Natural Hazards

, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 1411–1425 | Cite as

Community readiness for a new tsunami warning system: quasi-experimental and benchmarking evaluation of a school education component

  • Kevin R. Ronan
  • Kylie Crellin
  • David M. Johnston
Original Paper


Youth preparedness for disasters is a growing area of research. However, studies to date have relied on cross-sectional, correlational research designs. The current study replicated aspects of the one other study to date that has used a quasi-experimental strategy to evaluate youth preparedness for disasters. This study evaluated whether children were more knowledgeable and prepared for hazards generally but also in more specific relation to the rollout of a new tsunami warning system. Using a pretest–posttest with benchmarking design, the study found that following a brief school education program, supplementing a larger community-wide effort, children reported significant gains in preparedness indicators including increased knowledge as well as increases in physical and psychosocial preparedness. Within group effect sizes compared favorably with those from the previous experimental study in this area used to benchmark current intervention-produced findings and produced hints that combining school education programs with larger community preparedness efforts can enhance preparedness. Given that this is only one of two experimentally-based studies in an area of research largely dominated by cross-sectional designs, future research should consider the use of experimental designs, including those that are pragmatic and fit with needs of the school. The current approach has limitations that need to be considered. However, it also has some real advantages, including being used more extensively in fieldwork studies that evaluate various types of interventions. Through increased use of experimental design strategies, researchers can then also have increased confidence that educational programs are the source of increases in disaster resilience in youth and their families.


Hazards education Preparedness Youth resilience Hazards adjustment 


  1. Campbell MA, Gilmore L (2006) Children’s fears post September 11. In: Proceedings of the 2006 joint conference of the Australian psychological society and the New Zealand psychological society. The Australian Psychological Association, Auckland, New Zealand, pp 55–59Google Scholar
  2. Chemtob CM, Nakashima JP, Hamada RS (2002) Psychosocial intervention for postdisaster trauma symptoms in elementary school children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 156:211–217Google Scholar
  3. Cook TD, Campbell DT (1979) Quasi-experimentation: Design and analysis issues for field settings. Houghton Mifflin Company, BostonGoogle Scholar
  4. Cuny FC (1983) Disasters and development. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Curtis NM, Ronan KR, Heiblum N, Crellin K (2009) Dissemination and effectiveness of Multisystemic Treatment in New Zealand: A benchmarking study. J Fam Psychol 23(2):119–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Eisenman DP, Wold C, Fielding J, Long A, Setodji C, Hickey S et al (2006) Differences in individual-level terrorism preparedness in Los Angeles County. Am J Prev Med 30:1–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Finnis K, Standring S, Johnston D, Ronan K (2004) Children’s understanding of natural hazards in Christchurch, New Zealand. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 19:11–20Google Scholar
  8. Finnis KK, Johnston DM, Ronan KR, White JD (2010) Hazard perceptions and preparedness of Taranaki youth. Disaster Prevention and Management 19(2):175–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Giannopoulou I, Dikaiakou A, Yule W (2006) Cognitive-behavioural group intervention for PTSD symptoms in children following the Athens 1999 earthquake: a pilot study. Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry 11:543–553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Girling-Butcher R, Ronan KR (2009) Brief cognitive-behavioral therapy for children with anxiety disorders: Initial evaluation a program designed for clinical settings. Behaviour Change 26(1):27–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Goenjian AK, Karayan I, Pynoos RS, Minassian D, Najarian LM, Steinberg AM, Fairbanks LA (1997) Outcome of psychotherapy among early adolescents after trauma. Am J Psychiatry 154:536–542Google Scholar
  12. Hock E, Hart M, Kang MJ, Lutz WJ (2004) Predicting children’s reactions to terrorist attacks: the importance of self-reports and preexisting characteristics. Am J Orthopsychiatr 74:253–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hunsley J, Lee CM (2007) Research-informed benchmarks for psychological treatments: Efficacy studies, effectiveness studies, and beyond. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 38:21–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Karanci AN, Aksit B, Dirik G (2005) Impact of a community disaster awareness training program in Turkey: does it influence hazard-related cognitions and preparedness behaviors. Soc Behav Pers 33:243–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kazdin AE (2003) Research design in clinical psychology. Allyn and Bacon, BostonGoogle Scholar
  16. Klingman A, Cohen E (2004) School-based multisystemic intervention for mass trauma. Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. LaGreca AM, Silverman WK, Vernberg EM, Prinstein MJ (1996) Symptoms of posttraumatic stress in children after hurricane Andrew: a prospective study. J Consult Clin Psychol 64:346–356Google Scholar
  18. Lindell MK (2000) An overview of protective action decision-making for a nuclear power plant emergency. J Hazard Mater 75:113–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lindell MK, Whitney DJ (2000) Correlates of household seismic hazard adjustment adoption. Risk Anal 20:13–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mishra S, Suar D (2007) Do lessons people learn determine disaster cognition and preparedness? Psychol Dev Soc 19:143–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Muris P (2002) The Koala Fear Questionnaire: its relationship with fear of storms and hurricanes in 4- to14-year-old Antillean children. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 24:145–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Muris P, Meesters C, Merckelbach H, Verschuren M, Geebelen E, Aleva E (2002) Fear of storms and hurricanes in Antillean and Belgian children. Behav Res Ther 40:459–469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Norris FH, Friedman MJ, Watson PJ, Byrne CM, Diaz E, Kaniasty K (2002) 60, 000 disaster victims speak: Part I. An empirical review of the empirical literature, 1981–2001. Psychiatry 65:207–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ollendick TH, King NJ, Frary RB (1989) Fears in children and adolescents: reliability and generalizability across gender, age and nationality. Behav Res Ther 27:19–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Paton D, Johnston D (2001) Disasters and communities: vulnerability, resilience and preparedness. Disaster Prev Manag 10:270–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Peek L (2008) Children and Disasters: Understanding Vulnerability, Developing Capacities, and Promoting Resilience – An Introduction Children. Youth, and Environments 18(1):1–29Google Scholar
  27. Peek LA, Mileti DS (2002) The history and future of disaster research. In: Bechtel RB, Churchman A (eds) Handbook of environmental psychology. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Ronan KR (1997a) The effects of a series of volcanic eruptions on emotional and behavioural functioning in children with asthma. N Z Med J 110:11–13Google Scholar
  29. Ronan KR (1997b) The effects of a “benign” disaster: symptoms of posttraumatic stress in children following a series of volcanic eruptions. Australas J Disaster Trauma Stud 1 (on-line peer reviewed journal URL
  30. Ronan KR (2010) Opening address: National summit for youth preparedness. Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  31. Ronan KR, Johnston D (1999) Behaviourally-based interventions for children following volcanic eruptions: an evaluation of effectiveness. Disaster Prev Manag 8:169–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ronan KR, Johnston DM (2001) Correlates of hazards education programs for youth. Risk Anal 21:1055–1063CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ronan KR, Johnston DM (2003) Hazards education for youth: a quasi-experimental investigation. Risk Anal 23:1009–1020CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ronan KR, Johnston D (2005) Promoting community resilience in disasters: the role for schools, youth, and families. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  35. Ronan KR, Johnston DM, Daly M, Fairley R (2001) School children’s risk perceptions and preparedness: a hazards education survey. Australas J Disaster Trauma Stud 1 (on-line peer reviewed journal URL
  36. Ronan KR, Crellin K, Johnston DM, Finnis K, Paton D, Becker J (2008) Promoting child and family resilience to disasters: Effects, interventions, and prevention effectiveness. Children, Youth, and Environments 18(1):332–353Google Scholar
  37. Ronan KR, Crellin K, Johnston DM (2010) Correlates of hazards education for youth: A replication study. Nat Hazards 53(3):503–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shaw R, Shiwaku K, Kobayashi H, Kobayashi M (2004) Linking experience, education, perception and earthquake preparedness. Disaster Prev Manag 13:39–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Shooshtary MH, Panaghi L, Moghadam JA (2008) Outcome of cognitive behavioral therapy in adolescents after natural disaster. J Adolesc Health 42:466–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Shores EF, Grace C, Barbaro E, Flenner M, Barbaro M (2009) Reducing risks for young children: Indicators research can guide disaster preparedness for the early childhood sector. Child Indicators Research 2(3):293–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Standring S, Johnston DM, Wilson T, Ronan KR, Lindell M, Cousins J (2011) Nature and type of injuries from 4 September 2010 Darfield (Canterbury) Earthquake, New Zealand. Manuscript in preparation for submissionGoogle Scholar
  42. Tierney KJ, Lindell MK, Perry RW (2001) Facing the unexpected: disaster response in the United States. Joseph Henry Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  43. Vernberg EM, La Greca AM, Silverman WK, Prinstein MJ (1996) Prediction of posttraumatic stress symptoms in children after hurricane Andrew. J Abnorm Psychol 105:237–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weems CF, Pina AA, Costa NM, Watts SE, Taylor LK, Cannon MF (2007) Predisaster trait anxiety and negative affect predict posttraumatic stress in youths after hurricane Katrina. J Consult Clin Psychol 75:154–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Whitney DJ, Lindell MK, Nguyen HD (2004) Earthquake beliefs and adoption of seismic hazard adjustments. Risk Anal 24:87–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin R. Ronan
    • 1
  • Kylie Crellin
    • 1
  • David M. Johnston
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Health and Social Science ResearchCQUniversity AustraliaRockhamptonAustralia
  2. 2.Joint Centre for Disaster ResearchMassey UniversityWellingtonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations