Natural Hazard Warning Systems in the Unites States: A Research Assessment



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University of Colorado Institute of Behavioral Science


Research leading to new knowledge on hazard warning systems may serve to lessen catastrophe potential, loss of life, and social disruption. Several unanswered questions retard benefits promised by the warning systems which currently cost the nation in excess of $140 million annually for direct operations exclusive of the expenses of people who respond. Why do some people respond adaptively and in time to disaster warnings while others do not? Why can some communities get good warnings to people in danger in time while a large number of locales continue to be plagued by inadequate warnings? What role can research and the application of existing and new knowledge play in upgrading all warning processes to reduce loss from predictable hazards? Warning systems must be assessed from an integrated perspective, including every stage of the total warning process from the first detection and forecast of a hazard threat through public response. Existing knowledge is not being put to full use in warning preparedness. There are ways of using research to help maximize the potential rewards. Fields in which new inquiry promises useful results center around 1. the social and psychological factors affecting public warning response; 2. the organizational links in warning systems between the variety of groups and agencies which evaluate threat information and disseminate public warnings; and 3. means of encouraging integrated warning systems as part of preparedness programs.


97 pages


warning systems, natural hazards