Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 73, Issue 9, pp 1209–1227 | Cite as

Different communities, different perspectives: issues affecting residents’ response to a volcanic eruption in southern Iceland

  • Deanne K. Bird
  • Guðrún Gísladóttir
  • Dale Dominey-Howes
Research Article


This research investigates residents’ knowledge and perception of the Katla volcano and emergency response procedures in all rural and urban communities located in the eastern and southern Katla hazard zones. Using a questionnaire survey conducted in 2008, we demonstrate that there is an apparent difference between rural and urban communities' knowledge and perceptions, and identify some of the issues influencing residents’ perspectives and behaviour. All rural and most urban residents have an accurate knowledge of Katla, the proposed warning system and emergency response plan. Urban residents perceived the emergency response plan to be appropriate. In comparison, rural residents did not perceive the emergency response plan as appropriate. Rural residents stated that they would personally assess the situation before deciding on a course of action independent of the proposed plan. Livelihood connections and inherited knowledge affect rural residents’ ability and willingness to comply with the recommended procedures. Factors such as hazard knowledge, sense of community and attachment to place indicate that rural residents are more resilient to volcanic hazards. Based on our findings we recommend that emergency management agencies consider issues such as personal responsibility, neighbourliness and community involvement and cooperation, to develop and implement more appropriate volcanic risk mitigation strategies. In light of the recent Eyjafjallajökull eruptions, we provide a brief discussion on the 2010 emergency response. Although our findings are Iceland-specific, our recommendations may be applied internationally to other volcanic and disaster-prone regions.


Attachment to place Local knowledge Trust Preparedness Katla Eyjafjallajökull 



All participants are graciously thanked for their willingness to participate in this investigation. Invaluable advice was provided by Peter Petocz and Gunnar Stefánsson on statistical methods and Pat Bazeley on the applications of NVivo. Thanks are also due to Damian Gore, Benjamin Gillespie, Shane Cronin and Douglas Paton for proof-reading earlier drafts of this manuscript. We would also like to thank Ilan Kelman and Jan Lindsay for constructive and insightful reviews and Hugo Delgado Granados and James White for careful editorial handling. This work was financially supported by Rannís—the Icelandic Centre for Research (Research Grant #081260008), Vegagerðin (The Icelandic Road Administration), the Department of Environment and Geography and the International Office at Macquarie University.

Supplementary material

445_2011_464_MOESM1_ESM.doc (57 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 57 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deanne K. Bird
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guðrún Gísladóttir
    • 1
  • Dale Dominey-Howes
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Geography & Tourism, Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, Earth Science InstituteUniversity of IcelandReykjavíkIceland
  2. 2.Risk Frontiers, Department of Environment & Geography, Faculty of ScienceMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia
  3. 3.Australian Tsunami Research Centre and Natural Hazards Research Laboratory, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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