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Memorandum of Discussion: U.S.-U.S.S.R. Joint Meeting on Earthquake Hazards Mitigation - September 9-13, 1991, Moscow, U.S.S.R APPENDIX E SOCIETAL RESPONSES The key to successful seismic hazard reduction is a thorough understanding of how society—from individuals to organizations to governments—understands the earthquake threat, what can be done about it, and what capacity is needed to undertake action. The following research topics provide a broad framework within which bilateral, cooperative research efforts can be undertaken to address questions concerning the importance of understanding earthquake threat perception and the popular and governmental responses to that threat. Workshop on Social Science in Earthquake Hazard Reduction Prior to the initiation of any formal research efforts, a joint workshop should be held between U.S. and U.S.S.R. social scientists focusing on theoretical and methodological approaches to hazards research, with a special emphasis on earthquakes. This workshop would produce a state-of-the-art assessment of social science research in the United States and the republics of the Soviet Union, identify any gaps in knowledge, highlight similarities and differences in empirical findings and research approaches, and provide an occasion for experts in both countries to familiarize themselves with counterpart colleagues. Bilateral Research Topics Initial contacts between U.S. and U.S.S.R. social scientists have yielded three broad research topics salient to the development of both basic social theories of human cognition, attitudes, and their relation to social action, and earthquake hazard reduction programs in both countries. Public Understanding of Earthquake Hazards and Preparing for Earthquakes Investigations of the public understanding of earthquake hazards and of what can be done to prepare for and protect households and communities from earthquakes should be conducted. In the United States and the Soviet Union there are theories of the relationship between cognitions or attitudes and social action (or behavior). Very little, if any, empirical work has been conducted to determine whether the same relationship would hold up in different national contexts and whether the same control conditions (for example, past experience, level of knowledge, and education) would affect these relationships. These investigations would provide an opportunity to conduct basic social-psychological research on hazard perception within a cross-national context. These investigations would also have a direct application. Without an understanding of the importance that the public in a region gives to the earthquake threat, there is no
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Memorandum of Discussion: U.S.-U.S.S.R. Joint Meeting on Earthquake Hazards Mitigation - September 9-13, 1991, Moscow, U.S.S.R basis on which to develop educational programs designed to teach people how to protect themselves during earthquakes or how to reduce the threat to which they are personally exposed. Earlier research conducted in various earthquake-prone regions of the United States has revealed that there is great variability-both within and across regions—in the public’s understanding of earthquake threat. This variability is magnified when different ethnic and language groups are studied. Given the current situations confronting both the United States and the republics of the Soviet Union—the growth in numbers and importance of national groups due to migration and national identification-it could be expected that this variability will become even greater than it has been in the past. Earthquake Hazard-Reduction Efforts and Long-Term Recovery Investigations should be made into (a) organizational and governmental earthquake hazard-reduction efforts, including emergency preparedness and response planning and the formulation of mitigation strategies and (b) long-term recovery of communities and households from higher-magnitude earthquakes, including attitudes toward recovery and reconstruction decisions. The United States has a long history of research on community and organizational emergency preparedness planning. During the past decades, the United States has made great advances in research on organizational and governmental mitigation efforts and policies. Only recently, however, has there been a sustained research interest in community recovery from a major disaster. These studies have used theoretical frameworks taken primarily from organizational and interorganizational studies, collective behavior and social movements, planning, policy analysis, community conflict, and decision analysis. It is extremely important to understand the structural and situational factors that facilitate both the adoption and implementation of hazard reduction strategies. Recent research in the United States indicates that these factors may be somewhat different for preparedness and mitigation measures. In any consideration of recovery issues, emphases on the decision-making strategies and the components of the decision process regarding reconstruction and redevelopment of heavily-damaged communities have been central to these investigations. Again, very little of this research has benefited from cross-national comparison of findings. Earthquake Predictions Public knowledge about and response to earthquake predictions (both scientific and pseudoscientific) and attitudes toward the release of such predictions should be investigated. Worldwide, there is a great debate concerning the wisdom of issuing earthquake prediction announcements to the public. However, research in the United States on both scientific and pseudoscientific predictions and forecasts has yielded evidence to support the public’s desire to have such information. There is some evidence to suggest that the dissemination of scientific information about earthquake forecasts results in a more sophisticated public; that is, one that is not as likely to take pseudoscientific pronouncements seriously. However, there are great differences across countries in the public’s belief in different media sources, trust in science, and understanding of scientific
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Memorandum of Discussion: U.S.-U.S.S.R. Joint Meeting on Earthquake Hazards Mitigation - September 9-13, 1991, Moscow, U.S.S.R concepts. What is true in one country may not be so in another because of attitudes toward science, past experiences, and faith in media veracity. This research topic would not only provide information to governments and scientists on the most appropriate ways to issue predictions and forecasts but would also yield needed information on the relationship between citizens and their major institutions in different national contexts.
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