Perception of natural hazards among the general public

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Gough, J.; Gregory, J.G.; Loveridge, A. 1995 Perception of natural hazards among the general public . Lower Hutt: Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences science report 95/20 ii, 20 p.

Abstract: The aim of this project was to collect in-depth accounts of attitudes to natural hazards and preparation for survival, clean up and recovery. Accounts of this nature are lacking in the international literature, but are essential to focus educational programmes. Assessments of international literature on natural hazards perception and risk analysis, and information provided by national and local civil defence organisations were used to prepare an outline of topics to be discussed in focus groups. Thirteen focus groups were conducted in Wellington and Kaiapoi. These sites represented different sized towns facing different types of hazard. The groups were selected to provide participants from a range of backgrounds by age, ethnic group, gender, and socio-economic status. Results indicate that people were aware of a range of different natural hazards and were able to assess the most significant according to the areas where they lived and worked. Although natural hazards were of concern, participants felt that man-made hazards had greater emotional impact. Most people had undertaken some preparation. The degree of preparedness was linked to socio-economic status. People generally accepted that the primary responsibility for preparation and coping with natural disasters lay with family and then with the local community. There were ethnic differences in types of community networks members were linked into and their ability to support victims of disaster. Reasons for not preparing included the cost and difficulty of coping with the on-going nature of the task. There was also a value dimension related to a reluctance to confront the issue and a desire to focus on the concrete, immediate, and positive aspects of their lives. Useful suggestions from participants included using existing face-to-face networks such as Neighbourhood Watch, and giving people a sense of control by presenting manageable scenarios and suggesting practical tasks they can perform. The relevance to educational programmes is discussed in the report. (auth)