Evaluating the effectiveness of psychological preparedness advice in community cyclone preparedness materials
Dr. Shirley A. Morrissey & Dr Joseph P. Reser
This paper addresses the case of tropical cyclone warnings in Northern Australia and briefly outlines the nature, logic, and findings of a psychological preparedness intervention trialed in Cairns, Queensland, during the 1996/1997cyclone season. The aim of the research was to trial, evaluate and refine an innovative natural disaster public education and warning communication intervention focusing on tropical cyclone preparedness and response. This risk communication intervention involved the dissemination of selected psychological information designed to enable individuals to better cope with themselves and others in an increasingly threatening situation. The psycho-educational content material incorporated was derived from ‘Stress Inoculation Theory’ (Meichenbaum, 1985; 1994; Meichenbaum & Deffenbacher, 1988). The research found that the pre-cyclone season period is a critically important time and venue for prevention and mitigation, and that psychological factors and processes during this threat period are of singular importance to effective coping and adaptive responding. The research also clearly indicated that there are a substantial number of residents in cyclone-prone communities for whom chronic anxiety, avoidant coping styles, and prior traumatic experience constitute both a substantial vulnerability factor and a genuine impediment to psychological and physical preparedness.