PhD Dissertation on Disaster Management
Exploring the dispositional factors (internal locus of control, self-efficacy, independent and interdependent self-construals) and the demographic factors (age and gender) and their predicted effect on social decision and independent decision making in emergency situations in response to fire cues. Also investigating the gender and age differences on dispositional factors and the individual and social decision making models.
The aims of the current study is to investigate decision-making in building fires and look at the effects (if any) of the presence of others upon response (social decision making). Furthermore, the study investigated significant predictors of decision making in dispositional factors (such as internal locus of control, self-efficacy and independent and interdependent self-construals), along with demographic factors (such as age and gender). The data was used to develop a decision making model in social decisions in emergency situations and show effective disaster management.
The 290 participants (142 males, 148 females) were recruited by means of a convenience sample and asked to fill out a questionnaire related to decision making in fires (currently being development and tested), general self-efficacy, internal locus of control and interdependent and independent self-construals. From the questionnaire the data obtained was analyzed using independent t.tests and enter multiple regression and became the basis of this report in assisting the design of decision-making models.
The decision-making models concerned with this study were AINNDM (independent decisions in an area alone in response to an audio cue), ASOCDM (social decision in an area alone in response to a audio cue), CINNDM (individual decision making in an area alone in response to a visible cue) and CSOCDM (social decision making in response to a visible cue). It was hypothesized that there would be differences in age and gender on the dispositional factors of internal locus of control, self-efficacy and independent and interdependent self-construals. It is further hypothesized that there will be age differences in independent decision-making (INDDM) and social decision making (SOCDM) models.
It was found that there was differences in the dispositional factor of chance in both age and gender, whereby females and the younger participants attributed their live experiences more to chance. The only other dispositional factor that was significantly different was self-efficacy and age, it was found that older participants had higher scores on the self-efficacy scale, indicating that they had a higher belief about their personal abilities to achieve or perform a task successfully. No other t.test variables were found to be significant on dispositional factors.
There was a significant difference found between age and the independent decision-making sub-scale of CINNDM. The difference in the means indicated that older people were more likely to make independent decision making in an area alone in response to seeing smoke. Regression was used to investigate predictors of both independent and social decision-making. It was hypothesized that dispositional and demographic factors would be predictors of social decisions (decisions that involve others) and independent decisions (decisions that don't involve others) when taking actions alone in an area in response to an audio cue (hearing an alarm) or a visual cue (seeing smoke flames).
The results indicated that internality was a predictor of social decision-making in response to seeing smoke or hearing an alarm, with no other dispositional factors being significant predictors of decision making. Age was a predictor of both independent and social decision making in an area alone in response to a visible cue (seeing smoke). Older people were more likely to engage in independent decisions, and younger people likely to engage in social decisions.
Gender was also found to be a predictor where more females would be more inclined to make a individual decision (such as leave the building) in an area alone in response to a visible cue (seeing smoke).
This study aims to look at decision making in fires, and to investigate the effects (if any) on the presence of others in making a social decision in event of an emergency. The importance of this study pertains to safety issues and the relevance of emergency planning in a work environment. It is also attributed to the number of fatalities that could be possibly avoided had planning occurred (Brennan, 1999).
Brennan (1999) notes that of the 109 fatal residential fire incidents in the state of Victoria there were 150 fatalities. Furthermore, in relation to building fires (which this study is concentrating on) one cannot forget the massive amounts of lives lost this year on September 11. This is an issue that affects all of us and the importance of fire safety both in awareness, prevention and preparedness is necessary to address. This study had 290 participants, who were all part of the workforce who could in their working life be subjected to such risks. We asked these participants to answer a questionnaire to help develop a model of decision making in emergency situations.
The questionnaire is in the process of construction and it is worthy to note that reliability and items within the sub-scales are not within the range of .65 of cronbach's alpha, it would be worthwhile to refine these sub-scales. Furthermore, the participants of the study were recruited by means of convenience sampling, hence most had not been exposed to disasters or hazards before. Of the 290 participants 42 reported that they had experienced a fire before.
DeMan and Simpson-Housley (1987) put forth an interesting view, that people lacking experience with hazards would have no sense of personal relatedness and would feel less threatened and therefore would anticipate disasters less.This report looked at the various predictors of social and independent decision making in response to an emergency and investigated gender and age differences on dispositional factors and the individual and social decision making models. Emergencies can be ambiguous by nature. Hence, decision making in emergency situations can be wrought with uncertainty. The alert to an emergency is the first barrier to human response.
Fisher, Stine, Stoker, Trowbridge, Drain (1995) noted that the initial response to a disaster warning is disbelief and if the warning appears to the listener as vague the tendency to disbelieve it is increased. Once the alert to an emergency has been accepted, the individual then has a decision to act, whether it is an individual or social activity. Decision making in emergencies is affected by the presence of others, internal dispositional factors, and demographic factors such as gender and age. Perceived control plays a major role in determining one's own course in disasters.
Norris, Smith and Kanistay (1999) recognised control as a belief that an individual can control his or her own specific changes of experience of being harmed by disaster events. It was found that individuals who have a belief that they have a sense of control over their environment are more likely to engage in behaviours that make sense for them. Furthermore it was found that personal experiences were often not sufficient enough to inspire either cognitive or behavioural change. People also needed evidence that the threat was legitimate and controllable.
Benight, Swift,Sanger,Smith and Zeppelin (1999) assessed the response of disaster in light of coping self-efficacy, loss of resources, social support and optimism. They found that lack of coping self-efficacy was the strongest predictor of general stress, which is similar to Norris et al (1999) studies on perceived control, but also found loss of resources and genders as a predictor of general stress, Kelley, Condry, Dablke and Hill (1965) have noted that perceived danger and mutual influences (social contagion) as key factors in development and spread of in coordinated and non-adaptive "panic" behavior.
The experiments of Kelley et.al (1965) were designed to purse the factors and processes underlying in coordination in the interdependent escape situation. The experiments were based on studies of behavior under threat. Kelley et.al (1965) noted that distribution of attitudes was necessary. If attitudes were concentrated at the high urgency end of the scale then in coordination of escape was more common. Kelley et.al (1965) also investigated variables such as ambiguity in time and found that the more ambiguous the time constraints in an emergency the more incoordinated the escape attempts.
This brings to light important issues with groups and their decision-making processes and co-ordination of possible evacuation procedures. Interest in time use by occupants during fires in buildings is considered important. This is because time lost prior to taking effective avoidance action is crucial to safety. Delays in cue response, time delays in evacuation and not evacuating can be due to many variables ( Brennan,1997). In Brennan's (1997) study it was found that in an office building fire that the most predominant cue was the visible cue of smoke. It was noted that response to this cue was an evacuation within a couple of minutes. Occupants gathered in office groups and left together.
In the comparative review of a residential fire it took considerably longer time to prepare to evacuate. Age was a factor here as most of the residents were over 65. Most residents waited for further indications of the existence of an emergency and left as a result of instructions from the fire brigade personnel. There was confusion and ambiguity over the alarms, however the additional cue of smoke was for many the factor that precipitated the decision to evacuate.
The time from first alert to the start of evacuation varied from one to about six minutes in the office building incident and from one minute to over twenty minutes in the case of the residential apartment building. Evacuation is commonly used to mitigate the ill effects of a variety of disaster agents. It is important to understand the circumstances under which citizens will evacuate (Fisher et.al 1995). Fisher et.al (1995) found that households were far more likely to evacuate if told by emergency personnel, as opposed to a household member or a friend. The clarity of the warning message, the frequency of the warnings, accuracy of past warnings and the presence of dependent children have been found to impact on evacuation behavior.
Decisions to evacuate and the decision of how to evacuate can also be a function of group process and dynamics. Members of a group want to evacuate together, and will be slowed by that desire (Brennan, 1997). Thus, timing of evacuation is affected by group size as well as by preexisting social relationships (Fernberg and Johnson, 2001). This group phenomenon was found evident in the Beverly Hills supper club fire (1977). Although the groups mainly comprised of family units it displayed the connectedness and dependence of group decision making.
From that prospective family members tried to adopt an optimal strategy for groups rather than individual survival, thus the group tended to move at the speed of the slowest group member. Unfortunately, this was to the detriment of family groups as most did not survive this fire as a consequence of this group behavior.
Kelley,et.al (1965) found this type of group behavior of connectedness to be detrimental in group decision making process. Kelley,et.al (1965) study found that an unsure person would use social reality as a basis for their evaluation of the danger in the situation and would look to see how other's assess the situation to determine how he/she should react. The individual's susceptibility to social influence is also important; whether he/she takes his cues from other people and thus influence by them, or whether the individual is independent and makes up his/her own mind about the situation. In Kelley et al (1965) study, it was noted that if the group was weighted towards high concern and the individual bases his or her cues on others, then it would be likely that they would move the attitude of the group to high concern.
He also found that individual who are independent of social influence would generally maintain their original heterogeneity of the situation. In the presence of confident and calm people, anti-panic leadership may emerge. If there are those people present in the group, along with others who appeared less worried or uncertain, then a counter-balance may be struck moving the less worried or uncertain people away from the direction of high concern. This may arise in a more clear and rational approach to decision making in emergency.
Futhermore, Kelley's et.al (1965) study highlighted that when there is higher self-ratings of uneasiness, escape is least successful (which could equate with levels of self-efficacy). Kelley et al (1965) recommendations were that if people can be trained to have high confidence in their joint ability to escape, it is also best to teach them to be highly responsive to each other's actions. Gender can have an impact on decision making in fires. Female behavior has been known to differ from male's in response to emergencies, furthermore female dispositional factors can differ from males. Females are thought to be more interdependent (connected) to others.
Female judge both natural and man-made disasters to be more threatening and riskier than males. Females were more likely to investigate, alert and evacuate than males in response to cues (such as computer breakdown, building alarm and smoke and flames). It is suggested that there may be a link between the fact that females were more likely to judge a situation more threatening and riskier and are therefore more likely to respond to cues (Sanders,2001, Fothergill, 1996 and Major,1999). Furthermore, females may be more motivated and towards preparedness and mitigation because of their higher perception of threat.
Past research indicates that preparedness is significantly correlated with fear, damage expectations and damage mitigation (Norris,Smith & Kaniasty,1999 and Rustemli & Karanci, 1999). Results of Kelley et.al (1965) study indicated that females were more affected by the increase in threatened penalty and they showed higher concern. It is hypothesized that there will be differences in gender and age differences on the dispositional factors of internal locus of control, self-efficacy, independent and interdependent self construals.
It is further hypothesized that there will be differences in age and gender on the independent decision making model (INDDM) and the social decision making model (SOCDM). Dispositional factors (Internal locus of control, self-efficacy) and demographic factors (age, gender and experience of fire) are thought to be statistically significant predictors of decision making in emergencies. These dispositional and demographic factors are thought to be predictors of social decision (decisions that involve others) and individual decision (decisions that don't involve others) when taking actions alone in an area in response to an audio cue (hearing an alarm) or a visual cue (seeing smoke flames).
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