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A social-ecological approach to understanding natural disaster preparedness and risk perception amongst immigrants: A multi-method inquiry

TitleA social-ecological approach to understanding natural disaster preparedness and risk perception amongst immigrants: A multi-method inquiry
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsYong, A. Gie
UniversityUniversity of Ottawa
CityOttawa, ON
Abstract

To increase disaster preparedness in immigrants, risk communication and management need to be tailored to their needs and concerns. To this end, research needs to uncover how immigrants construe natural disaster risks and issues in the context of the receiving community's social environment, and how their experiences compared to the general population. The goal of this thesis was to understand how risk perception and the social environment relate to immigrants and Canadian-born individuals' disaster preparedness. The relationship between risk perception and disaster preparedness was investigated in the first study. Analyses of the data from a national survey revealed that both groups shared three core risk perception dimensions: external responsibility for disaster management, self-preparedness responsibility, and illusiveness of preparedness. However, they differed in the salience of five risk perception beliefs. For both groups, external responsibility for disaster management and self-preparedness responsibility were positively associated with preparedness behaviours, whereas illusiveness of preparedness was negatively related to preparedness behaviours. In the second study, the relationship between community social capital and individuals' preparedness behaviours was investigated. Analyses of two conceptually-linked national surveys revealed that neighbourhood contact and societal trust predicted during-disaster preparedness behaviours in both groups. Interestingly, societal trust positively predicted emergency planning in Canadian-born individuals but the reverse was true for immigrants. To provide a comprehensive social-ecological perspective, twenty-two individual interviews were conducted to explore immigrants and Canadian-born individuals' lived experiences of natural disaster risks and issues. A unifying thread across five emergent themes showed that individuals did not perceive natural disaster risks as a valid threat and disaster preparedness as relevant to their daily lives because they believed that the positive social environment in Canada would mitigate the risks. For immigrants, the immigrant condition and culture shaped how they construed natural disaster risks and issues. Overall, findings suggest that risk communication and management need to focus on building human capital and social capital, use an all-of-society engagement approach, and reframe all-hazards preparedness as relevant for daily stressors. Specific for immigrants, disaster initiatives need to be tailored to the timeline of experience of being an immigrant within the context of their receiving communities.

URLhttps://ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/37007
DOI10.20381/ruor-21279
Document URLhttps://ruor.uottawa.ca/bitstream/10393/37007/5/Yong_An_Gie_2017_thesis.pdf