Helms School of Government


Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)


Lona Bryan


individual, family, disaster, preparedness, vested interest theory


Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


Natural disasters take place throughout the United States many times annually, from localized storms to hurricanes or earthquakes affecting many states. The federal government develops and implements preparedness policies, which are then translated into state, county, and municipality preparedness policies. Individual and family preparedness is a component of these preparedness policies; however, existing federal preparedness policies fail to prompt American individuals and families to prepare for natural disasters. The purpose of this study is to understand how the failures of the current preparedness policies contribute to the lack of individual and family preparedness and the political, social, and psychological factors that drive individuals and families to prepare—or not—for disasters. The theoretical framework for this study is Thorstein Veblen’s (1919) vested interest theory, applied to the behaviors of individuals in relation to preparedness policy. The research questions focus on the factors that influence Americans’ willingness and ability to prepare for disasters. A combination of survey analysis, policy evaluation, and case study analysis is used to investigate potential explanations for individuals and families failing to prepare. The results of this study indicate there are four primary factors influencing individuals’ and families’ level of disaster preparedness: preparedness beliefs, preparedness knowledge, preparedness behaviors, and preparedness actions. Using vested interest theory, this study proposes an explanatory model for individual and family disaster preparedness, the Vested Interest Preparedness Model (VIPM), which shows how preparedness beliefs and knowledge influence increased or decreased preparedness behaviors and actions; increasing beliefs and knowledge will increase behaviors and actions.