Emotional and behavioural responses to the 19 September 2017 earthquake: the case of the occupants of three multi-storey buildings

Jaime Santos-Reyes, Tatiana Gouzeva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Studies on human behaviour during a seismic emergency in tall buildings are scant. During such emergencies, occupants need to reach a safe place. The purpose of this paper is to address some of the emotional and behavioural responses of the occupants of three multi-storey buildings during the 19 September earthquake that hit Mexico City in 2017. Design/methodology/approach: A cross-sectional and non-probability study was conducted using a questionnaire-based survey; the sample size was n = 352, and the study was conducted from 4 October to 20 November 2017. Findings: (1) In the 11 storey-building, women, age (18–49 years old [yo]) and participants with higher education exhibited flight behaviour, and those of the six storey-building within the age category 18–49 yo also exhibited a similar behaviour; (2) Women and age (18–49 yo) in the six and 11-storey buildings were significantly associated with fear of the earthquake; (3) Women were significantly more fearful and felt more intense the tremors than men in the 11-storey building; (4) Women were significantly more fearful of the 11-storey building collapsing; (5) The taller the building, the more fearful were the occupants of the building collapsing. Research limitations/implications: First, the sample considered in the study was no probability; consequently, the results should not be generalised to the existing high-rising buildings in Mexico City. Second, some of the variables considered herein were of the Likert-type scale but have been assumed as continuous; in fact, some future work could be the design of a valid and reliable questionnaire to address human behaviour during earthquakes in tall buildings. Practical implications: The presented results may be the great value to key decision-makers on how to address the lack of earthquake preparedness during a seismic emergency. Further, the results have shed light on the negative emotions (fear) experienced by the occupants of tall buildings. Social implications: Gaining a better understanding of human behavioural in tall buildings is essential in devising measures to mitigate the impact of earthquake disasters. Originality/value: Research on human behaviour during a seismic emergency in high-rise buildings is scant. To gain a better understanding of human emotional and behavioural response to earthquakes in tall buildings, it becomes necessary to conduct research such as the present case study. This may help decision-makers to devise measures so that the impact of earthquake disasters may be limited.

Keywords

  • 19 September earthquake
  • Earthquake
  • Mexico City
  • Occupant's behaviour
  • Tall buildings

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