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I examine preparedness efforts engaged at a large university in southern California vulnerable to a potentially catastrophic earthquake. I address how students and staff in this context enact preparedness using inductive research methods. Data collection efforts consisted of in-depth interviews, archival analysis of disaster planning materials, and observation of preparedness activities. For the workshop and related to its theme of disaster resilience, I will present official and unofficial conceptions of disaster preparedness as visions of potential responses. The official version of preparedness as it is currently practiced is a top-down approach where staff utilizes a combination of plans and educational materials in the hopes of educating and facilitating successful responses within the university community. In contrast, students, as representatives of the vulnerable public, relate minimal knowledge of both the risks of an earthquake and of organizational efforts and expectations, however, still relate the potential for successful response despite a lack of preparedness efforts. The source of the disconnection between the two groups is an expectation of personal responsibility and compliance in disaster preparedness when response is largely a situational and collective effort. I reconceptualize the disaster-risk community as a Community of Practice and outline a way to facilitate preparedness-engaged processes for both sets of actors, acknowledging both groups as experts of their own context. I pose an alternative vision of disaster preparedness as a situated, collaborative effort, designed to share and capitalize on aspects of the ‘endemic’ resilience of both sets of actors and bridge inherent disconnections between them.

Baker_Situated Preparedness.pdf (220 kB)
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