Increasing community potential to manage earthquake impacts: The role of social and cultural factors

Douglas Paton, Li Ju Jang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Recognition of the growing risk from earthquakes faced by communities in many countries, and particularly those situated on the Ring of Fire, has stimulated interest in promoting people's capacity to co-exist with the hazardous aspects of their environment. From a community perspective, one important contribution to this goal involves encouraging the adoption of preparedness measures that increase the ability of people and communities to cope with and adapt to the environmental impact of earthquakes. However, despite the attention and financial resources devoted to encourage people to do so, the fact that levels of preparedness in communities at risk from earthquakes are generally low makes it important to determine why this is the case and to identify ways of encouraging sustained community preparedness. This chapter contributes to understanding the factors that influence household and community preparedness for earthquakes by identifying how people interpret their risk and make decisions about how to manage the risk pose by living in seismically active areas. This chapter discusses how people's decisions about preparing for earthquakes derives less from the objective use of information and more from how community members interpret earthquake risk and information about it. It describes how interpretive processes at the person (outcome expectancy), community (community participation, collective efficacy), societal (empowerment, trust) and cultural levels of analysis interact to predict levels of earthquake preparedness. The chapter accommodates the fact that earthquakes occur in many countries and acknowledges that the practical utility of any theory is increased if it can be demonstrated that it applies across cultural and national boundaries. The cross-cultural applicability of the theory is discussed by comparing findings from research into earthquake preparedness in countries that differ in cultural orientation; New Zealand, Taiwan, and Japan. The theoretical (e.g., identifying the degree to which earthquake preparedness is culturally equivalent) and practical (e.g., providing a common basis for collaborative learning, research and risk management intervention between countries) implications of the cross-cultural equivalence of the model are discussed. The chapter also discusses how cultural specific processes such as the Hakka Spirit in Taiwan and Jishubo in Japan influence how community processes are enacted to manage earthquake risk. Finally, these perspectives are combined to discuss how the sustained effectiveness of strategies designed to develop community capacity to deal with the environmental impact of earthquakes can be increased by integrating risk management activities with community development strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEarthquakes
Subtitle of host publicationTriggers, Environmental Impact and Potential Hazards
EditorsKostas Konstantinou
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherNova Science Publishers
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781620818831
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameNatural Disaster Research, Prediction and Mitigation
PublisherNova Science Publishers


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