What's in a name? “Smong” and the sustaining of risk communication and DRR behaviours as evocation fades

Stephen Sutten, Douglas Paton, Petra Buergelt, Ella Mailianda , Saut Sagala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


There are familiar patterns in the ways individuals and society process disaster recovery and future disaster risk reduction (DRR) needs as the memory of a disaster fades. Affect is strongest immediately after the event. However, typically, for most people the memory of, and the negative emotions associated with a disaster event, increasingly fade with time, even while the actual memory of the event remains. While the fading of memories and emotions represents a mechanism for maintaining psychological wellbeing, forgetting disasters may have negative implications for DRR. As time passes, the decrease in the intensity of feelings is matched by a decrease in intensity of efforts to prepare for future disasters. This association is reflected in the intensity of reconstruction activity as well as the degree to which society focusses effort on continuing DRR programs. This process has been defied in Pulau Simeulue in Aceh Province. This island is well recognized as an exemplar of community-based risk communication and DRR activity as a result of managing maintaining the collective memory of ‘smong’ - the local Simeulue word for the earthquake/tsunami phenomenon - for 100 years. Using the findings from a grounded theory study, this paper examines the importance of having a specific word for natural hazard to successful DRR and what might be learned from the example of Simeulue.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101408
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


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