DEMS 3706: Humans and Disasters

Undergraduate Course, York University, School of Administrative Studies, 2019

How do people deal with the stress and anxiety induced by experiencing an emergency? What determines which disasters we’re afraid of and which ones we couldn’t care less about? Why do so many people choose not to evacuate, even when they’re given warning? How do emergency managers make high-stakes decisions when everything is confusing and uncertain? And, how do you actually motivate people to prepare for disasters?

This class is all about the human dimensions of disasters, with a special emphasis on the psychological and cognitive elements in play. It’s a bit of a ‘taster’ class: each week will have a different theme as we explore some of the questions above. By the end of the course you should have a good handle on a variety of the ways that psychology shapes the field of disaster and emergency management, as well as related areas.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t a class that’s narrowly focused on PTSD or the psychological impacts of disasters on individuals. While we will discuss these topics during two of the weeks (and they’ll come up during many others!), there are also a huge number of other psychological and cognitive issues that are important to consider, from how individuals and governments make decisions to how we can encourage people to take ownership over being better prepared.

We’re also here to do more than just talk about the psychology of disasters. This is also a class about reading, writing, and critical thinking. While we’re looking at topics in disaster and emergency management, our ultimate goals are broader. These are transferable skills that are applicable beyond just emergency management! You’ll see that the assignments below require significant writing – and also mean that you need to be doing the readings each week. The philosophy is simple: by doing /smaller/ amounts of work on a regular basis, you’ll learn more and do better than if you try to cram a paper at the end of the semester.

Official Course Calendar Description

Focuses on developing an understanding of the impact of different disasters on individuals, communities and specific populations. Short and long term intervention strategies for social psychological preparation and support will be presented and assessed.

Cross-Listing: AP/ADMS 3706 3.00