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Emergency Preparedness Safety Climate and Other Factors Associated With Mental Health Outcomes Among World Trade Center Disaster Evacuees

  • Martin F. Sherman (a1), Robyn R. Gershon (a2) (a3), Halley E. M. Riley (a4), Qi Zhi (a2), Lori A. Magda (a5) and Mark Peyrot (a1)...



We examined psychological outcomes in a sample of participants who evacuated from the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2011. This study aimed to identify risk factors for psychological injury that might be amenable to change, thereby reducing adverse impacts associated with emergency high-rise evacuation.


We used data from a cross-sectional survey conducted 2 years after the attacks to classify 789 evacuees into 3 self-reported psychological outcome categories: long-term psychological disorder diagnosed by a physician, short-term psychological disorder and/or memory problems, and no known psychological disorder.


After nonmodifiable risk factors were controlled for, diagnosed psychological disorder was more likely for evacuees who reported lower “emergency preparedness safety climate” scores, more evacuation challenges (during exit from the towers), and evacuation-related physical injuries. Other variables associated with increased risk of psychological disorder outcome included gender (female), lower levels of education, preexisting physical disability, preexisting psychological disorder, greater distance to final exit, and more information sources during egress.


Improving the “emergency preparedness safety climate” of high-rise business occupancies and reducing the number of egress challenges are potential strategies for reducing the risk of adverse psychological outcomes of high-rise evacuations. Focused safety training for individuals with physical disabilities is also warranted. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:326–336)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to Robyn R. Gershon, 3333 California Street, Suite 280, San Francisco, CA 94118 (E-mail:


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