Communicating Risk and Warnings: An Integrated and Interdisciplinary Research Approach

Rodriguez, Havidan
Diaz, Walter
Aguirre, Benigno E.
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Disaster Research Center
Forecasting weather has become a very important scientific, economic, and political endeavor. With the development of new and enhanced technology, weather forecasting skills have improved significantly in the United States and internationally (NRC, 1999 and 2003). However, weather forecasting is a probabilistic science and many uncertainties still remain (see NSF, 2002). Indeed, despite significant improvements in our ability to predict the weather in the short- and long-term, recent experiences with natural hazards show that we continue to confront important challenges regarding lead times, false alarm rates, the accuracy and reliability of the information that is being communicated, and our ability to elicit the appropriate response from the public. As lead time in issuing severe weather warnings to threatened populations increases with improvements in weather monitoring, detection, and mass communication technology, the social and organizational features of integrated warning systems become paramount as key factors in saving lives and reducing damages to property. There is a need to continue to expand our knowledge regarding how people and organizations perceive and react to weather forecasts and warnings. This knowledge must be integrated with other technical information on weather forecasts already available so as to make weather information more useful to society. This paper explores the role of technology, the media, and interdisciplinary research in the communication of warnings, risk, and disaster information. We also focus on how researchers can communicate the importance, value, and contribution of hazard and disaster research to the end-user community, including emergency management organizations and the general public. We argue that significant changes need to occur in the existing scientific paradigms in order to incorporate the needs and problems that the end-user communities confront. Further, we provide a critical analysis on the importance and potential contributions of interdisciplinary research in the disaster field. We emphasize the need to develop an integrated research model to communicate risk and warnings, which takes into account the new and emerging technology, the role of the media, and the changing socio-economic and demographic characteristics of the general population.
disasters , warnings , vulnerability , interdisciplinary research , technology , risk , media