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Emergency Preparedness Self-Efficacy and the Ongoing Threat of Disasters Open Access

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The three studies that follow were designed to advance the field's knowledge of positive coping patterns in response to insidious, ongoing natural and human-generated disaster threat. They will address the following three aims: 1) to create a psychometrically sound measure of self-efficacy as it applies to human-generated and natural disaster events; 2) to test a theory-driven moderation model of emergency preparedness self-efficacy and its role in the relationship between perceived risk and psychological outcomes; and, 3) to examine how the role of emergency preparedness self-efficacy might vary in ethnically diverse populations. Although numerous assessments of disaster mental health functioning exist, the field has lacked continuity of measurement across disasters; a parsimonious, all-hazard measure is needed in order to identify important psychological risk and resilience factors across disasters. In Paper 1, the psychometric properties of the Emergency Preparedness Self-Efficacy (EPSE) scale are evaluated; this scale assesses an individual's perceived self-efficacy with respect to preparation for, and response to emergencies arising in natural and human-generated disasters. Results from undergraduate and community samples suggest reliability and validity of this emergency preparedness self-efficacy measure. Paper 2 examines the moderating roles of both general self-efficacy and domain-specific (emergency preparedness) self-efficacy on the relationship between the ongoing perceived risk of human-made disaster (terrorism) and mental health outcomes. As hypothesized, emergency preparedness self-efficacy (but not general self-efficacy) moderated the relationship between perception of risk and anxiety and perception of risk and general distress. Greater emergency preparedness self-efficacy reduced the impact of risk perception on both mental health outcomes, highlighting the protective function of the contextually specific belief in one's capacity to overcome hardship and exercise control. Paper 3 examines how the moderating effect of emergency preparedness self-efficacy might differ for the ethnic minority subgroup as compared to the Caucasian subgroup. Results revealed that the relationship between perceived risk and anxiety was stronger for individuals with lower levels of emergency preparedness self-efficacy, compared to those with higher levels of emergency preparedness self-efficacy, in the Caucasian subsample. However, the relationship between perceived risk and anxiety did not differ according to level of emergency preparedness self-efficacy in the ethnic minority subgroup. Although preliminary, findings reveal a differing role of self-efficacy in response to ongoing terrorism threat for Caucasian versus ethnic minority individuals. Limitations of these studies are noted and recommendations for future research are provided. However, in combination, these studies provide evidence to support the psychometric properties of a scale for self-efficacy for disasters, which is noticeably absent from the field; highlight intervention opportunities at the individual level; and, demonstrate the need to tailor interventions to differing protective mechanisms across cultural populations.

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