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7 Understanding Individual and Social Characteristics in the Promotion of Household Disaster Preparedness Dennis S. Mileti and Lori A. Peek The object of social marketing is to increase the prevalence of a target behavior in a specific population. Hazards education is one form of social marketing; it attempts to increase protective actions by people, house- holds, and groups through the presentation of information about a hazard and the risk it poses. This type of education often fosters a sense of doubt and insecurity, causing people to wonder about their environment and to question their safety in it. A good hazards education project gives people something to think about and to discuss with friends, family, and colleagues. It causes them to seek more information to answer their questions, and specialists need to be ready with clear information and answers when the questions are asked. Most successful social marketing campaigns follow a similar model: They begin by showing the risks or problems associated with particular behaviors, then present the benefits associated with altering those same behaviors. For example, some of the most widely used social marketing campaigns have en- couraged people to stop smoking for their health, fasten seatbelts to save lives, and recycle to reduce waste and improve environmental quality. The major themes these campaigns share is that they (1) raise questions in the minds of their audiences, (2) offer fairly simple answers, and (3) have authorities avail- able over time to reinforce the message. Social marketing campaigns often posit problems or suggest areas for positive change in social life, repeatedly informing the audience of ways to improve. Although marketing may involve colorful pamphlets, eye-catching posters, and provocative public interest an- nouncements on TV and radio, even more valuable is an understanding of the dynamics of human behavior, effective ways to change it, and a systematic approach to carrying it out over time. 125
26 UNDERSTANDING INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS Social scientists in the United States have systematically studied human response to natural and technological disasters since the early 1950s (Quarantel- li, 1991~. Indeed, the past five decades of research resulted in an extensive body of applied and scholarly literature, which documents human preparation for, response to, and recovery from hazards and disasters (Drabek, 1986; Cutter, 1994; Mileti, 1999~. Researchers have employed a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods in an effort to accurately record and analyze individual and group actions. In this chapter we focus on what has been learned about how, why, and when people prepare for natural hazards and disasters, with specific attention given to empirical findings as related to natural hazards social market- ing and/or public education campaigns. The natural hazards literature reviewed in this chapter references a wide range of environmental extremes, including floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis. WHO PREPARES AND WHO DOES NOT Certain personal and social characteristics of individuals and households make them more or less likely to heed information about hazards and do some- thing to increase their safety (Oliver-Smith, 1996; Lindell and Perry, 2000~. Previous experience with a natural disaster, higher levels of formal education, middle age, and having family members who live in the same area may make people more apt to take protective actions (Mileti and Darlington, 1997~. For example, a middle-aged person whose house was seriously damaged in the Northridge earthquake is likely to live in a bolted and braced home today. On the other hand, a young unmarried male is less likely to take precautionary mea- sures. A 1989 survey that asked people what they did during the Loma Prieta earthquake revealed that most 20-something males did not try to protect them- selves from injury while the shaking was going on (O'Brien and Mileti, 1992~. Social marketing certainly does not change one's ascribed characteristics (such as race, gender, age), but rather utilizes knowledge of these characteristics to deliver information to various groups to generate questions about risk, op- tions, and actions. Good information can encourage people to ask questions about their environment and search for more information; this is the first step in the long journey to changed behavior and increased protection. Research into the social psychology of perceptions and belief indicates that as counterintuitive as it may seem perceived risk does not contribute directly to taking protective action (Slovic, 1989, 2000~. Because human risk perception does not always follow from objective estimates and definitions of risk, and human and societal action to mitigate risk often can be inconsistent with estimated scientific probabilities (Tweedale, 1996), professional risk esti- mators often are frustrated in their attempts to motivate people and societies into what would constitute appropriate action from their point of view (Mileti et al., 1992~. Furthermore, just because individuals report high levels of risk awareness
DENNIS S. MILETI AND LORI A. PEEK 127 does not necessarily mean that they internalize that risk. For example, Mileti and Fitzpatrick (1993) found that 80 percent of survey respondents believed that they would experience a Parkfield earthquake, but only about one-third thought it would harm them, their families, or their property. Moreover, people do not think in probabilities. Typically, the human thought process about future events is binary: it will happen/it won't happen; it will affect me/it won't affect me. Elaborate probability estimates for a hazard most often do not change this binary type of thinking (Mileti et al., 1992~. The official probabili- ty will be added to other pieces of information, beliefs, and experiences, and may- if accompanied by continuous, credible information over time inspire some ques- tioning and fact seeking in the future (Mileti and Sorensen, 1990~. Marketing experts and educators have learned through personal experience and the research literature that people generally are not motivated by lectures on why they should do something (Mileti and Sorensen, 1990~. Neither moral ex- hortations nor discourses on ethical or legal imperatives tend to produce major behavioral changes in the average citizen or household. People are more apt to follow an agenda if they work out a solution themselves, with helpful informa- tion from specialists (Mileti et al., 1990~. Not surprisingly, most people are motivated to change their behavior when they think a behavior change is their own idea. WHAT HAS WORKED IN HAZARDS MARKETING Much research has been done in a variety of disciplines on how human behavior can be changed. However, relatively few empirical studies have been made to measure the impact of nonemergency hazards education on public risk perception and subsequent risk reduction behavior (for exceptions, see Haas and Trainer, 1974; Ruch and Christenson, 1980; Palm, 1981~. One study in the early 1980s assessed the public response of Los Angeles residents to news coverage of the Palmdale uplift, a rare geological phenomenon in an area along the San Andreas fault that was believed, between 1976 and 1979, to be a precursor to an earthquake (Turner et al., 1986~. Social scientists surveyed hundreds of people to determine where they received their information on earthquakes, how they interpreted what they received, and ultimately, what they did about this new information. The researchers did not look specifically at social marketing in this study per se, but instead focused on how the mainstream media conveyed the news of the threat. They concluded that scientists and the media should make available credible information regarding an event that pro- vokes widespread curiosity. Otherwise, when reliable information is not avail- able, rumor fills the gap. Another major finding that resulted from the aforementioned study (Turner et al., 1986), with respect to household disaster preparedness, was as follows: Although increases in mass media attention to the earthquake threat does raise
28 UNDERSTANDING INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS public awareness of various earthquake issues, it is the active involvement of individuals in the discussion of these topics, through social ties in their neighbor- hoods and communities, that overcomes the passivity that often characterizes the receipt of such information. The researchers concluded that the presence of indi- vidual and group interest and involvement made it more likely that people actu- ally would take action to lessen their household vulnerability. In the late 1980s, another research effort analyzed the effectiveness of a pamphlet is raising awareness of earthquake risk among residents in communi- ties near Parkfield, California (Mileti et al., 1990~. The U.S. Geological Survey had announced that the Parkfield segment of the San Andreas fault in central California was likely to experience a moderate earthquake between 1986 and 1993. The California Office of Emergency Services mailed a comprehensive pamphlet to residents in the affected area that described the probabilities and the possible impacts of the quake and recommended certain actions to reduce dam- ages. The study evaluated which pieces of information moved residents to take protective action. Some of the study findings have been used as the basis for hazards market- ing and education programs: (1) complicated phenomena must be explained in nontechnical terms; (2) information must come from various credible sources; (3) consistent information should be repeated in many different media; (4) mes- sages on TV and radio are somewhat effective, but people like to have a written document to which they can refer as they think about their risk; (5) information should tell people what they can do before, during, and after a disaster; and (6) discussion with peers helps people to believe the information and act on it. In the early 1990s, a similar study concerned a publication in the Bay Area that explained in lay language the findings of a scientific report on earthquake probabilities (Mileti et al., 1993~. Following their release of a very technical report, the U.S. Geological Survey thought it wise to explain to the public what it meant and what they ought to do about it. In concert with a number of other agencies, a booklet was developed and distributed to millions of residents as a Sunday newspaper insert. Shortly after, researchers queried a large number of readers about their responses to the booklet and its information. The findings of this research added to the collection of rules of hazards marketing and education in several ways. When clearly informed about risk, people can comprehend the basics and remember what they read. Following from this, we know that people who understand that there is something they can do to reduce vulnerability (i.e., bolt and brace their homes to protect their prop- erty from earthquake damage) are more apt to act than those who are unaware of safety measures that can be taken. Another finding was that people consistently search out more information to validate what they've already heard. Many peo- ple, households, and organizations reported that they took actions after reading the insert, not only because it made them aware of specific actions to take, but also reinforced things they had already heard elsewhere.
DENNIS S. MILETI AND LORI A. PEEK 129 At almost the same time, a different but complementary investigation was underway, also in the Bay Area (Bolton and Orians, 1992~. This one asked people about their preferred sources of information on earthquake risk and miti- gation. Though this study did not set out to determine whether the information actually changed behavior, its findings are instructive and corroborate the obser- vations of earlier research. In general, people prefer public education programs that convey scientific and technical information from credible authorities; com- municate the information clearly; present it attractively; and disseminate it through various community or professional networks. Educational organizations with a high-profile presence in the area over time were more trusted than those without a credible track record. Deemed unsuc- cessful were educational programs that did not feature specialists, did not adapt the material to their constituents, and took only an impersonal mass mailing approach. The Bolton and Orians (1992) study highlighted the error of assuming a very homogeneous "public" and advocated tailoring information materials to the many special groups in an area. For example, the approach to, and materials for, middle-class homeowners should be different from those for renters, and those for school districts should not be like those for large corporations, accord- ing to study recommendations. A study of public education outside California was undertaken by a profes- sional staff member of the American Red Cross in affiliation with the University of Maryland (Lopes, 1992~. This study included 60 slides illustrating disaster damage and 60 additional slides that did not include any images of disaster damage. The study of correct action message content and images (i.e., "the right thing to do") supported the widely held notion that too much gloom and doom is just as bad as no information at all. A few well-chosen images of destruction have a useful impact on most people early in a presentation. However, when verbal messages on how to prepare are juxtaposed with photos of impacted struc- tures, people have trouble dealing with the verbal/visual mismatch. People tend to remember the visual message more clearly than the verbal, and repeated imag- es of damage sometimes convince people there is nothing they can do about the hazard. Far more effective are coordinated verbal and visual representations of what to do and how. Finding the right mix of information on potential losses and on effective actions is critical to the success of social marketing. One last study bears mentioning; it concerned public response to a spurious earthquake prediction on the New Madrid fault in the central United States (Far- ley, 1998~. The findings confirmed the need for governments and scientists to place accurate information before the public to counter inaccuracies that may be receiving media attention. When Iben Browning a scientist, albeit not an earth scientistpredicted a large quake on the New Madrid fault on December 3, 1990, countless people believed him and reacted accordingly. The populace in the heartland, which had never been taught much about earthquakes, did not have the analytical tools to question Browning's prediction. Credible scientists
30 UNDERSTANDING INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS and government spokespersons were slow to disagree with Browning, perhaps because they hadn't learned the lesson of the Palmdale uplift study mentioned earlier. Once they responded and released accurate information, however, the "prediction" provided an opportunity for solid public education. THE WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY Both empirical research and seasoned observation support the golden rule of social marketing for hazards: All of the sophisticated materials and behavior mod- ification techniques do not have the force of one major disaster to change both behavior and public policy, at least in the short term. Losing something in a disas- ter, or knowing someone who did, has inspired many people and households to take protective actions. During the well-known "window of opportunity" that opens following a disaster, abundant information from various credible sources in the affected locale will increase the chances for behavior change (Mileti et al., 1993~. However, although people and households are more apt to alter behavior after disaster strikes, change is most likely when educators have already worked to make sure the problem is recognized, the solution is known, and some advo- cates are already in place. Educators are aware that they must not wait for the window to open, but rather must build a sustained advocacy program before- hand. Not working consistently and constantly may result in waiting forever. Advocates can also take advantage of a window opening someplace else. After the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, for example, there was a fleeting but pronounced interest in earthquake risk in both the Bay Area and Seattle each with a built environment and setting similar to Kobe. A number of earthquake organizations on the west coast seized this golden opportunity to draw compari- sons between the Kobe quake and expected impacts due to local tremblers. Experts must use the opportunity while they can, for the window is not open long. The fleeting interest wanes. A population that jams the phone lines request- ing hazards loss reduction information in January of one year will not be doing so the next. A public policymaker' s memory and attention are even shorter than the public's. Typically, he or she will not keep hazards mitigation high on the list of big issues for more than 2 to 3 months. Following are suggestions for public education based on what has been learned about hazards education, derived from the systematic research mentioned earlier, and from experience with social marketing campaigns and education programs. First, the ideal message is explained, then ways for delivering it are recommended. THE IDEAL MESSAGE If hazards educators could develop the ideal message to educate the public about hazards, that message would include several important elements, including accessible information, consistent information, media-ready packaging, clear ex-
DENNIS S. MILETI AND LORI A. PEEK 131 planation of critical issues, specification of whom is most at risk, and clarity surrounding the level of certainty of the message. Moreover, educators must account for individual characteristics and social elements in designing hazards social marketing campaigns. The following paragraphs elucidate these compo- nents of an ideal educational message. Make Hazards Information Accessible Reading in the newspaper the technically sophisticated and generally in- comprehensible statements of scientists, engineers, or actuaries will not give most people an elementary understanding of hazards and likely impacts on their lives. Simple language in manageable amounts is absolutely necessary. Though credentialed spokespersons are one of the most important sources of informa- tion, specialists who speak only in the jargon of their discipline will not be effective. Authoritative interpreters of technical information should be cultivat- ed, encouraged, and paid well. Fit the specialist to the topic: Geologists and seismologists should talk about earth sciences; engineers and architects should talk about structures; and firefighters and emergency responders should talk about home safety and neighborhood organization. Keep the Information Consistent Because most people are exposed to information through a number of media and from various sources, the information must be consistent in order to be credible. Inconsistent information confuses people and allows them to discount some or all of it. Experts should work together, across jurisdictions and organi- zations, to see that messages are similar. For example, numerous organizations- state agencies, the Red Cross, school authorities, and media outlets in Califor- nia met in the immediate aftermath of the Loma Prieta quake to discuss and agree on the wording all of them would use for the "Drop, Cover, and Hold" message. The essence of the message was that when the first signs of an earth- quake are felt, people should get down (Drop), move under a heavy table or desk (Cover), and stay there until the shaking stops (Hold). Package Information for the Media One of the hallmarks of an effective social marketing program is to have plenty of material on hand when the TV and radio stations start calling and the feature writer from the paper shows up looking for the local angle. For example, if the issue is a vulnerable housing type, provide clear guidance about what home- owners should do so the newspaper can run the information next to its article. Get photos, maps, and checklists ready so the hazards education article makes it in under the deadline and gains its rightful place on the front page of the paper.
132 UNDERSTANDING INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS Three Critical Issues The message presented to the public should clearly explain the following three critical issues on which good hazards education rests. If any of these three components are lacking or missing completely, the education initiative may not be as effective and ultimately could fail. 1. Describe potential losses. Generally, people can't imagine the impact a hazard could have on their community, their house, or their place of work, so they must be assisted by descriptions of other disasters, pictures, scenarios, or comput- er-based loss estimation maps. The essence of this task is working to overcome the human tendency to conclude that it can't happen here or it won't happen to me. The more relevant the description can be to the situation of the audience, the more likely it is that they will attend to the hazards risk. A good marketer can find the local angle in a disaster even in a far-off land and work it. 2. Discuss the potential timeline. Once people understand that it could, in- deed, happen here, they must be further convinced that it may happen to them at some point in time. Although tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated for the physical and statistical estimation of seismic risk (Wiener, 1999), few peo- ple, other than statisticians, understand odds ratios. Thus, most people want to know the likelihood of a disaster in an uncomplicated sort of way in a finite amount of time. This is where understanding the social elements of risk percep- tion and action-oriented behavior becomes ever more important. Probability esti- mates will not, in themselves, motivate people to take action (Tweedale, 1996), but the information will assist in creating the uncertainty that is so important to behavior change. Disaster prediction is a very inexact science, but where scien- tists have some understanding of the behavior of physical systems, they should offer these rough forecasts. 3. Explain how to diminish losses. A person with a clear picture of his or her possible losses must be quickly offered suggestions and directions for how to reduce them. Without these blueprints, people can fall prey to a fatalistic inertia. Appropriate assistance may take many forms: a how-to video for homeowners on strengthening the disaster resistance of their homes; evacuation guidelines for schools; a business resumption planning process for a corporation or a city gov- ernment; encouragement and help from a neighborhood emergency response team; or recommended policy changes for a water system. People can be guided to mitigation in endless ways. Specify Who Is at Risk An ideal message for marketing, planning, and educational purposes clearly
DENNIS S. MILETI AND LORI A. PEEK 133 specifies who is most at risk in a disaster (Key, 1986~. For example, explaining the relative weaknesses of various building types will help people understand that they might be injured if they live or work in them. Such information also will help emergency planners anticipate response needs. Beyond physical ef- fects, people should be helped to recognize that they will be economically dam- aged, socially isolated, psychologically troubled, and just plain inconvenienced. Detail the exact impacts of the disaster on all groups in the community, on utilities, on transportation systems, and on governmental and nonprofit organiza- tions responsible for public health and well-being. Clarify the Level of Certainty In preparing an educational message, one must be honest and clear about the level of certainty in predicting the incidence and effects of a hazard. Any scenar- io of a future event is a best guess. Overstating the risk or inflating the probabil- ity of a disaster inoculates people against belief just as surely as inconsistency. Predictions of catastrophe strike some people as too extreme to be credible; they terrify others. Neither group will be likely to accept the information as deserving of further questioning or attention. More than one social marketing project has painted too dire a picture and compromised its credibility. Consider Personal and Social Characteristics of the Audience Finally, in developing the ideal message, it is imperative to keep in mind that the message should be designed from the perspective of the target audience. Research has clearly shown the importance of personal characteristics (i.e., knowledge, attitudes, beliefs) as well as situational predictors and contextual factors in increasing awareness of an issue and ultimately influencing behavioral change (Schultz, this volume, Chapter 4; Stern, this volume, Chapter 12~. Valente and Schuster (this volume, Chapter 6) remind us that messages are not received in a space devoid of social interaction. Rather, members of the audience are connected through a web of social networks, which impact interpersonal com- munication and social norms. The resultant beliefs and attitudes toward a behav- ior and toward adoption of that behavior are important predictors of whether change will occur. Because the ultimate goal of intervention is to positively alter behavior, it is imperative to consider personal as well as social characteristics, networks, communication patterns, and shared perceptions. WAYS TO DELIVER THE MESSAGE THAT WORKS Marketing is a complicated processon both the delivery end and the receiv- ing end. Campaigns must be coherent and collaborative; their information must be credible and understandable; and the information must reach its intended audience.
34 UNDERSTANDING INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS In that statement is a prescription for close cooperation among technical specialists and educators; constant communication among educational organizations; and so- phistication and creativity in the message translation and communication. Include Multiple Credible Sources of Information People are more likely to attend to information if it comes from a group or a person they trust (Key, 1986~. Depending on age, education, class, and ethnicity, different people trust different sources. Some people want to hear about hazards from scientists; others believe only what the Red Cross tells them; still others search for data sources online. It is important to use various sources to reach the maximum number of groups in the community. Assume the Public Is Diverse It is important to recognize that the public is diverse, and thus information must be tailored to the needs of each group (Turner et al., 1979~. For example, the elderly have special needs, so create materials for them that speak to those needs. Don't ignore non-English speakers; write information in multiple lan- guages or get materials translated by knowledgeable local speakers of those languages. Some cultural groups choose not to read information for reasons unrelated to literacy; to reach them, use radio and TV, word of mouth, or picto- graphic images. Use the media that serve multilingual populations. Use Multiple Media Sources Now that we have experienced the technology revolution, there are a multi- tude of media sources available for information dissemination. You can bounce a fact about hazards risk off satellites, include it in electronic data networks, feature it on interactive computer games, add it to distance learning curricula, and project it onto the screen of the nearby theater. Indeed, recent findings that have come out of the Disaster Research Center's work in evaluating Project Impact for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have shown that mainstream media sources are not the only channel that can be used to reach the public or various segments of the public. In fact, researchers have found that one newly created and useful venue for educational campaigns is "disaster fairs" where local merchants and service businesses advertise what they can do for or provide to homeowners to assist them with preparedness and mitigation (Disas- ter Research Center, 2001~. Officials and disaster experts in attendance at these disaster fairs provide information on hazards and the potential consequences of a catastrophic event in the local area. Moreover, a variety of spokespersons who can be trusted by the public should be used as well (Key, 1986~: today, the Red Cross spokesperson on radio;
DENNIS S. MILETI AND LORI A. PEEK 135 tomorrow, cartoon characters on TV; next week, a scientist on the Internet. Ef- fective social marketing programs should have the staff to constantly work the media angles and maintain contact with media personalities. Use Appropriate Media Always use media appropriate to the target audience (Sorensen, 1983~. The Internet is a marvelous tool, but it is not available or utilized by everyone. For example, text that can be downloaded from a web site is not the way to reach a non- English-speaking or low-income audience. Information for those groups can be dis- seminated through the community organizations and social service agencies that regularly work with that audience. Conversely, technologically sophisticated pack- aging gets middle- and upper class, computer-using audiences where they live. Make the Information Easily Accessible On an ongoing basis, successful social marketing works to motivate a few people to do something to reduce risk (Mileti et al., 1990~. Their activities con- tribute to the slow, incremental process of reaching others as well. Experts must not frustrate their public. Information should be ready and accessible at the time someone is motivated to ask for it. There is not space in any single marketing or educational document to list all the safety hints, guidelines, model ordinances, neighborhood response plans, exemplary policies, and case studies that have been developed by innumerable agencies and organizations. In many cases, the wheels already have been invented. Adapt them and translate them for use. Ensure Incremental Information Dissemination Because learning is incremental, information dissemination should be, too (Sorensen, 1983~. Organize the information presented to highlight related themes successively. Some education organizations or emergency services agencies dis- tribute to participating communities monthly newsletters with reproducible mas- ters on different aspects of hazards safety and preparedness. For example, in January, the spotlight is on fastening bookcases and file cabinets for earthquake safety; in February, it moves on to another topic. Make the Approach Interactive and Experiential We know that adults learn by comparing new information to what they al- ready know, by thinking through and discussing the new concept or practice, and by doing. They do not sit passively, digest everything they hear or read, and then act. Thus, it is important to use models, visual aids, fancy media, and/or peer group discussions. The audience should be engaged, rather than receive a lecture.
36 UNDERSTANDING INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS Use Disasters as Learning Opportunities Disasters can be used as important learning opportunities (Lopes, 1992; Russel et al., 1995~. Send elected officials, government functionaries, corporate officials, school superintendents, various professionals, and community organiz- ers to view disaster damage and organizational response. Have them report the lessons they derive for their community, business, school district, or practice. Such people typically return from their reconnaissance with better vision and more active imagination than they had before they left. They have seen the truth and can communicate it to many others. They are motivated to do something, and frequently can encourage others with their commitment. Emphasize the Role of the Individual The role of the individual in sparking behavior change never should be minimized or overlooked. There are many examples of disaster champions who singlehandedly prod and cajole their organizations, schools, neighborhoods, or governments into taking action. These individuals are both tenacious in their efforts to stimulate change and passionate in their belief that change is neces- sary. Finding and motivating such an individual sometimes can be the key to a successful social marketing campaign. Include an Evaluation Component Some sort of evaluation component should be built into any social market- ing or public education campaign. When you assess the efficacy of your materi- als and approaches, you can revise what doesn't work. Share that knowledge with other experts, advocates, and educators, so campaigns across the country can benefit from your experiences. Last, but not least, use your data to justify continued or increased financial support. Provide Long-Term Support If your organization funds a social marketing program, continue that support over many years. If you run a marketing program, keep it highly visible and recognizable in the community. Programs that deliver helpful information over the years see their credibility and effectiveness grow (Kunreuther, 1978; Turner et al., 1981~. Don't decrease the program's effectiveness by altering missions, or by changing logos or names. Be patient, and understand that good social market- ing is a long haul.
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