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Session Overview
MON7.1: Risk communication
Time: Monday, 27/Aug/2012: 6:40pm - 8:10pm
Session Chair: Marita VOS, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Session Chair: Chowdhury EMDAD HAQUE, University of Manitoba
Location: Flüela



Does risk communication raise property owners’ preparedness to implement safety measures against flood damage?

Matthias BUCHECKER, Elisabeth MAIDL

Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Switzerland

In the previous decade, in most European countries risk maps on natural hazards have been elaborated but there is so far little experience on how to efficiently communicate these maps to the public. Recently, the public authorities of Zurich informed the owners of buildings located within the hazard zone about flood risks. They received official letters containing information on potential danger and safety measures. In the cover letter they were also encouraged to acquire information about the particular risks for their property using an online accessible risk map. This campaign was based on the expectation that informing citizens increases their risk awareness and that citizens aware of risks are more likely to undertake actions to protect themselves and their property. There is, however, little empirical evidence that these expected outcomes can be achieved by written forms of risk communication. With this project we aim to find out to which degree such a campaign can shape property owners risk perception and risk behaviour. In collaboration with public authorities we conducted a survey among 1500 owners in the hazard zones in Zurich. The standardized questionnaire comprises in particular items measuring respondents’ evaluation of the information material, the time they spent on studying it, dimensions of their risk perception, trust in authorities, level of responsibility, preparedness to implement safety measures, and other items. The results revealed that most respondents spent only little time on the flood risk information. It, however confirmed the motivating effect of the campaign on those who studied the material. Multivariate data analysis also provided insights on other factors that influence citizens’ preparedness to implement safety measures. Further the role of experience, trust in authorities and sense of responsibility are elaborated. The results will be discussed and implications for practice and future research will be drawn.

Risk communication and evacuation decision making: the case of residents in debris flow vulnerable area in Taiwan

Jie-Ying WU

Ming-Chuan University, Taiwan, Republic of China

The climate change will increase the possibility of the extreme rainfall, which will lead the debris flow vulnerable village exposed to very high risk. In term of governmental perceptive, the entire debris flow vulnerable areas having the same warning system in Taiwan. However, the results of the evacuation performance are very different. The performance of the warning system heavily depends on the risk communication among the stakeholders (including residents, local governments and experts—etc.) in the system as well as the characteristics of them. Therefore, it is important to understand the detail operation of risk communication among stakeholders, what are the key factors influencing residents’ hazard preparedness works and evacuation decision making. This study conducted 385 questionnaires to the residents living in the debris flow vulnerable in the Liouguei district, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This study finds that the residents have little knowledge on the hazard preparedness works; even though the community had severe losses two years ago and the governments have implemented several drills. Environmental cue and other behavior responses are the major factors influencing evacuation decision making. The disaster warning source from the public sector has high degree of trustworthy. 78.5% of residents will reconfirm the warning message through other sources. The past disaster experience is also the key factor influencing evacuation decision making. The households having directly past disaster losses are more familiar with the debris flow related information and consider the neighborhood leader is the key person during the evacuation period.

The Greater Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011: a case study in the communication of science for disaster risk reduction

Vivienne BRYNER1,2, Richard NORRIS2, Jean FLEMING1

1The Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand; 2Geology Department, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

According to ideals enshrined in the UNISDR Hyogo Framework for Action, communication of disaster risk reduction (DRR) should be participatory and democratised as well as scientifically robust. Under this paradigm best-practice communication of science for DRR requires, amongst other things, contextualised information from a variety of perspectives that acknowledges uncertainties. This research explored how well DRR sciences are communicated against the aforementioned communicative ideals, whilst also measuring communicated content against current scholarly understandings from DRR-related research. Over 6000 earthquake-related articles presented in online print media in New Zealand (NZ) over the last three years, and >80 hours of earthquake-related NZ television news were analysed. Analysis revealed that what is being communicated has significant gaps in communication compared with scientific understandings of the causes of earthquake-related disaster, and possibilities in seismic risk reduction.

Mass media reports of disaster are hazard- and consequence-focussed with only limited mention of how individual and community vulnerabilities might be reduced. ‘Expert’ scientists presented in NZ’s mass media are drawn from a limited range of disciplines so that audiences may have difficulty gaining broader perspectives in DRR. Where risk is discussed the approach is probabilistic rather than on avoiding or mitigating exposure. Presentation of the detail of risk assessment and risk management (reduction) is rare. Lastly, attributions of responsibility for reducing exposure to seismic risk either focus on individual survival actions and a few household seismic adjustments, or implicitly suggest legislative and regulatory decision-making relating to risk reduction options be left to government and experts.

Information from a wider range of sciences, that supports innovation and adaptation as well as more possibilities in preparation, avoidance and mitigation, is needed. A less probabilistic approach by journalists and scientist sources seems warranted, as does a greater emphasis on concepts of self- and community-efficacy in DRR.

Evaluating disaster preparedness in West Sumatra

Eila Sinikka MURPHY

Jyväskylä University, Finland, Republic of

As part of the Disaster Preparedness project, a crisis communication evaluation was carried out in Padang Pariaman regency of West Sumatra, in November of 2010. Two groups of key informants were interviewed about the disaster preparedness of the community; one group from the district government level, and the second group from the help organization (NGO) level. Both groups had been working in disaster-preparedness and the recovery. This paper reviews the results of the evaluation. The goal of the interviews was to determine what the citizens of Padang Pariaman have learnt about disaster preparedness during the past year, and what they still need to learn. The key informants also evaluated the use of various media in contributing to disaster preparedness education. The results indicate that both government officials and NGOs think the community has learned disaster preparedness via media, including tv, radio, leaflets and billboards. The topics covered construction, evacuation routes, and actions for the earthquake risks. Especially the Radio Republic Indonesia (RRI) has been recognized by officials as disaster preparedness educator. The NGOs approved of the Journalistic Network for Disaster Preparedness that was established to promote awareness campaigns. Local officials seem to appreciate all the disaster preparedness efforts organized by the NGOs. They see them as good partners for local governments to cooperate with DRR matters for the future. Padang Pariaman is well off in simulations, but both officials and NGOs agree that the government needs to carry out additional simulations in other districts. To further develop the disaster preparedness efforts of the local government to implement disaster-preparedness programs should be based on public-private partnerships with media and NGOs as well as other interested stakeholders.

The impact on the public of preventive information about risks

Sandrine GLATRON

CNRS (National center for scientific research), France

The European legislation assumes that preventive information campaigns should contribute to reduce the potential damages of disasters and to make the risks acceptable for the population. Information about risks and preventive measures to be adopted is one of the key elements in the management of hazard-prone areas, aiming at reducing the potential effects of disasters among population. Therefore, the impact of this information needs to be assessed regularly. Though the question is not new, we still have to worry about this impact as it is not proved that preventive information is able to be of some help whenever a disaster occurs. Thus, several natural and technological examples in France pointed out information is not well known or implemented by the public, especially after a catastrophic event. Several surveys were carried out in Mulhouse (Alsace), Sicily (Italy) and La Réunion (France d’outremer) during the last decade; confirming many scientific outcomes, they brought out that preventive information is insufficiently and inappropriately diffused, badly reminded, and that public authorities in charge of the diffusion are neither trustworthy nor legitimate. This situation becomes a real problem in a society which tends to render individuals responsible for reducing their exposure to risk. But it should and could probably be solved by several pro-active measures like persuasive and binding communication.

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