NIUPATCH aims to make research accessible for Pacific communities, through sharing relevant research and highlighting Pacific researchers.

Our Pacific Islands are all too familiar with natural disasters.

The 2009 Tsunami that decimated parts of Samoa and Cyclone Gita that hit Tonga in 2018 are only two recent examples of what our islands have withstood. For generations, our people have crafted methods of recovering and rebuilding after natural disasters have struck. But, we were not prepared for the events of 2009 and 2018.These two tragic instances highlighted the brutal reality of the Western influence on our recovery efforts.

What the NIUPATCH collective is committed to sharing and highlighting through its research, is the importance of managing the impact of natural disasters well before any phenomenon strikes.

The below articles show that preparation is key, through a strong collective effort. Keeping connected in the midst of disasters and then binding together in the aftermath are also crucial for communities to move forward.

Disney’s Moana reminds us though to go one step further and explore beyond these reefs by remembering to engage with these topics in the context of our Pacific people and islands.

Research articles

Pre-Disaster – Preparation is key

Who is responsible for preparing you for disaster?

The more people believe:

The responsibility lies with OTHERS


They personally lack the abilities to deal with these situations

=  They will be less likely to take responsibility for their own disaster preparation.


🥥 Corwin, KA., Brand, BD., Hubbard, ML., & Johnston, DM. (2017). Household preparedness motivation in lahar hazard zones: assessing the adoption of preparedness behaviors among laypeople and response professionals in communities downstream from Mount Baker and Glacier Peak (USA) volcanoes. Journal of Applied Volcanology. 6(1).


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Who is left behind in disasters?

🌴 Interesting Facts: Did you know that disaster first responders have been shown to judge which survivors they will save or leave behind based on their size and weight?

🥥Gray L. Social Determinants of Health, Disaster Vulnerability, Severe and Morbid Obesity in adults: Triple Jeopardy? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2017. 14, 1452.

AND that not much planning has been done in the disaster space to help reduce these unfair judgement calls?


🥥Gray L, MacDonald C. Morbid Obesity in Disasters: Bringing the “Conspicuously Invisible” into Focus. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2016. 13(10):1029.


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How does the hospitality sector believe their industry can build up resilience?

Looking at the different approaches hotels take to preparing for disasters, this research paper opens your eyes to the layers of planning that goes into evacuation plans, recovery processes and keeping hotels afloat.

🥥Brown, N. A., Rovins, J. E., Feldmann-Jensen, S., Orchiston, C., & Johnston, D. (2017). Exploring disaster resilience within the hotel sector: A systematic review of literature. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 22, 362-370.

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How has living in a constant state of uncertainty affected communities living in disaster zones?

Imagine everyday life in a disaster zone, with no assurance of safety or stability. Explore a day in the life of these communities and how a constant state of uncertainty affects they deal with disasters.

🥥Sword-Daniels, V., Eriksen, C., Hudson-Doyle, EE., Alaniz, R., Adler, C., Schenk, T., … Vallance, S. (2016). Embodied uncertainty: living with complexity and natural hazards. Journal of Risk Research. , 1-18.

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DISASTER MANAGEMENT: the Pacific today v. the Pacific before colonisation

It’s easy to forget that our ancestors were resilient and had been thriving well before European contact. Their ways of navigating disasters would soon change though as outside ‘support’ began to take hold.


🥥Campbell, J. (2010). An overview of natural hazard planning in the Pacific island region.

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Do you remember the 2009 Tsunami in Samoa, and Cyclone Gita which hit Tonga in 2018?

This article looks at the role Samoan culture played in the disaster response to the tsunami, how important it was to make culturally informed decisions and how social entrepreneurship continues to play a role in Tonga.

“As children of Samoa (whether born in Samoa or not, made little difference), all Samoans during the disaster heeded the call and responded collectively to the immediate needs. The advantage came in the ability as Samoans to understand local cultural protocols and thereby respond appropriately to the immediate needs”

“In our experience, during Cyclone Gita, the Tupu’anga Café/factory provided a place for refreshment (coffee and food), talanoa (organic and robust dialogue) and generations of new collaborations during disaster response and recovery. Joining together to find ways to support each other during a critical time of need, as children were not in school and workplaces had not returned to normal rhythms, was our own Tongan-indigenous ways of resilience”


🥥Alefaio-Tugia, S., Afeaki-Mafile’o, E., & Satele, P. (2019). Pacific-indigenous community village resilience in disasters. In Pacific Social Work: Navigating Practice, Policy and Research. (pp. 68 – 78).

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During – Keeping connected is vital

How do we make sure emergency IT systems work and are useful to us in disasters?

Information is crucial for decision-making in time of disasters. Therefore all information must be up to date and readily available. But the problem in most cases is that we only test these emergency systems during the events leaving the community vulnerable 

🥥Prasanna, R., & Huggins, TJ. (2016). Factors affecting the acceptance of information systems supporting emergency operations centres. Computers in Human Behavior. 57, 168-181

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How do we utilise indigenous stories as a disaster education tool?

Traditional knowledge is an important area for disaster management as many cultures already have stories that highlight the warning signs for natural disasters and show how to respond appropriately. See the way native Americans have grappled with this; maybe it reminds you of similar stories in your culture?

🥥Becker, J., Johnston, D., Lazrus, H., Crawford, G. & Nelson, D. (2008) Use of traditional knowledge in emergency management for tsunami hazard: A case study from Washington State, USA. Disaster Prevention and Management 17: 488-502.

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When do you decide it’s time to move in a tsunami?

🤷🏽🤷🏽‍♂️People have their own scale of measure. They tend to judge whether they move or not by rating the strength and duration of an earthquake, the safety of their house in its surroundings together with disaster information they may be receiving.

🥥Fraser, SA., Doyle, EEH., Wright, KC., Potter, SH., McClure, J., Johnston, DM., … Johal, S. (2016). Tsunami response behaviour during and following two local-source earthquakes in Wellington, New Zealand. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 16, 123-133

Having community leaders like our kiritata in Kaikoura

The local economy was hugely affected as well as routes in and out of Kaikoura but tangata whenua opened marae to house many residents post-quake and the Federated Farmers helped contact rural farmers.

🥥Stevenson, J., Becker, J., Cradock-Henry, N., Johal, S., Johnston, DM., Orchiston, C., … Seville, E. (2017). Economic and Social Reconnaissance: Kaikōura Earthquake 2016. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering. 50(2), 343-351

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How do people in different countries respond to earthquakes?

Whether in Japan or New Zealand, people are not passive ‘victims’ of disaster but are instead active responders, adapting to their changing surroundings. Maybe this is true of everyone?

🥥Jon, I., Lindell, MK., Prater, CS., Huang, SK., Wu, HC., Johnston, DM., … Lambie, E. (2016). Behavioral response in the immediate aftermath of shaking: Earthquakes in Christchurch and Wellington, New Zealand, and Hitachi, Japan. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 13(11)

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Binding together is crucial

Can we bounce forward instead of back from disaster?

Disaster literature usually talks about “bouncing back post-disaster”. This paper invites us instead to look at ‘bouncing forward’ towards creating new norms, linking resources of different sectors and empowering our children as distributors of disaster information.

🥥Ahangama, N., & Prasanna, R. (2015). Disaster Risk Management and Resilience: What Remains Untouched?. NSBM Journal of Management. 1(1), 52-72

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Ngai Tahu as kaitiaki of their rohe, post-Canterbury earthquake

Ngai Tahu already had existing connections — connections that operated outside of the ‘formal’ response sector that ensured that no resident was neglected.

🥥Kenney, C., & Phibbs, SR. (2015). A Māori love story: Community-led disaster management in response to the Ōtautahi (Christchurch) earthquakes as a framework for action. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 37(in press), 1-10

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A child’s way of coping after the 2011 Canterbury earthquake

Conversations with children found that they were less materialistic and focused more on their relationships with others, after surviving the earthquake and its aftershocks. Managing their emotions by putting a positive spin on their situations also helped them through. 

🥥Mooney, M., Tarrant, R., Paton, D., Johal, S., Johnston, D. (2017). Getting through: Children’s effective coping and adaptation in the context of the Canterbury, New Zealand, Earthquakes of 2010-2012. Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies. 21:19-30.

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🌴 Interesting Fact: Did you know that flooding can affect a persons wellbeing?

To most, rain is seen as ‘showers of blessings’. But what happens when rain becomes torrential downpour and is then accompanied by flooding? This paper shows how flooding can create unmanageable levels of anxiety and stress when it becomes constant.

🥥Johal, S., & Mounsey, Z. (2016). A research-based primer on the potential psychosocial impacts of flooding. Disaster Prevention and Management. 25(1), 104-110

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How do disasters affect the healthcare professionals who are heavily involved in the disaster response?

Most find it emotionally draining but feel reluctant to ask for professional help, because of their role as helpers to those in need.

🥥Johal, SS., & Mounsey, ZR. (2017). Recovering from disaster: Comparing the experiences of nurses and general practitioners after the Canterbury, New Zealand earthquake sequence 2010–2011. Nursing and Health Sciences. 19(1), 29-34

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