Survey explores reactions to possible emergencies, including radiological and nuclear incidents
University of Western Sydney medical researchers are launching a study to investigate how Australians would cope psychologically and emotionally in the face of an emergency, including a nuclear accident or attack.
The confidential online survey will gauge what Australians know, think and feel about nuclear and radiological issues and canvas concerns they may have about accidents and terrorism involving nuclear materials. Similar surveys have been carried out in Canada and Europe.
Professor Beverley Raphael, from the School of Medicine's Science of Mental Health and Adversity Unit (SCIMHA), says information is an important resource for helping Australians cope with the psychological and emotional challenges of any emergency.
"It's vital we establish the community's perceptions of potential threats, their knowledge of the dangers and their expectations of the response of government and emergency services," says Professor Raphael, who is also the Chair of the National Committee advising on mental health impacts of terrorism and disasters.
The survey asks questions about how people have reacted in previous emergencies and how they would react in different situations involving accidents or attacks, their level of preparedness, and their thoughts on matters such as nuclear and radiological issues and the likelihood of a terrorist strike in Australia.
"While it is unlikely that such an incident will happen, it is important to understand how individuals think they would respond and, if an incident did occur, which sources they would turn to for critical emergency information," says Professor Raphael.
"In general, people respond well to such challenges and are emotionally resilient. However, education can focus on helping people to be better prepared and to understand the most effective ways to deal with such a threat."
"Previous international research has shown people are less anxious about potential threats and dangers if they are better informed," she says.
"While there are substantial initiatives in place to deal with any such threat and to protect the population, there is the need for greater understanding of ways in which people would cope with any stresses involved and how they might best be supported afterwards," says Professor Raphael.
The research results will be used to help improve the community's understanding of emergency preparedness programs and the response of emergency services that are first on the scene of an accident or attack.
This UWS research is supported by the Federal Government with assistance from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).
The survey can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/2x6z9o and will remain open until mid May 2008.