|Ph.D Student||Sharon Link|
|Subject||The Impact of Social Networks on Disaster Information Flow:|
Adaptive Behavioral Survival Mechanisms
|Department||Department of Industrial Engineering and Management||Supervisor||Professor Kirschenbaum Alan|
|Full Thesis text|
Communities tend to survive disasters better than individuals. In this study, we claim that the major survival question is not "why", but rather "how"; i.e., what makes people survive disasters more successfully as community members than as separate individuals? One explanation may be that communities utilize social mechanisms as a means of organizing and combining resources, especially information?as individuals, people cannot tap into these internal communication sets but rely solely on external information sources. Yet, within the disaster research scope little is known about these social mechanisms. The current study seeks to address the gap between the 'survival mechanism question' and the 'information flow answer'. We claim that survival is not just a matter of numbers (i.e., the simple fact of decreased statistical risk to get injured when you’re part of a crowd); rather, it is a matter of the collective decision-making behavior that, for the most part, is found in communication sets within community social networks. We know that during routine times social networks play a vital role in our decision-making process. In the present study, we propose that these natural systems may also help communities deal with long-term disasters.
To explore these issues, we evaluate the impact of continuous extreme events on the perceptions and behaviors of community members in the southern communities of Sderot and the former Gush Katif. We collected data using a self-report questionnaire. The study design also matched pre-disaster data with a corresponding sample taken five years later during the ongoing terror attacks that started in September 2000. The results generally support our research model, suggesting that: (1) community members prefer generating information from their social networks rather than from official agencies; (2) this information leads to better adaptation; (3) perceptions of risk differ in their magnitude depending on the source and type of information; (4) risk perceptions both affect and are affected by preparedness and adaptation information; (5) compared with routine situations, community members demonstrate more preparedness-related behavior as well as stronger social ties in times of emergency. Finally, we outline a number of implications our findings are likely to have for disaster management both where the planning phase of legal authorities and the in-action phase of disaster victims are concerned.