified eight
main learning theories and teaching approaches (or pedagogies) that are related to disaster
psychology and sociology. These, along with examples of relevant learning activities, are
summarised in Table 1.
Table 1: Summary of relevant disaster resilience learning theories and activities
Learning domains Theory/Pedagogy Relevance Learning activities
Behavioural Programmed
instruction
Rehearsing behaviours
required prior to a disaster
Drilling, exercising,
training
Cognitive Information
processing
Disaster information
needs to be processed to
trigger appropriate
behaviours
Warning messages, social
media, media releases,
signage, crowdsourcing
Gestalt Risk perception, decision-
making, attention,
memory and problem-
solving are all important
requirements for
appropriate disaster
behaviours
Awareness-raising
documents and web sites
(e.g. risk, preparedness
actions), role plays related
to disaster scenarios, maps
Constructivist People construct learning
from disaster information
and experience
Oral histories, social
media, diaries, personal
research
Affective Experiential Prior or learned
experience is an important
factor in people’s disaster
preparedness and
resilience
Gaming, simulations,
virtual reality training,
exercising
Social and emotional Emotional factors play an
important part in people’s
preparedness and
resilience
Workshops, social and
emotional learning
programs in schools,
resilient therapy, social
media, counselling
Transformational People may need to
change to prepare
appropriately for future
disasters
Role playing, disaster case
studies, mind exploration,
critical reflection
Social Situated
learning/communities
of practice
Social capital has been
shown to be a major factor
in community resilience
Social media, post-disaster
community meetings,
resilience forums,
community engagement
Discussion
According to Reiter (2013, p. 8), “exploratory studies allow us to think, not just to measure;
to use our imagination, experience, insight, and skill to propose new and innovative ways to
understand and interpret reality”. This has been attempted in this research to help scope a
possible new approach to disaster education called ‘Learning for Disaster Resilience’ (LfDR)
(Dufty, 2012). However, a weakness of exploratory research is that it provides no definitive
answers; thus, the research results described above require further confirmatory research and
testing.
With that limitation acknowledged, there are several potential implications of this research for
emergency agencies and other organisations involved in emergency management.
The research found that LfDR content should not only cover preparedness aspects, but also
learning about improving recovery for people, organisations (e.g. businesses) and
communities. It found that disaster resilience learning should also involve learning about the
community itself, including how to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen resilience by
capacity building (e.g. social capital formation).
In relation to Figure 3, all LfDR content should be planned prior to a disaster (as far as
possible). However, climate change adaptation learning (if relevant), disaster risk learning
and disaster preparedness learning should be implemented before an event; disaster response
learning during and immediately after an event; and, disaster recovery learning and post-
disaster evaluation learning after an event. The introspective societal learning should be
conducted prior to and soon after a disaster (as part of post-disaster evaluation).
Figure 3 enables specific LfDR content to be scoped for each potentially impacted community
to help build disaster resilience. This can be achieved by unpacking the learning content
segments from Figure 3. For example, the disaster preparedness learning segment in Figure 3
could be unpacked to provide the content shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4: Possible unpacking of disaster preparedness learning
The other part of the exploratory research involved looking at disaster resilience learning
process. Opportunities for disaster resilience learning were identified in four broad learning
domains – behavioural, cognitive, affective and social.
An observation from the exploration is that emergency agencies tend to rely primarily on
information provision in relation to other opportunities (refer to Table 1). This may limit
effective learning due to the possible lack of people’s motivation to seek disaster information
and the one-dimensional, top-down manner in which it is delivered. The implication of this is
that emergency managers should utilise a variety of learning activities including across those
listed in Table 1.
Also, there has been a large amount written about the role of social media in emergency
management (e.g. White, 2012; Gupta and Brooks, 2013). Table 1 supports the use of social
media by identifying its potential to assist widely across three of the broad domains of
disaster learning – cognitive, affective and social.
Finally, this exploratory research provides possible ‘palettes’ of content and process that can
be used when designing local LfDR plans, programs and activities. Other factors should be
then considered (e.g. community demographics, hazard risks, people’s preferred ways of
learning, learner profiles) to design tailored plans, programs and activities for communities.
Conclusion
This paper is a first attempt to explore and scope the content and learning processes that could
be used in the LfDR approach as a refinement of, and extension to, current disaster ECE
practices.
The research found that disaster resilience learning content should not only cover public
safety aspects, but also learning about improving recovery for people, organisations (e.g.
businesses) and communities. It found that disaster resilience learning should also include
learning about the community itself, including how to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen
resilience by capacity building (e.g. social capital formation).
The other part of the exploratory research involved looking at disaster resilience learning
process. Opportunities for disaster resilience learning were identified in four broad learning
domains – behavioural, cognitive, affective and social. The findings demonstrated that many
current ECE programs are only using limited parts of this learning spectrum, although this
would be significantly increased by further embracing social media as a disaster resilience
learning medium.
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Acknowledgements
The author wishes to thank Mr Steven Molino, Managing Director of Molino Stewart Pty Ltd,
for reviewing this paper and providing the opportunity to conduct the research.
Author Biography
Neil Dufty is a Principal at Molino Stewart, an environment and natural hazards consultancy
based in Parramatta, NSW, Australia. Neil is a qualified earth scientist and educator, and has
over 35 years of experience in education research, practice and evaluation. Over the past
decade, Neil has researched, designed and evaluated disaster education plans and programs
for numerous clients across Australia including the Victoria State Emergency Service, the
New South Wales State Emergency Service and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Neil
has also been regularly engaged to research other aspects of disaster management and
resilience-building including community warning systems and climate change adaptation.
... Dufty [6] proposed that disaster resilience learning should also include learning about the community itself, including how to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen resilience by capacity building (e.g. social capital formation). ...
... Using these characteristics and the results of extensive disaster psychological and sociological research, Dufty ( 2013 ) scoped potential disaster resilience learning content for learners of all ages and found that disaster resilience learning content should not only cover public safety aspects, but also learning about improving recovery for people, organisations (e.g., businesses) and communities. It found that disaster resilience learning should also include learning about the community itself, including how to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen resilience by capacity building (Dufty 2013 ). ...
Chapter
Earthquakes proved to be the most devastating natural disaster with a high mortality rate and wide spread destruction. Earthquake induced ground shaking plays a key role in excessive ground deformation and infrastructure damage, and in triggering secondary hazards such as landslides, flooding, tsunamis, fire and liquefaction. The intensity and duration of an earthquake induced ground shaking depends on magnitude, depth of hypocenter, medium traversed by seismic waves; and physical and geotechnical characteristics of the site. Tools of GIS and remote sensing are frequently and effectively used for earthquake hazard, vulnerability and risk assessment and assist in developing risk reduction strategies. Pakistan is located in one of the most earthquake prone region with many devastating earthquakes in the past and active tectonic shows that there might be more earthquakes in future. Hence it is crucial to perform earthquake hazard assessment across the country and subsequently develop and implement strategies for earthquake risk mitigation. Subsequent to facing extensive devastation by the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the government has realized the importance of earthquake management and hence encouraged the scientific research aiming for earthquake hazard assessment and strategies for risk reduction. Moreover, organizations have been established mainly dedicated for natural disaster management. However, the magnitude of prevailing earthquake induced risk needs detailed earthquake hazard assessment, design earthquake resistant structures; implement the seismic building codes and public awareness to adopt for earthquake risk reduction.
Chapter
Pakistan is vulnerable to wide range of hazards and rooting from weather, hydrological, geophysical and human induced disasters. In the past three decades, there has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of hydro-meteorological disasters including floods, extreme temperatures, torrential and prolonged rainfall, drought and storms. In this regard, efforts have been made by the government to endorse disaster and climate change education, and so far variety of initiatives and activities have been planned and some of them implemented. Because, Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005–2015, priority for action-3 emphasises the role of knowledge and education, and stress on formal and non-formal education and awareness-raising as an important component of disaster risk reduction strategy. Keeping in view this changing scenario, the government of Pakistan has developed the national climate change policy 2012, which clearly pinpointed the need for disaster and climate change education and development of curricula with particular emphasis on disaster and climate change, and its introduction in the country education system. The policy also highlighted to ensure inclusion of climate change education and training as a compulsory subject in the forest education system. In order to enhance the human capacity in the field of disaster and climate change education, the government has also taken the responsibility of sending young scientists and students to reputed institutions abroad for higher studies. In addition to this, it is pertinent to encourage and strengthen the existing disaster and climate change science, in the related institutions and universities through technical and financial support. The national disaster management plan 2012–2022 also highlighted that research need to be carried out on the challenges of disasters and climate change issues. These measures if taken care of in policy, plans and programs will definitely lead to mitigate and minimize the extent of damages in anticipation to the changing climate scenario. This chapter discusses the disaster and climate change education, Pakistan’s vulnerability to Disaster and Climate Change, Growth and Development of Disaster’s Legislations and Institutions, Disaster and Climate Change Education at School, College, University, Professional and Technical Institutions, National Institute for Disaster Management, Religious Institutions, Community Level, and in the State Departments, Civil Services Academies and promotion of Research environment in the country.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Is emergency management sufficient to build disaster resilient communities? This paper reviews current research and Australia's National Strategy for Disaster Resilience which indicates that the fields of 'disaster risk reduction' and 'community development' should be joined with 'emergency management' to form a disaster resilience-building triumvirate. Using this strategic alliance, the paper then shows how learning is a critical component of building disaster resilience through 'communities of practice'. It also investigates how people and communities learn before, during and after disasters. The paper concludes by outlining a new approach-'Learning for Disaster Resilience'-that is designed to develop and activate 'disaster resilient learning communities' in line with the strategic triumvirate.
Towards a Learning for Disaster Resilience Approach: exploring content and process http://works.bepress.com/neil_dufty
  • N Dufty
  • G Elsworth
  • J Gilbert
  • P Robinson
  • C Rowe
  • K Stevens
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