sion processes involved in self-protective action are similar across different types of disaster events, although the challenges posed and the problems that may develop can be agent specific.

As in other areas discussed here, empirical studies on warning response and self-protective behavior in different types of disasters and emergencies have led to the development of broadly generalizable explanatory models. One such model, the protective action decision model, developed by Perry, Lindell, and their colleagues (see, for example, Lindell and Perry, 2004), draws heavily on Turner and Killian’s (1987) emergent norm theory of collective behavior. According to that theory, groups faced with the potential need to act under conditions of uncertainty (or potential danger) engage in interaction in an attempt to develop a collective definition of the situation they face and a set of new norms that can guide their subsequent action.1 Thus, when warnings and protective instructions are disseminated, those who receive warnings interact with one another in an effort to determine collectively whether the warning is authentic, whether it applies to them, whether they are indeed personally in danger, whether they can reduce their vulnerability through action, whether action is possible, and when they should act. These collective determinations are shaped in turn by such factors as (1) the characteristics of warning recipients, including their prior experience with the hazard in question or with similar emergencies, as well as their prior preparedness efforts; (2) situational factors, including the presence of perceptual cues signaling danger; and (3) the social contexts in which decisions are made—for example, contacts among family members, coworkers, neighborhood residents, or others present in the setting, as well as the strength of preexisting social ties. Through interaction and under the influence of these kinds of factors, individuals and groups develop new norms that serve as guidelines for action.

Conceptualizing warning response as a form of collective behavior that is guided by emergent norms brings several issues to the fore. One is that far from being automatic or governed by official orders, behavior undertaken in response to warnings is the product of interaction and deliberation among members of affected groups—activities that are typically accompanied by a search for additional confirmatory information. Circumstances that complicate the deliberation process, such as conflicting warning information that individuals and groups may receive, difficulties in getting in touch with others whose views are considered important for the decision-making process, or disagreements among group members about any aspect of the


Note that what is being discussed here are group-level deliberations and decisions, not individual ones. Actions under conditions of uncertainty and urgency such as those that accompany disaster warnings should not be conceptualized in individualistic terms.

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