Why Some People Live and Some People Die in the Same Emergencies and Disasters: Can the General Public Be Taught to Save Themselves? [open pdf - 1MB]
From the thesis abstract: "Each year the United States suffers approximately 3,000 fire-related deaths and approximately 4,700 work-related deaths. Hundreds of additional fatalities occur annually due to severe weather, as well as manmade and natural disasters. The specific research question addressed by these sobering statistics is: Can the general public be taught to save themselves during emergencies and disasters? To that end, the research answered the following questions: 1. What research has been previously performed to examine civilian survivability? 2. What are the cognitive functions that allow or prohibit people in making correct life-saving decisions? 3. Are there patterns to the way that people process information and perceive danger? 4. What are the critical elements that allow some people to survive and others to perish? 5. What can be done to increase the chances that civilians will make the correct choice of action during emergencies and disasters? Through descriptive research, the purpose was to examine and reveal the importance of human behavior and to produce recommendations that may help reduce fatalities. The literature review found an abundance of material available to address the topic. As heuristics (science of trial and error), utility theory (methodical evaluation of alternative choices), human reactions, such as fear, intuition, emotion, and past experience, and group versus individual dynamics each impact the decision-making process, the research concluded that the general public can be taught how to perform and react appropriately during emergencies. The recommendations included legislating mandatory training on emergency action plans in the workplace, enhance the efforts of emergency responders in public education, and develop public/private partnerships to provide realistic information and scenario-based drills that the public can comprehend and participate in."
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