The public and a radiological or nuclear emergency event

threat perception, preparedness, and anticipated response - findings from a preliminary study in Sydney, Australia

Mel Taylor*, Wendy Joung, Barbara Griffin, David Hill, Robert Chisari, Beryl Hesketh, Beverley Raphael

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper presents selected findings from a preliminary study that sought to assess the impacts of a radiological or nuclear emergency event on an Australian population, and their anticipated responses to such an event. The questionnaire was wide-ranging and included sections on threat perception, preparedness, use of media sources and trusted organisations, as well as socio-demographic, personal resilience and health-related data. Survey data were collected from samples of the general public living in Sydney, Australia during the period May-June 2008 using a mixed convenience sample approach (n=324). In general, data suggest that the public is not highly concerned about terrorism involving radiological or nuclear materials and is unprepared for such an event. First Responders (Fire, Police, Ambulance) and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) were the authorities the public had most confidence in to respond to such incidents and these were also the agencies the public was most likely to trust for credible information. When respondents were prompted with a series of possible behaviours they might elicit in the event of a radiological or nuclear emergency incident, their immediate most likely responses included calling family members to check they are OK, washing off radioactive material, seeking shelter indoors, calling emergency services, covering their mouth to prevent inhalation of dust, and trying to get back home. Longer-term behaviours included having more frequent health checks. These findings suggest that there would be high demand on telecommunication services soon after such an event, and the general lack of preparedness of the public suggests that there would be a high degree of confusion and uncertainty in their responses. This emphasises the importance of timely communication and direction following such an event, preferably delivered by one of the authorities most trusted by the public.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-39
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Journal of Emergency Management
Volume26
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

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