Using Citizens' Subjective Experiences of Historic Disasters for Risk Communication - A Comparative Study between 5 Countries
Successful risk communication on natural disasters requires that information recipients understand the possible impact of a possible disaster, that they believe that they can actually become a victim of said disaster (personalization), and are convinced that recommended protective measures can be effective. One key challenge in this respect is the ""it doesn't happen to me""-phenomenon, which is often encountered in case of rare but potentially severe disasters. Therefore, communication approaches are needed which convince citizens that they are personally at risk and capable to mitigate (at least part of) this risk. One approach to achieve this goal is to include eyewitnesses of historic disasters in the risk communication process. Eyewitnesses can be very convincing because (a) they can provide evidence that a certain zone / place has actually been affected in the past, (b) highlight how the disaster impacted the lives of themselves, and their friends and family (psychologically, economically, etc.), and (c) provide information on the effectiveness of protective measures. The latter aspect is also very valuable for combating the fatalistic mindset observed in some risk cultures. In order to support this approach, the authors conducted and recorded semi-structured interviews with 65 disaster survivors from 5 different countries (Argentina, Chile, Germany, the Dominican Republic, and Poland), covering a wide range of disasters (flooding, storm surges, snow disasters, earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, forest fires, heat waves, tornados, and volcano eruptions). Interviews covered the whole disaster management cycle, from pre-disaster risk perception, disaster preparedness and alerting, to disaster impact, and recovery). We present key findings of these interviews, and discuss concepts how the acquired information can be used for risk communication with schools, extracurricular learning places, and the public in general. We will also present approaches how risk communicators can extract the most relevant sections of the interviews in an easy way, using a web-based risk communication platform, which is currently under development as part of the CITADINE project (Citizen Science and Nature-based Solutions for Improved Disaster Preparedness).