The unequal segmentation of public preparedness for mass evacuation
: a cross-national perspective

  • Susan Anson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is concerned with understanding how Emergency Management Agencies (EMAs) influence public preparedness for mass evacuation across seven countries. Due to the lack of cross-national research (Tierney et al., 2001), there is a lack of knowledge on EMAs perspectives and approaches to the governance of public preparedness. This thesis seeks to address this gap through cross-national research that explores and contributes towards understanding the governance of public preparedness. The research draws upon the risk communication (Wood et al., 2011; Tierney et al., 2001) social marketing (Marshall et al., 2007; Kotler and Lee, 2008; Ramaprasad, 2005), risk governance (Walker et al., 2010, 2013; Kuhlicke et al., 2011; IRGC, 2005, 2007; Renn et al., 2011; Klinke and Renn, 2012), risk society (Beck, 1992, 1999, 2002) and governmentality (Foucault, 1978, 2003, 2009) literature to explain this governance and how EMAs responsibilize the public for their preparedness.
EMAs from seven countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom) explain how they prepare their public for mass evacuation in response to different types of risk. A cross-national (Hantrais, 1999) interpretive research approach, using qualitative methods including semi-structured interviews, documents and observation, was used to collect data. The data analysis process (Miles and Huberman, 1999) identified how the concepts of risk, knowledge and responsibility are critical for theorising how EMAs influence public preparedness for mass evacuation. The key findings grounded in these concepts include:
- Theoretically, risk is multi-functional in the governance of public preparedness. It regulates behaviour, enables surveillance and acts as a technique of exclusion.
- EMAs knowledge and how this influenced their assessment of risk, together with how they share the responsibility for public preparedness across institutions and the public, are key to the governance of public preparedness for mass evacuation. This resulted in a form of public segmentation common to all countries, whereby the public were prepared unequally.
 - EMAs use their prior knowledge and assessments of risk to target public preparedness in response to particular known hazards. However, this strategy places the non-targeted public at greater risk in relation to unknown hazards, such as a man-made disaster. - A cross-national conceptual framework of four distinctive governance practices (exclusionary, informing, involving and influencing) are utilised to influence public preparedness.
- The uncertainty associated with particular types of risk limits the application of social marketing as a strategy for influencing the public to take responsibility and can potentially increase the risk to the public.
Date of Award26 May 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aston University
SupervisorJudith W Scully (Supervisor) & Duncan A Shaw (Supervisor)


  • emergency preparedness
  • governance
  • risk and responsibility
  • social marketing
  • behaviour change

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