A new paradigm for risk assessment is needed so that policy makers can frame mitigation plans in the face of natural disasters, according to research published in the International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management.
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 natural hazard 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 human perception of the risks associated with natural disasters. The framework includes risk perception 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.