“Disasterman”, Matthew Davis, a social psychology professor at Dominican University, made an excellent presentation to kick off the “Is the End Near” lecture series at the Petaluma Museum last night that summarized his natural disaster courses with a focus on the effect they have on society and individual reactions.

This blog space is not sufficient to due justice to his one hour presentation; but I do want share with you a few items that jumped off the screen as I reflected on our own local efforts to help neighborhoods “Be Ready & Prepared” for a major disaster such as an earthquake.

*In spite of all that has been done by our governmental agencies (federal, state, county, municipal) since Katrina, there is still a strong need for more effective public education and disaster training for residents.

*People who are adequately prepared for a disaster are more likely to survive and recover better.

*Members of the public often process and react to disaster warning messages in one of the following ways: (1) outright denial – it won’t happen here, (2) I know it will happen, but I won’t be affected, (3) I’ll deal with it when it happens, (4) I have too many other things to worry about, (5) I feel like nothing I do will make a difference.

*Programs like CERT, COPE, NERT, CERN, and DP4VP help citizens develop a sense of resilience. Defined in Wikipedia, “resilience in psychology is the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual ‘bouncing back’ to a previous state of normal functioning, or using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a ‘steeling effect’ and function better than expected (much like an inoculation gives one the capacity to cope well with future exposure to disease.) Resilience is most commonly understood as a process, and not a trait of an individual.”

Consequently, resilience is a positive psychological element and explains why some neighborhoods recover from a disaster more quickly, because they have:
*Prepared themselves prior to the event,
*Developed stronger bonds with the community,
*Created broad social support, and
*Developed a strong sense of self-efficacy.

Dr. Davis has made other presentations related to the impact of community-based disaster preparedness training on citizens’ knowledge of and attitudes toward preparedness. Stay tuned as we learn more about his research evaluating the psychological effects of participating in “Get Ready Marin” and CERT.