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Technological Catastrophe
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  1. Technological Catastrophe

  2. Natural Disasters (ND) • Familiar • Meteorological: blizzards, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes etc. • Biological: plaque or blight • dramatic or disruptive but emergency passes and there is no one person to blame, viewed as uncontrollable • Possible in only certain areas • Research does not suggest that problems persist for very long after initial impact

  3. ND Characteristics • Suddenness – usually begins very quickly and unexpectedly (some forecasts make less so - warning for approach, but still time limited) • Power – universally threatening and of sufficient magnitude to cause death and great destruction • Destruction – cause visible damage to property – focus for recovery efforts –once rebuilt = sense of closure , recovery enhanced

  4. ND Characteristics Cont’d • Predictability – forecast meteorological conditions (floods – days before crest), only general forecasts are possible not exact timing. Geological catastrophe predictions less advanced - locations where likely to occur can be specified – but WHEN will occur is rare. Occurrence rates for an area can be obtained from past recordings • Low Point – a point at which the worst that is going to happen has already occurred “worst is over” May look at as shift in appraisal (threat to loss) after people start to feel better and restore environment –slow improvement after. Clear cut when point is.

  5. Effects of NDs • With adequate warning – efforts to minimize the impact of the event are possible e.g. sandbags for floods, shelters for tornadoes • Social cohesion – post disaster – seek emotional support, help in clean up, search for victims etc. (Quarantelli, 1978) • Very little knowledge about psychological and social impacts – few studied over 6 months or limited usefulness of many findings – loss of loved one may be associated with more chronic stress

  6. Effects of NDs cont’d • Drawing conclusions about the effects of natural disasters is difficult • Survivors of tornadoes in studies indicate negative effects – emotional strain, depression – up to a year after (Morre, 1958, Penick et al, 1976) drawbacks: –no base rate data or control groups – do not extend measure beyond a year – therefore hard to draw conclusions beyond this immediate period • There appears to be an initial impact on people after a natural disaster – research can not conclude that the problems persist very long for the great majority of people

  7. Technological Catastrophes (TC) • Human made accidents, failures, or mishaps involving technology & manipulation • Less familiar to most people – less frequent • Potentially widespread - anywhere where technology exists there is a possibility we may lose control •  Examples: Three Mile Island (TMI), Love Canal

  8. TC Characteristics • Suddenness: little if any warning – difficult to avoid • Power: powerful – (destruction and loss potentially as great as for natural disaster) – with increase in technology brings even greater potential for devastation – exceeds destruction of most natural forces • Predictability: not suppose to happen, therefore difficult to predict. Need inspection and examination to detect weakness - sometimes warning signs are not present or are overlooked, Often inadequate knowledge of how to deal with an accident if one occurs. Problems that are predicted are also expected to be remedied – which often happens.

  9. TC Characteristics Cont’d Low point: some mishaps have a well-defined low point – then recovery similar to that of ND, some most powerful TD may not have a clear low point e.g. believe they have been exposed to chemicals or radiation – long term consequences (development of disease in many years after exposure) in this type of case, the worse is yet to surface (if it even does) making it difficult to return to normal life. Destruction: Some visible destructions, may be invisible damage – illness effects

  10. Effects of TCs • Loss of confidence and credibility in controlling bodies from a broader audience then just victims • Acute or chronic effects – more likely long-term consequences especially when toxic in nature •  Limitations in research (no control sample, comparisons of findings to national norms, reliance on self report measures, small sample size, only short term effects studied)

  11. Effects of TCs cont’d • Have more clear-cut effects then do ND • Many residents continued to feel threatened for more than a year after the accident – variety of stress symptoms persisted (Baum, 982) - sources of danger remain at TMI

  12. A few studies done on TCs • Survivors of 1942 fire – over 11 month period following – 1/3 displayed nervousness or anxiety. 60 % who did not develop psychiatric complications had lost consciousness during the fire, 12% who did have P.P. had had prolonged loss of consciousness this suggests that experiences during the fire were primarily responsible for later difficulties. • Leopold and Dillion (1963) 4-year study of survivors of a marine explosion. ¾ of survivors had received some help for psychiatric complaints, almost all of them experienced work related problems

  13. Studies Cont’d • 10 year study – small group of survivors of a mine cave-in reported that almost all exhibited psychological problems (ploeger, 1972) • Dam collapse & flood at Buffalo Creek: titchener and Kapp (1976) reported high rates of emotional disturbances – including anxiety =, depression and personality changes (2 years post) – had control group - Unprecedented effects – different then other floods but more similar to the studies with a nightclub fire and marine explosion (both TCs

  14. TC: loss of control & it’s effects • failure of systems that were once under control – breakdowns may be more controllable than NDs because sometimes things may be done to stop an accident • uncontrollable once they begin reflecting a LOSS of control rather then lack there of – this has different psychophysiological consequences as it is a loss of control compared with never having an (Baum & Gatchel, 1981; Wotman and Brehm, 1975)

  15. Loss of control & effects cont’d • weaken are confidence in technology and our control of it. One instance may have a profound effect on the people involved in/and or in the surrounding area but continuous mishaps may branch out to more audiences on a larger scale. • may cause lasting effects even if the physical damage has been dealt with. Especially those involving toxic substances e.g. possibility of illness from one time exposure not only may cause a physically malady but also the uncertain possibility of developing this illness may trigger chronic stress. • Toxic spills, leaks or nuclear accidents do require a more prolonged clean up protocol involving complex decontamination – this may take years e.g. TMI: for more then a year after radioactive gas remained trapped in the plant & large amounts of radioactive water for more than 3 ½ years - these such delays can be though of as continuing threats which open the door for chronic stress among area residents.

  16. Future Technological Expansions • Have to keep in mind the more we expand technology we must also think of our ability to control it and to foresee problems it may create (e.g. development of regulating temperatures and light in our houses – building fires – to fossil fuels – to nuclear energy  new dangers – house fires, air pollution, oil spills, nuclear accidents  developed ways of dealing (coping) – fire departments, hospitals) • Have to anticipate PSYCHOLOGICAL & HEALTH effects – understanding future technological mishaps may be difficult with past literature as it is mostly on natural disasters. • Learn from past mistakes: TMI

  17. Comparing effects … • may invoke more focused anger then NDs as there is a someone to “blame” • Research suggests that TCs can cause chronic stress and widespread effects while NDs do not appear to do so. (some do have longer impacts but less likely to cause chronic effects as TCs are more likely to cause continuing threats) • ongoing discussion if we can link TCs and NDs to understand and predict from each other – they do have similarities but there are differences too.

  18. Three Mile Island (TMI) • March 28th, 1979 • Accident of toxic nature • May not have been acutely stressful during original mishap • Big concern: AFTER affects • Unexpected, operators did not have sufficient training therefore could not identify and correct the causes of the accident. Post accident: experts unsure about decontamination – delays and controversy – potentially dangerous radioactive residue

  19. Background of Accident • High temperatures were generated in the core of the reactor causing equipment to melt and fuse • Radioactive contamination of the reactor building and building that surrounds it • Radioactive krypton gas was trapped in the containment building and leaked sporadically into the atmosphere • 2 week emergency period – evacuation for certain groups (pregnant females & mothers with preschool children

  20. Background of Accident cont’d • Possibility of radioactive exposure to nearby populations • Conflicting information given by authorities – don’t know how much exposure If you were in this situation…. Would you feel stressed?? Would you feel there was someone were to blame?

  21. STRESS(Davidson et al., Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences) • Definition: The process by which an organism is threatened by environmental events (known as Stressors) • During: organisms must resist, adapt or cope with changing environmental demands • IF intense or persistent, negative consequences follow, these may be: 1) Psychological changes or 2) Physiological changes These play a role in the development of disease (i.e. CVD, peptic ulcers, anxiety, depression)

  22. STRESS cont’d2 APPROACHES Seyle’s Stress Model 3 Stages of GAS ALARM – recognize threat & prepare to resist by increasing vital functions (i.e. adrenal activity, respiration & CV activity) RESISTANCE – until reserves have been depleted or stressor overcome EXHAUSTION – diseases of adaption (i.e. CVD, immune disease) (extreme = death) • Physiological perspective • Organisms respond to noxious stimuli in a Triad Response (enlarged adrenal glands, thymus shrinkage, ulceration of GI tract) • -further developed into the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) to explain organ damage

  23. General Adaptation Syndrome MODEL

  24. STRESS cont’d2 APPROACHES Appraisals (Lazarus, 1966) Example 1st appraisal: situation is threatening 2nd appraisal: benefits of coping in different ways DIRECT ACTION – focus attention toward altering relationship with stressor e.g. leaving PALLATIVE RESPONSE – accommodate to the stressor by reducing or managing it’s emotional response e.g. drugs, relaxation, alcohol • Psychological perspective • Crucial factor in responding to stress • Emphasis on INTERACTION between organism and environment –not reaction • Only when something is viewed as threatening will the stress response engage

  25. Studies on Appraisals Symington, Currie, Curan & Davidson - 1955 • Adrenal Glands of conscious vs. comatose dying patients Result: Only conscious exhibited hypertrophy Lazarus, Opton, Nomikos & Tankin, 1965 Showed threatening film (woodshop accidents) 3 different explanations before viewing (1) staged (2) used to prevent future accidents (3) no explanation (1) & (2) – no stress response – allowed them to discount or intellectualize (3) Stress response

  26. Personal Control (Baum, Fleming & Singer, 1983) • One way of coping – increased perception of personal control • With increased perception of personal control – may help facilitate adaptation to stress • i.e. crowding on bus: can move somewhere else vs. stuck in one spot (Rodin, Solomon and metcalf (1978) or perceptions of discomfort caused by physical shock. (Staub, Tursky and Schwartz, 1971) • Example of control : Propaganda – “duck & cover” developed 1951 after Soviet Union started nuclear testing Duck and Cover

  27. 2 Week Emergency Period Following Accident … • Use of alcohol, tobacco, sleeping pills and tranquilizers increased (Houtss et al.,1980) – pallative response • Physicians reported more somatic complaints & higher blood pressure (behavioral Medicine Special Report, 1979) • Anxiety and depression were heightened among mothers of preschool children (Bromet, 1980) appraisal • Demoralization and emotional upset (Dohrenwend et al. 1979)

  28. Sources of stress still remained 5 months 9 months Elevated levels of distress (Houts et al. 1980) symptoms: loss of appetite, overeating, trouble sleeping, feeling shaky, trouble thinking clearly, irritability and anger • 25% of the population reported that they still felt threatened (Flynn & Chalmers, 1980)

  29. Stress and TMI – 15 months after • Psychological (1), Behavioural (2) & Physiological (3) indices of stress were assessed accordingly: • (1) Symptom reporting, anxiety, fear, depression, somatic complaints, concentration problems, anger etc. Measure: SCL-90R – 5 pt scale (0-4) • (2) Towers of Hanoi – measures persistence, proofreading- behavioural measure – ability to concentrate – circle misspellings, punctuation errors etc. • (3) Urine Samples for Catecholamine EP & NEP

  30. Results • Evidence of stress were higher in all areas of assessment then control subjects ( 17 & 22 months after) • Possible explanation: Nature of the accident, perception of control and radiation control (Baum, Fleming & Davidson , 1983) • If one believes that one has control over an aversive condition, even if false or not used, stress will be reduced (Glass & Singer, 1972) • Loss of control, may be a stressor (Wortman & Brehm, 1975)

  31. Results Cont’d • TMI residents perceive themselves as having less control over surroundings - reported more feelings of helplessness • TMI residents who reported lower perceived control reported the most symptoms, somatic distress and depression • TMI residents spent less time on proofreading task and made fewer attempts to solve it – found fewer errors as well • TMI residents who reported less perceived control had higher levels of NE and EP

  32. Uncertainty – exposure to radiation • Powerless to do anything to prevent the exposure • Unable to counteract possible long term consequences. • Do not know if even exposed • Uncertain about future health How would you react? LOVE CANAL LOVE CANAL 2

  33. Summary of Results • TMI unique – posed threat of possible exposure to radiation – • Residents fear of future consequences – uncertain of what will happen – demonstrates loss of control • Stress levels mediated by feelings of helplessness & uncertainty • Documented a persistent stress response psychologically, behaviourally and biochemically – 2+ years post.

  34. Questions, Questions, Questions… • When actual technological breakdowns happen resulting in a catastrophe accident happens victims often wonder: • Why? • Who? (is responsible) • Was it predictable? • Foreseeable? – what could do prepare for it? Or Avoid it?

  35. PREDICTABILITY • identified as an important factor in determining the response to an aversive event (Glass & Singer, 1972) • If a stressor is unable to predict then greater levels of stress are shown (hormones) compared with those who perceive greater predictability. (Evan, Wener & Philips, 2002) • Primary Predictability – direct ability to predict an event • P.P. is not possible with natural & technological disasters therefore the public has to rely on experts for warning -secondary predictability e.g. hurricane – alerting the public of a natural disaster

  36. Disasters & Predictability • Technological & human-made disasters – more difficult to predict – emphasis on prevention- safety checks & measures – protocols (when these fail or there is human error/neglect the result = accident without warning (without warning = unpredictability ) • public may want alert of human-made disaster e.g. terrorist alert system post 9/11 – this improves perceived predictability for threat and therefore followed by preparation and planning – not primary control by individuals – secondary control by the managing bodies of society

  37. Coping & predictability • PERCEPTION of predictability and foreseeability influences coping strategies –this helps with stress responses in victims • During a Disaster: victims sense of loss of control – motivated to regain it or at least preserve it. • High Predictability: If believe control can be achieved by managing agency, than more likely to alter their current situation. This is more so the case in acute phases of a disaster – more problem-focused & action oriented coping styles to modify the situation. This helps to regain sense of control. * (remember previous article dealing with control and stress hormones – this sense of control helps to mitigate disaster stress)

  38. Coping & LOW predictability • Coping strategies are more passive and characteristics of helplessness are more evident (Folkman & Lazarus, 1985; Wortman & Brehm, 1975) • Viewed as: any attempt to make change would have no effect on the outcome (accident could not be foreseen and avoided)

  39. If agency is perceived as able to foresee accidents… • Failure to do so is likely to result in mistrust and disappointment with the governing organization (Kasperson, Golding & Tuler, 1992) • likely to be judged as responsible when something goes awry (Brown et al, 1994) • assumed responsible for failure leading to anger, annoyance and hostility toward the individuals or organization (Weiner, 1993, 1995) • These feelings are only if the organization has the power to control the technology if the accident was beyond control then these reactions are not likely as no one is to blame but fate (Weiner, 1993, 1995)

  40. STUDY: Perceptions of accident foreseeability and stress and coping during the evacuation period of a technological disaster (Lange, toussain & Fleming) • designed to assess the association between accident foresseability perception and stress and coping DURING the evacuation period of a technological disaster. (threat of an explosion - uncertain when to return home, indefinite estimates ) • expands on existing research on technological disaster stress in • assessing stress response in a multidimensional fashion during a real-world technological disaster • examines the association of perceptions of accident foreseeability with stress response and coping in evacuees.

  41. Study Expectations • Simple expectation: evacuees should have elevated stress ( as seen in psychologically, physiologically , & behavioural indicators) • One step further: prediction of differential reactions and coping styles (Active or passive) in stressed individuals based on their PERCEPTIONS of the circumstance (predictability) • Explain response to an unexpected aversive event by measures of SECONDARY predictability.

  42. Predictions • Prediction: stress outcomes and coping would differ in the acute phase according to perceptions of accident foreseeability • low perceived accident foresseeabiltiy result in: helpesslike response & high stress • high foreseeability: reactance and action oriented coping and stress levels

  43. Accident 1996 freight train fire in Weyauwega, threat of explosion located 100 feet from main natural gas line feeding the community Accident unpredictable & unforeseeable -surprise evacuation: residents and surrounding rural areas were were removed from homes without gathering belongings, uncertain of return time (later returned after 18days) and lived in shelters Caused great social, and economic disruption (ill-prepared for an extensive displacement)

  44. Participants & Measures • Control group: 70 miles NW of site with demographic similarity (education, location along train track, SES) • Participants indicated degree of accident FA by experts on a 5-point scale (Averaged for railroad, automobile and airline accidents) • Psychological stress response – symptom Checklist 90-revised (SCL-90-R) & Negative Affect scale • Cognitive Behavioural Stress response – Proofreading task (subtracting false positive errors from the number of errors correct then divided by total number of errors present – to control for behavioural performance errors) • Physiological response: Stress hormones measured (EP and NE) through urine samples and resting levels of systolic and diastolic blood pressure • Coping: revised ways of Coping Inventory (5 point scale) -67 items – 2 subscales: confrontive coping and planful problem solving

  45. Results Evacuees compared to controls Psychological (SCL-90-R) Cognitive-behavioural effects (proofreading) Identified less percentage of errors (after subtraction of behavioural performance errors otherwise it was found Not significant) • reported a greater degree of psychological distress • Higher scores on somatization, obsessive-compulsive, depression, anxiety, hostility, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation & psychoticism • Greater overall level of negative affect (incl. anger, sadness and worry Physiological • Greater resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels • Higher norepinephrine and epinephrine levels

  46. Results: Perception of Accident Foreseeability (FA) & Stress & Coping Physiological Stress Responding Psychological Stress responding (SCL-90-R) Evacuees who perceived transportation accidents as less FA by experts reported a higher intensity of psychological symptoms as well as a greater degree of negative affect then just transportation accidents to be more FA No negative affect and FA perception association found in Control group Anger item: High FA perception reported more anger then low FA evacuees - no relationship for Control group • NE more intense when evacuees viewed accident as less FA by experts then less FA (no difference for control group) • FA perceptions moderated stress arousal for evacuees but not controls participants

  47. Results: Perception of Accident Foreseeability (FA) & Stress & Coping Cognitive-behavioural responses Coping Strategies Believed accidents FA: planful problem solving • Perception of accident FA were not associated with cognitive deficits

  48. What we learned from the study • Acute phase: immediate stress experienced • FA risk perceptions for transportation technology have a moderating influence on stress responses • Not all evacuees were severely impacted – psychological factors may explain – resiliency and variance in the severity of reactions to traumatic events (i.e. social support, internal locus of control) • Evacuees who perceived FA by experts showed lower biochemical stress responses levels than evacuees perceiving accidents as unFA - even if a false belief, this creates an illusion of predictability mitigating the stress responses. (greater perceptions of Predictability are associated with better stress outcomes)

  49. What we learned from the study • High FA: low baseline levels of catecholamines, high baselines seen with perceptions related to unpredictability • Perceptions of accident unforesseability – related to coping style of helplessness • Evacuees perceiving accidents as predictable – more negative affect and anger towards accident (may be due to blame and attribution of responsibility) BUT did not report using a more hostile coping style • TCs consequences are more complex then NDs, including the complexity of perceptions towards the actual accident as well. Understanding these perceptions may paint a better picture to predict the reaction & behaviours beyond the scope of physiological stress.