issuing messages, consideration needs to be given to the recipients of the message and also to those who surround the people at risk. Another significant gender-based factor is that women tend to act sooner than men when a warning or alert is issued, which places men at greater risk. During Hurricane Mitch in 1998, a greater number of men than of women died.5 This is generally attributed to the desire of men to protect their resources and family homes. Coinciding with studies highlighting the isolation of older populations, particularly of older males, data on Hurricane Katrina show that older African-American men tended to die disproportionately compared to other populations.6


As discussed in Chapter 4, educational initiatives need to take into account an ethnic community’s usual information channel. This information should inform the development of public education campaigns.

Preferred information sources (television, radio, or online) can vary across racial and ethnic lines. For example, it has been reported that many Mexican-Americans prefer to get information on community initiatives and programs at neighborhood meetings. Race and ethnicity also play a role in the public’s response to alerts.7 It is important to identify where credibility and trust lie and to use those avenues. Furthermore, racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to seek multiple confirmations from informal sources and to delay taking protective action. This was particularly apparent during Hurricane Katrina, when affected populations first gathered multiple generations living within the area before making a decision on protective action.

Language can also create a challenge in receiving messages among populations with limited proficiency in English. A tornado hit Saragosa, Texas, in 1987. Unfortunately an English-language warning was translated incorrectly, and Spanish-speaking people thought that they were getting


The World Bank. “Hurricane Mitch—The Gender Effects of Coping and Crises.” PREMnotes, No. 57, August 2001. Available at Accessed December 21, 2010.


Sebastian N. Jonkman, Bob Maaskant, Ezra Boyd, and Marc Loyd Levitan. “Loss of Life Caused by the Flooding of New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina: Analysis of the Relationship Between Flood Characteristics and Mortality.” Risk Analysis 29:676-698 (2009).


For additional information, see Ronald W. Perry and Lisa S. Nelson, “Ethnicity and Hazard Information Dissemination,” Environmental Management 15(4):581-587 (1991); Ronald Perry and A. Mushkatel, Minority Citizens in Disasters, University of Georgia Press, Athens, Ga., 1996; Ronald Perry and M. Lindell, Communicating Environmental Risk in Multiethnic Communities, Sage, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2004; or A. Fothergill, E.G.M. Maestas, and J.D. Darlington, “Race, Ethnicity and Disasters in the United States: A Review of the Literature,” Disasters 23:156-173 (1999).

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