APA Co-Sponsors Congressional Briefing: The Human Response to Disaster

On April 24, APA co-sponsored an educational briefing on Capitol Hill in support of the Decade of Behavior initiative entitled, "The Human Response to Disaster."

On April 24, APA co-sponsored an educational briefing on Capitol Hill in support of the Decade of Behavior initiative entitled, "The Human Response to Disaster." Nearly 100 people attended the standing-room-only event, including 33 congressional staff members. The briefing addressed a variety of issues relevant to the post-9/11 era and speakers discussed the impact of psychology, geography, human factors, and sociology on how people, governments, and institutions prepare for, and respond to, disaster.

Social and behavioral science research has shown that our response to disaster depends in large part on the perception of risk and stress, on how emergency responders communicate with the public and make use of geographic information, and on the processes of team decision- making. Disaster response involves the mass movement of people, goods, and resources and requires high levels of cooperation. Harnessing our knowledge about how people behave in emergencies is important to the strategies, infrastructure, and technologies we are creating now to prepare for future disasters. The presenters, their affiliations, and titles of their talks appear below:

Baruch Fischhoff, Ph.D., University Professor, Department of Social and Decision Sciences and Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
What's Worth Knowing - and Saying - About Terrorism?

Douglas Richardson, Ph.D., Director of Research and Strategic Initiatives, Association of American Geographers

Geographical Dimensions of Terrorism: Implications for Public Policy

Eduardo Salas, Ph.D., Program Director for Human Systems Integration Research, Institute for Simulation and Training, University of Central Florida

Responding to Crises: The Science of Team Performance Under Pressure

Kathleen Tierney, Ph.D., Director of the Disaster Research Center and Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware

Social Science and Disaster Research Perspectives on the September 11 Attacks: Building on Our Knowledge to Make Our Communities Safer

Other attendees represented the Congressional Research Service, National Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation, Office of Federal Disaster Assistance (within USAID), Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Institute of Justice, Department of Defense, General Accounting Office, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, U.S. State Department, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, and NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.

Later in the afternoon, at the invitation of the Office of Homeland Security (OHS), Susan Brandon, APA's Senior Scientist, Baruch Fischhoff (APA's representative at the Decade briefing) and Geoff Mumford, APA's Director of Science Policy, met for about an hour with Frank Ciluffo, Special Assistant to the President for External Affairs on Homeland Security, and some of his staff to talk about how behavioral and social science research might inform their mission. We've been encouraged to follow-up at various levels to help better orient OHS to psychological science issues and to nominate scientists for a proposed Office of Homeland Security Advisory Council.