Advertisement

Natural Hazards

, Volume 65, Issue 1, pp 683–705 | Cite as

Best practices in risk and crisis communication: Implications for natural hazards management

  • Toddi A. Steelman
  • Sarah McCaffrey
Original Paper

Abstract

As societies evolve, often the most appropriate response to the hazard must also evolve. However, such shifts in appropriate response to a hazard, whether at the individual or at the societal level, are rarely straightforward: Closing the gap between desired practice and current practice requires effective communication. Although there is a significant literature on how to encourage adaptation before an event and how to communicate during an event, there is less work tying the two together or on how to communicate shifts in larger scale societal response to a natural hazard. In this article, we bring together the best practices and theoretical literature from risk communication and crisis communication and empirical literature on wildfire communication to derive the key characteristics associated with best communication practices. We then use this framework on three case studies of wildfires in California, Montana, and Wyoming, each of which used a different strategy for managing the fire, to understand whether approaching communication more holistically can lead to more desired natural hazard management outcomes. Our working hypothesis was as follows: effective communication before and during a fire would be associated with acceptance of more flexible fire management strategies. The findings indicate how a type of desired management change (more flexible fire management) is associated with more effective communication practices before and during the event.

Keywords

Crisis communication Risk communication Wildfire Disaster Emergency management Wildfire policy 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was funded by the Joint Fire Science Program grant number 8-1-2 4-01 and the USFS Northern Research Station. We would like to thank all the interviewees who participated in the research project and our research assistants Chris Ketchie and Kathryn Reis. Two anonymous reviewers also provided very constructive insight that helped improve the article greatly.

References

  1. Arvai JL, Gregory R, McDaniels T (2001) Testing a structured decision approach: value-focused thinking for deliberative risk communication. Risk Anal 21:1065–1076CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beck U (1992) Risk society: towards a new modernity. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  3. Beebe G, Omi P (1993) Wildland burning: the perception of risk. J Forest 91(9):19–24Google Scholar
  4. Bier VM (2000) On the state of the art: risk communication to the public. Reliab Eng Syst Safe 71:139–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blanchard B, Ryan R (2007) Managing the wildland-urban interface in the Northeast: perceptions of fire risk and hazard reduction strategies. North J Appl Forest 24(3):203–208Google Scholar
  6. Bostrom A, Atman CJ, Fischhoff B, Morgan M (1994) Evaluating risk communications: completing and correcting mental models of hazardous process, part II. Risk Anal 14:789–798CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chess C (2001) Organizational theory and the stages of risk communication. Risk Anal 21(1):179–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohn PJ, Carroll MS, Kumagai Y (2006) Evacuation behavior during wildfires: results of three case studies. West J Appl Forest 21:39–48Google Scholar
  9. Cortner HJ, Zwolinski MJ, Carpenter EH, Taylor JG (1984) Public support for fire-management policies. J Forest 82(6):359–360Google Scholar
  10. Cortner HJ, Zwolinski MJ, Carpenter EH, Taylor JG (1990) Public support for fire management policies: what the public expects. J Forest 82(6):359–360Google Scholar
  11. Daniel TC, Carroll MS, Moseley C (2007) People, fire, and forests: a synthesis of wildfire social Science. OSU Press, CorvalisGoogle Scholar
  12. Dombeck MP, Williams JE, Wood CA (2004) Wildfire policy and public lands: integrating scientific understanding with social concerns across landscapes. Conserv Biol 18(4):883–889CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Earle TC, Siegrist M, Gutscher H (2007) Trust, risk perception and the TCC model of cooperation. In: Siegrist M, Earle TC, Gutscher H (eds) Trust in cooperative risk management: uncertainty and scepticism in the public mind. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  14. Eriksen C, Prior T (2011) The art of learning: wildfire, amenity migration and local environmental knowledge. Int J Wildland Fire 20:612–624CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fessenden-Raden J, Fitchen JM, Heath JS (1987) Providing risk information in communities: factors influencing what is heard and accepted. Sci Technol Human Values 12:94–101Google Scholar
  16. Fischhoff B (1995) Risk perception and communication unplugged: twenty years of process. Risk Anal 15(2):137–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gardner PD, Cortner HJ (1988) An assessment of homeowner’s perceptions of wildland fire hazards: a case study from Southern California. In Whitehead E (ed) Arid lands—today and tomorrow. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, pp 643–657Google Scholar
  18. Gregory R (2000) Using stakeholder values to make smarter environmental decisions. Environment 42:34–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Heath RL, Bradshaw J, Lee J (2002) Community relationship building: local leadership in the risk communication infrastructure. J Pub Relat Res 14:317–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Heath RL, Jaesub L, Lan N (2009) Crisis and risk approaches to emergency management planning and communication: the role of similarity and sensitivity. J Pub Relat Res 2(2):123–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jakes PJ, Nelson KC, Enzler SA, Burns S, Chang AS, Sturtevant V, Williams DR, Bujak A, Brummel RF, Grayzeck-Souter S, Staychock E (2011) Community wildfire protection planning: is the healthy forests restoration act’s vagueness genius? Int J Wildland Fire 20:350–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kasperson RE, Stallen PJM (1991) Risk communication: the evolution of attempts. In: Kasperson RE, Stallen JM (eds) Communicating risks to the public: international perspectives. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Knowles MS, Holton EF III, Swanson RS (1998) The adult learner, 5th edn. Gulf, Houston, TXGoogle Scholar
  24. Kumagai Y, Carroll MS, Cohn PJ (2004) Coping with interface wildfire as a human event: lessons from the disaster/hazards literature. J Forest 102(6):28–32Google Scholar
  25. LaChapelle PR, McCool SF (2012) The role of trust in community wildfire protection planning. Soc Nat Resourc 25(4):321–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Maharik M, Fishhoff B (1992) The risks of using nuclear energy sources in space: some lay activists’ perception. Risk Anal 12:383–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Martin WE, Martin IM, Kent B (2009) The role of risk perceptions in the risk mitigation process: the case of wildfire in high risk communities. J Environ Manage 91:489–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McCaffrey SM (2004) Fighting fire with education: what is the best way to reach out to homeowners? J Forest 102(5):12–19Google Scholar
  29. McCaffrey S (ed) (2006a) The public and wildland fire management: social science findings for managers. Gen Tech Rep GTR-NRS-01. USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Newtown Square, PA, 202 pGoogle Scholar
  30. McCaffrey S (2006b) Prescribed fire: what influences public approval? In: Dickinson MB (ed) Fire in eastern oak forests: delivering science to land managers, proceedings of a conference. Gen Tech Rep NRS-P-1. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Newtown Square, PA 304 pGoogle Scholar
  31. McCaffrey S (2007) Understanding public perspectives of wildfire risk. In Martin W, Raish C, Kent B (eds) Wildfire risk: human perceptions and management implications. Resources for the Future, Washington DC, pp 11–22Google Scholar
  32. McCaffrey SM, Olsen CC (2012) Research perspectives on the public and fire management: a synthesis of current social science on eight essential questions. Gen Tech Rep NRS-104. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Newtown Square, PA, 40 pGoogle Scholar
  33. McCaffrey S, Toman E, Stidham M, Shindler B (2012) Social science related to wildfire management: an overview of recent findings and future research needs. Int J Wildland Fire (online July 12)Google Scholar
  34. McCool SF, Burchfield J, Williams DR, Carroll MS (2006) An event-based approach for examining the effects of wildland fire decisions on communities. Environ Manage 37(4):437–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Merriam SB, Caffarella RS, Baumgartner LM (2007) Learning in adulthood, 3rd edn. Wiley, Hoboken, NJ, p 533Google Scholar
  36. Miles MB, Huberman AM (1994) Qualitative data analysis: an expanded sourcebook. Sage Publications, Inc, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  37. Mileti D (1994) Human adjustment to the risk of environmental extremes. In: Cutter SL (ed) Environmental risks and hazards. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, pp 178–194Google Scholar
  38. Morgan MG, Fischhoff B, Bostrom A, Atman CJ (2002) Risk communication: a mental models approach. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  39. National Interagency Fire Center (2009) Guidance for implementation of federal wildland fire management Policy. February 13, 2009. Online available from World Wide Web: http://www.nifc.gov/policies/guidance/GIFWFMP.pdf
  40. National Research Council (1996) Understanding risk: informing decision in a democratic society. National Academy Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  41. Neil RB (1989) Community attitudes to natural hazard insurance: what are the salient issues? In: Oliver J, Britton NR (eds) Natural hazards and reinsurance. Lilyfield, Regents Park, NSW, pp 107–121Google Scholar
  42. Olsen CS, Shindler BA (2010) Trust, acceptance, and citizen-agency interactions after large fires: influences on planning processes. Int J Wildland Fire 19:137–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Palenchar MJ, Heath RL (2002) Another part of the risk communication model: analysis of communication processes and message content. J Pub Relat Res 14(2):127–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Palttala PC, Boana RL, Vos M (2012) Communication gaps in disaster management: perceptions by experts from governmental and non-governmental organizations. J Conting Crisis Manag 20(1):2–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Parkinson TM, Force JE, Smith JK (2003) Hand-on learning: its effectiveness in teaching the public about wildland fire. J Forest 101(7):21–26Google Scholar
  46. Paveglio T, Carroll MS, Absher JD, Norton T (2009) Just blowing smoke? Residents’ social construction of communication about wildfire. Environ Commun 3(1):76–94Google Scholar
  47. Plough A, Krimsky S (1987) The emergence of risk communication studies: social and political context. Sci Technol Human Values 12 (¾): 4–10Google Scholar
  48. Quadrennial Fire Review (2009) January, 2009. http://www.nifc.gov/QFR/QFR2009Final.pdf
  49. Reynolds B, Seeger M (2005) Crisis and emergency risk communication as an integrative model. J Health Commun Int Perspect 10(1):43–55Google Scholar
  50. Rowan KE (1991) Goals, obstacles, and strategies in risk communication: a problem-solving approach to improving communication about risks. J Appl Commun Res 19:300–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Seeger MW (2006) Best practices in crisis communication: an expert panel process. J Appl Commun Res 34(3):232–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Seeger MW, Sellnow TW, Ulmer RR (2003) Communication and organizational crisis. Praeger Publishers, Westport, CTGoogle Scholar
  53. Sellnow TL, Ulmer RR, Seeger MW, Littlefield R (2009) Effective risk communication: a message centered approach. Springer Science and Business Media, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  54. Sharp E, Thwaites R, Millar J, Curtis A (2009) Factors affecting community-agency trust in bushfire management: community member perspectives. Institute for Land, Water and Society Report No. 51, Charles Stuart University, Albury, NSW, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  55. Shindler B, Toman E, McCaffrey S (2009) Public perspectives of fire, fuels, and the Forest Service in the Great Lakes region: a survey of citizen-agency communication and trust. Int J Wildl Fire 18:157–164Google Scholar
  56. Slovic P (1986) Informing and educating the public about risk. Risk Anal 6:403–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sutton J, Palen L, Shklovski I (2008) Backchannels on the front lines: emergent uses of social media in the 2007 Southern California wildfires. In: Fiedrich F, Van de Walle B (eds) ‘5th international ISCRA conference proceedings, Washington, DC, USA, pp 624–631Google Scholar
  58. Taylor JG, Gillette SC, Hodgson RW, Downing JL, Burns MR, Chavez DJ, Hogan JT (2007) Informing the network: improving communication with interface communities during wildfire. Human Ecol Rev 14(2):198–211Google Scholar
  59. Tierney KJ (1993) Socio-economic aspects of hazard mitigation. Disaster Research Center, University of DelawareGoogle Scholar
  60. Toman E, Shindler B, Brunson M (2006) Fire and fuel management communication strategies: citizen evaluations of agency outreach activities. Soc Nat Resour 19:321–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Toman E, Stidham M, Shindler B, McCaffrey S (2011) Reducing fuels in the wildland-urban interface: community perceptions of agency fuels treatments. Int J Wildland Fire 20(3):340–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Vaske JJ, Absher JD, Bright AD (2007) Salient value similarity, social trust and attitudes toward wildland fire management strategies. Human Ecol Rev 14(2):223–232Google Scholar
  63. Whyte A (1986) From hazard perception to human ecology. In: Kates RW, Burton I (eds) Geography, resources, and environment: themes from the work of Gilbert F. White. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, pp 240–271Google Scholar
  64. Williams DE, Olaniran BA (1998) Expanding the crisis planning function: introducing elements of risk communication to crisis communication practice. Pub Relat Rev 24(3):387–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Winter GJ, Vogt C, Fried JS (2002) Fuel treatments at the wildland-urban interface: common concerns in diverse regions. J Forest 100(1):15–21Google Scholar
  66. Winter G, Vogt C, McCaffrey S (2006) Residents warming up to fuels management: homeowners’ acceptance of wildfire and fuels management in the wildland-urban interface. In: McCaffrey S (ed) The public and wildland fire management: social science findings for managers. Gen Tech Rep NRS -1. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Northern Research Station, Newtown Square, PA, pp 19–32Google Scholar
  67. Witte K (1995) Generating effective risk messages: how scary should your risk communication be? Commun Yearb 18:229–254Google Scholar
  68. Zaksek M, Arvai JL (2004) Toward improved communication about wildland fire: mental models research to identify information needs for natural resource management. Risk Anal 24:6CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environment and SustainabilityUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.US Forest Service Northern Research StationEvanstonUSA

Personalised recommendations