Crisis communications: Ethnic differentials in interpreting and acting on disaster warnings

Ronald W. Perry1, Michael Lindell1, Marjorie Greene1
1Battelle Human Affairs Research Centers, United States
Cite this article:  Perry, R. , Lindell, M. , & Greene, M. (1982). Crisis communications: Ethnic differentials in interpreting and acting on disaster warnings. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 10, 97-104.

Volume 10 Issue 1 | e357 | Published: February 1982 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.1982.10.1.97

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This report examines the problem of communicating emergency information to communities which are multi-ethnic. A probability sample of flood evacuation warning recipients (n = 200) was taken from a small Western United States town with a large segment of Mexican-American citizens. Analyses of these data revealed three primary differentials by ethnicity: (1) Mexican-Americans were more skeptical than whites about believing warning messages, no matter how specific the message; (2) Mexican-Americans interpreted the same warning messages as indicating lower levels of personal danger; and (3) Mexican-Americans were less likely to undertake a protective action (that is, evacuate) than whites. These findings suggest that there is a need for studies which explore the warning response decision-making process used by minorities, examine the criteria on which minorities interpret warning message content, and review the ways in which minorities evaluate the validity and accuracy of any given message.
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