A disaster subculture develops when an area has been repeatedly hit by natural disasters and as a result, develops a "culture" of appropriate response. Essentially, though the area is in a state of "disaster" it applies lessons learned from previous and similar situations to respond quickly, appropriately, and with as much efficiency as possible.
A disaster subculture is also apparent when in addition to efficiency of emergency response there is an overall indication of a general community adaptation to such situations. This adaptation could be apparent in the general attitude of the community shown, for example, in a tendency to always be mentally and physically prepared, as well as responding in the aftermath of a disaster with a sense of emotional well-being. If a disaster subculture truly exists within a community, the present community members will pass it on to new community members, even during disaster-free periods.
The term “disaster subculture”, was introduced in the 1960s and 1970s, but has since not been given a great deal of attention. Even though it is still referred to in passing, the elements of disaster subculture are rarely discussed. After considering some examples of the phenomenon and its characteristics, concludes that disaster or emergency subculture does not seem to be an appropriate application of the wider sociological concept of subculture. It is not an alternative to the mainstream culture of a society but represents an aspect of that dominant culture that only manifests itself under particular circumstances. Proposes that, like other aspects of culture, it is learned by society and its members from past experience, personal as well as societal. It entails many features typical of society’s cultural heritage and often entails role and behaviour changes deemed appropriate in emergencies. Concludes that, in light of this discussion, it would seem reasonable to change the term subculture as applied to disaster behaviour to bring the name in line with generally accepted usage.