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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 16, issue 5 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1175-1188, 2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 23 May 2016

Research article | 23 May 2016

Smartphone applications for communicating avalanche risk information – a study on how they are developed and evaluated by their providers

Marie K. M. Charrière and Thom A. Bogaard Marie K. M. Charrière and Thom A. Bogaard
  • Water Resources Section, Delft University of Technology, Stevinweg 1, 2628CN Delft, the Netherlands

Abstract. Every year, people are victims of avalanches. It is commonly assumed that one way to decrease those losses is to inform about danger levels. This paper presents a study on current practices in the development and evaluation of smartphones applications that are dedicated to avalanche risk communication. The analysis based on semi-structured interviews with developers of six smartphone apps highlights the context of their development, how choices of content and visualization were made and how their effectiveness is evaluated by the developers themselves. It appears that all these communicators agree on the message to disseminate and the general representation concepts (i.e., use of the international avalanche danger scale and of a tiered approach). However, the specific ways this message is presented (e.g., maps, icons) is not uniform. Moreover, only simple evaluation processes (e.g., usage monitoring) are conducted by the developers. However, they are well aware that further efforts need to be made in order to thoroughly analyze the effectiveness of the smartphone apps in terms of their real impact (e.g., increase in awareness or change in behavior). This work also highlighted that the smartphone applications are in transition from being one-way communication tools to becoming two-way communication platforms, with the possibility for non-experts users to report on snow and avalanche conditions. This paper indicates challenges that avalanche risk communication is facing, although it is indisputably the most advanced and standardized practice compared to communication tools for other natural hazards. In addition to being relevant for the avalanche risk communication community, this research is therefore of interest for scientists and practitioners working on risk communication related to natural hazards.

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Short summary
This paper present the results of interviews that were conducted with the developers of apps dedicated to avalanche risk communication. The study investigates the context of their development to determine how choices of content and visualization were made as well as how their effectiveness is evaluated. Results show that consensus is achieved in terms of message but not in terms of visualization. However, progress remains in terms of effectiveness evaluation.
This paper present the results of interviews that were conducted with the developers of apps...