Open Access Open Badges Research article

Perceived coping & concern predict terrorism preparedness in Australia

Garry Stevens1*, Kingsley Agho1, Melanie Taylor1, Alison L Jones23, Margo Barr4 and Beverley Raphael1

Author affiliations

1 University of Western Sydney, School of Medicine, Building EV, Parramatta Campus, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia

2 University of Wollongong, Graduate School of Medicine, Building 28, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia

3 Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, Wollongong, NSW, Australia

4 Centre for Epidemiology and Research, New South Wales Ministry of Health, 73 Miller Street, North Sydney, NSW 2060, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2012, 12:1117  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-1117

Published: 27 December 2012



In the aftermath of major terrorist incidents research shows population shifts towards protective behaviours, including specific preparedness and avoidance responses. Less is known about individual preparedness in populations with high assumed threat but limited direct exposure, such as Australia. In this study we aimed to determine whether individuals with high perceived coping and higher concern would show greater preparedness to respond to terrorism threats.


Adults in New South Wales (NSW) completed terrorism perception and response questions as part of computer assisted telephone interviews (CATI) in 2010 (N=2038). Responses were weighted against the NSW population. Multiple logistic regression analyses were conducted to evaluate the relationship between personal coping/concern factors and terrorism-related preparedness and avoidance behaviours, and to control for potential confounders such as socio-demographic and threat perception factors.


Increased vigilance for suspicious behaviours was the most commonly reported behavioural response to perceived terrorism threat. Multivariate analyses showed that the factor combination of high perceived coping and higher concern was the most consistent predictor of terrorism preparedness behaviours and evacuation intentions, including increased vigilance (Adjusted Odd Ratios (AOR)=2.07, p=0.001) learning evacuation plans (AOR=1.61, p=0.05), establishing emergency contact plans (AOR=2.73, p<0.001), willingness to evacuate homes (AOR=2.20, p=0.039), and willingness to evacuate workplaces or public facilities (AOR=6.19, p=0.015) during potential future incidents.


The findings of this study suggest that terrorism preparedness behaviours are strongly associated with perceived high coping but that this relationship is also mediated by personal concerns relating to this threat. Cognitive variables such as coping self-efficacy are increasingly targeted as part of natural hazard preparedness and are a viable intervention target for terrorism preparedness initiatives. Raising individual coping perceptions may promote greater general and incident-specific preparedness and could form an integral element of community resilience strategies regarding this threat.

Terrorism; Resilience; Coping; Self-efficacy; Preparedness; Avoidance; Behaviours