Individual Emergency Preparedness in Canada: Widening the Lens on the Social Environment

Title: Individual Emergency Preparedness in Canada: Widening the Lens on the Social Environment
Authors: Gibson, Stacey L.
Date: 2013
Abstract: The goal of this thesis was to reposition individual preparedness within a social environmental context. First, a theoretical model was developed to more accurately represent the social environmental considerations neglected in current preparedness research and policy. A series of three studies tested this model using a mixed-methods approach: First, subjective conceptualizations of preparedness were explored in a qualitative analysis (N = 12). Findings revealed that participants evaluated their readiness not in terms of prescribed activities, but perceptions about their current resourcefulness as well as past local hazards. Participants’ had positive social environments which also reinforced their perceived coping ability in future emergency events. Subsequent thesis studies investigated the role social environment further, using quantitative data. The second study explicitly tested whether perceptions of risk and coping could explain differences in preparedness based on demographic attributes linked to variations in social environment. Data from a survey examining Canadians perceptions regarding terrorism threats (N = 1503) revealed that greater anticipated response was significantly associated with increased age, as well as female gender, higher education levels, and higher income levels. Statistically significant differences in threat appraisals were also reported based on these demographic groupings. However, mediation analyses demonstrated that with the exception of gender, differences in anticipated response could not be explained via risk perceptions or perceived coping efficacy, suggesting that social environment’s role in preparedness is not related to the internal processes often targeted in current campaigns. The third study used a multilevel design to investigate the contextual role of neighbourhood social environment in anticipated emergency response. Results demonstrated that a more deprived social neighbourhood context was related to lowered anticipated emergency response. This relationship was maintained after controlling for significant individual-level factors such as previous experience and sociodemographics, highlighting the importance of neighbourhood social context in facilitating emergency preparedness. Taken together, these findings provide novel evidence that focusing preparedness strategies to primarily target internal processes is misguided, and that future research and policy must position preparedness efforts in the context of existing social environmental resources and barriers in order to build capacity for effective emergency response.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -