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Kenneth Lachlan

University of Connecticut

Breakout Room 3.


Communication; Intercultural Multi-method Messaging Community

How can the human dimensions of disaster impacts be more accurately captured and represented in the analysis, modeling and simulation of disasters?

Recent calls in the study of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) emphasize the need for interdisciplinary research; and cross-sector; omni-directional communication and collaboration that merges academic researchers; emergency managers; first responders; policy builders; the private sector; and local communities (e.g.; NSF Societal Shock Resilience Convergence Accelerator Workshop; 2021). The objective of these calls is to a) decrease the loss of life from natural hazard events; and b) strengthen systems that are commonly impacted; and that constitute the compounding effects of disasters when multiple layers of society are hit by a damaging hazard event. Despite these calls for interdisciplinarity and repeated emphasis on the need for societal data; current interdisciplinary DRR research frequently lacks detailed; community-specific social science data from which to base culturally appropriate; context specific; and effective preemptive actions and policy that increase preparedness; enhance community resilience; and identify and engage cross-sector community stakeholders (Oliver Smith and Hoffman 2020; Peek and Guikema 2021; Sutley 2018; Sherman-Morris et al 2018). Further; what little data that does exist has been couched almost entirely in western cultural contexts. Triangulating structural risk data with social science data concerning social norms; risk perceptions; and the likelihood of desired responses to emergency messaging may better enable government agencies to respond quickly and effectively to impending risks and disasters. This data may include ethnographic research on risk norms and perceptions; patterns of information dependency and perceptions of source credibility; and/or the use of geospatial data in mapping these social factors onto structural risk.

What type of data and supporting research infrastructure would be necessary to enable novel, transdisciplinary approaches to answering these and other human-centered disaster questions?

A good approach to producing and triangulating this data may be to augment more traditional risk mitigation research with survey; interview; and geospatial data modeling concerning the social vulnerabilities and cultural norms that impact individual-level decision making during times of crises. A common approach in the social sciences is to use inductive; ethnographic research to tap into individual experiences and perceptions; then use this data to develop survey instrumentation that can be used to evaluate the impact of these perceptions on broader audiences (communities; regions; nationalities; etc.). Given these considerations; research infrastructure aiding in the deployment of human factors researchers to disaster-prone and disaster-impacted communities would be ideal. In addition to physically surveying for vulnerability in physical structure; the capacity for collecting ethnographic and survey research on the ground is paramount. This would allow interdisciplinary teams to identify patterns of risk perception and response amongst at-risk communities; information needs and preferences; and sociocultural factors impacting response. It would also allow for the identification of demographic and structural risk factors; such as lack of economic resources; transportation; disability; and social assistance.

In what ways can US-Japan collaborations advance these questions in new and important ways?

US-Japan collaboration may be especially useful in advancing the exploration of these questions. As stated above; most of the social science literature on DRR; risk perception; and emergency messaging has been conducted in a Western context; cultural norms and expectations in Japan surrounding crisis response are likely far more collectivist in orientation. There exists then an opportunity not only to examine these questions in a different cultural context; but to build effective community-based mitigation and response strategies using this data. Further; there exists an opportunity to explore these questions across a range of risk and disaster outcomes that have not been previously examined in the extant and predominantly Western literature. Much of what we know in terms of the social science data on community responses to disasters has been couched in coastal storms and flooding - a specific context with a comparatively long lead time. Similar investigations in Japan would allow for the extension of this knowledge into seismic and volcanic risks; and could provide unique insights into community preparedness and responses to events that take place with little (if any) lead time.

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