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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 15, issue 7 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 1577-1595, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-15-1577-2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 18 Jul 2015

Research article | 18 Jul 2015

Raising risk preparedness by flood risk communication

E. Maidl and M. Buchecker E. Maidl and M. Buchecker
  • Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Unit Economy and Social Sciences, Birmensdorf, Switzerland

Abstract. During the last decade, most European countries have produced hazard maps of natural hazards, but little is known about how to communicate these maps most efficiently to the public. In October 2011, Zurich's local authorities informed owners of buildings located in the urban flood hazard zone about potential flood damage, the probability of flood events and protection measures. The campaign was based on the assumptions that informing citizens increases their risk awareness and that citizens who are aware of risks are more likely to undertake actions to protect themselves and their property.

This study is intended as a contribution to better understand the factors that influence flood risk preparedness, with a special focus on the effects of such a one-way risk communication strategy. We conducted a standardized mail survey of 1500 property owners in the hazard zones in Zurich (response rate main survey: 34 %). The questionnaire included items to measure respondents' risk awareness, risk preparedness, flood experience, information-seeking behaviour, knowledge about flood risk, evaluation of the information material, risk acceptance, attachment to the property and trust in local authorities. Data about the type of property and socio-demographic variables were also collected.

Multivariate data analysis revealed that the average level of risk awareness and preparedness was low, but the results confirmed that the campaign had a statistically significant effect on the level of preparedness. The main influencing factors on the intention to prepare for a flood were the extent to which respondents evaluated the information material positively as well as their risk awareness. Respondents who had never taken any previous interest in floods were less likely to read the material. For future campaigns, we therefore recommend repeated communication that is tailored to the information needs of the target population.

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