Globe and Mail photo of ostrich with head in the sand, used in Prof Asgard-Quoted article | 2017-09-18

Preparing for the worst: Globe and Mail consults disaster management expert Asgary


Disaster & Emergency Management Professor Ali Asgary was consulted by the Globe and Mail for an article on disaster preparation to avoid worst-case scenarios.

Asgary said that the problem is there are multiple factors that influence how each individual perceives risk, and how one reacts. These can include one's physical proximity to a hurricane or earthquake zone, while others include personal factors, including age, education and gender. For example, in some situations, women have been found to be more cautious than men, particularly when they have children.

The article quotes Asgary on how trust in institutions varies within socio-economic groups as well. "If I believe that my government is 100-per-cent ready, is there to take action and help me … then I would relax and say, 'Don't worry,' " Asgary says, whereas others who have little faith in their government are more likely take measures to protect themselves.

Outcomes could improve if messages were targeted to specific groups, based on the way they perceive risk. In addition, people are more likely to heed warnings and take action if they are encouraged to participate in the disaster-management planning process, such as engaging in emergency exercises or workshops to voice their opinions.

Highly upsetting warnings can be counterproductive, "people actually feel helpless or feel it's something beyond their control," he says, whereas when people are told they can take specific steps to reduce their losses from a worst-case scenario to a less-terrible scenario, they're more inclined to feel empowered.

In general, he says, when people feel like, " 'Yes, actually, we can actually do something to reduce the risk …' then they will react to this [information] positively."

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail.