Risk is much more than a game

May 23, 2014

Wildfires and flooding affect many more people in the USA than earthquakes and landslide and yet the dread, the perceived risk, of the latter two is much greater than for those hazards that are more frequent and cause greater loss of life. Research published in the International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management, suggests that a new paradigm for risk assessment is needed so that mitigation plans in the face of natural disasters can be framed appropriately by policy makers and those in the emergency services.

Maura Knutson (nee Hurley) and Ross Corotis of the University of Colorado, Boulder, explain that earlier efforts for incorporating a sociological perspective and human risk perception into hazard-mitigation plans, commonly used equivalent dollar losses from events as the statistic by which to make decisions. Unfortunately, this fails to take into consideration how people view natural hazards, the team reports. Moreover, this can lead to a lack of public support and compliance with emergency plans when disaster strikes and lead to worse outcomes in all senses.

The researchers have therefore developed a framework that combines the usual factors for risk assessment, injuries, deaths and economic and collateral loss with the of the risks associated with . The framework includes by graphing natural hazards against "dread" and "familiarity". These two variables are well known to social psychologists as explaining the greatest variability in an individual's perception of risk, whether considering earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, avalanche, even volcanic activity. "Understanding how the public perceives the risk for various natural hazards can assist decision makers in developing and communicating policy decisions," the team says.

The higher the perceived risk of a natural disaster, the more people want to see that risk reduced and that means seeing their tax dollars spent on mitigation and preparation. For example, far more money is spent on reducing earthquake risk than on reducing the risk from wildfires, perhaps because the perceived risk is much greater, even though both will cause significant losses of life and property. The team's new framework for will act as an aid in decision making for these types of situations as well as perhaps even offering a way to give members of the public a clearer understanding of actual risk rather than perceived risk.

Explore further: How costly are natural hazards?

More information: Hurley, M.A. and Corotis, R.B. (2014) 'Perception of risk of natural hazards: a hazard mitigation plan framework', Int. J. Risk Assessment and Management, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp.188–211.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How costly are natural hazards?

Apr 28, 2014

Costs of natural hazards are at historically high levels, and show an increasing trend. Cost assessments of natural hazards often only cover direct costs and even these are assumed to be at least 50% higher ...

Asia's giants exposed to natural disasters - survey

Aug 11, 2011

The United States and Japan have the highest bills to pay from natural disasters, but Asia's emerging giants -- China, India and Indonesia -- are proportionately at greater risk from them, a survey said on ...

Outsmarting nature during disasters

Feb 17, 2014

The dramatic images of natural disasters in recent years, including hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the Tohoku, Japan, earthquake and tsunami, show that nature, not the people preparing for hazards, often wins the high-stakes ...

Getting the message across in natural disasters

Feb 12, 2014

Why do we see images of people being rescued from vehicles stuck in raging floodwaters despite repeated "If it's flooded, forget it" warnings from emergency services and media?

Recommended for you

World population likely to peak by 2070

2 minutes ago

World population will likely peak at around 9.4 billion around 2070 and then decline to around 9 billion by 2100, according to new population projections from IIASA researchers, published in a new book, World Population and ...

Bullying in schools is still prevalent, national report says

43 minutes ago

Despite a dramatic increase in public awareness and anti-bullying legislation nationwide, the prevalence of bullying is still one of the most pressing issues facing our nation's youth, according to a report by researchers ...

Study examines effects of credentialing, personalization

4 hours ago

Chris Gamrat, a doctoral student in learning, design and technology, recently had his study—completed alongside Heather Zimmerman, associate professor of education; Jaclyn Dudek, a doctoral student studying learning, design ...

Data indicate there is no immigration crisis

21 hours ago

Is there an "immigration crisis" on the U.S.-Mexico border? Not according to an examination of historical immigration data, according to a new paper from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

User comments : 0