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Applying a community resilience framework to examine household emergency planning and exposure-reducing behavior among residents of Louisiana’s industrial corridor

Margaret A. Reams, PhD, Nina S. N. Lam, PhD, Tabitha M. Cale, PhD, Corrinthia M. Hinton, MS

Abstract


Residents facing environmental hazards can take steps to reduce their exposure risks, and these actions may be considered adaptations that can enhance the overall resilience of communities. Applying concepts from social-ecological resilience theory, the authors examine emergency planning and exposure-reducing behaviors among residents of the upper Industrial Corridor of Louisiana and explore the extent to which the behaviors are associated with key theoretical influences on community resilience: exposure, vulnerability, and the “adaptive capacity” of residents. The behaviors of interest are adoption of a household emergency plan in the case of acute exposure events (like chemical spills), and limiting outdoor activities in response to Air Quality Index reports, thus potentially reducing chronic exposure risks. Statistical analyses indicate that adaptive behaviors are associated both with greater exposure to hazards and confidence in one’s knowledge and ability to reduce exposure risks. Thus, the study yields evidence that “adaptive capacity” is particularly relevant to understanding and encouraging household emergency planning. Residents who believe that they are well-informed about risk-reducing strategies, regardless of education or income, were found to be more likely to have adopted these measures. Evidence that knowledge and confidence levels are linked to adaptive behaviors is good news for those working in public education and outreach programs, as these are attitudes and skills that can be nurtured. While factors associated with exposure and vulnerability to hazards are difficult to change, knowledge of risk-reducing strategies and confidence in one’s abilities to reduce exposure risks can be improved through well-designed public education efforts.


Keywords


emergency planning, exposure reduction, adaptive behavior, environmental hazards, community resilience, risk exposure, socioeconomics, vulnerability

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/jem.2013.0130

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