Using evidence from a systematic study of major disasters in the past 50 years, epidemiologist Sandro Galea has developed a framework that identifies five stages of reaction to a disaster:
Five stages of reaction to a disaster
- Self-Preservation: The first reaction to a disaster is fear and initial anxiety. People are afraid. They seek information. They do what is necessary to figure out how to save themselves.
- Group Preservation: With the right information provided, there is a tremendous effort—usually guided by what we call pro-social behavior—to help others.
- Blame Setting: This involves internalizing and many psychological consequences fall in place during this stage. With disasters, we talk a lot about emotional responses, about change in normal activities. This leads into efforts to try to figure out who is to blame and to do something about it by addressing the vulnerabilities and strengths that we have that resulted in that hazard becoming a disaster.
- Justice Seeking: This involves externalizing. It's part of seeking redress and leads to taking action against the perceived perpetrators of the disaster.
- Renormalizing: Individuals and groups adapt to the threat.