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Eastern Washington resident perceptions of natural hazard risks : 2012 survey results

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    Orchiston, C.; Johnston, D.M.; McBride, S.K.; Johnson, V.; Becker, J.S. 2013 Eastern Washington resident perceptions of natural hazard risks : 2012 survey results. Lower Hutt, N.Z.: GNS Science. GNS Science report 2013/11 27 p.

    Abstract: Eastern Washington, United States is the focus of a collaborative research project involving Washington State Emergency Management Department and GNS Science. The project aims to investigate resident perceptions of natural hazard risks in a region that is vulnerable to a range of natural hazards, including earthquakes and volcanic activity. Washington State lies close to an active and complex plate boundary known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone. While the most significant seismic risk exists in the western part of the state, shallow crustal faulting in eastern Washington has generated earthquakes of moderate magnitude in recent history, with the potential for more in future. In addition to earthquake hazards, the Cascade Range contains a number of active volcanoes, including Mt St Helens, which erupted in 1980. Eastern Washington is also affected by wildfires, storms and high winds on a perennial basis. This report builds on the results of data collection in 2010/2011 investigating resident perceptions of natural hazard risk in eastern Washington (Johnston et al. 2012). Data was collected in September 2010 using a structured survey at five County and State fairs, and through follow-up focus groups in October 2011. In September 2012 four additional fairground surveys were completed using the same survey tool. This report presents the results of the 2012 surveys, and compares it with the survey data collected in 2010. The 2012 results highlight that while awareness and understanding of the likelihood of future earthquakes is relatively high, this has not translated into residents taking steps to get more prepared, with only a small proportion having adopted mitigation measures other than owning a flashlight, fire extinguisher or first aid kit. Levels of community involvement and engagement with local activities were relatively low, however, this could simply reflect a lack of opportunity for participation. Communities could focus on providing a greater range of community events and opportunities, and in doing so develop and enhance local resilience and preparedness for natural hazard events. A significant contribution of this research is in developing a benchmark of resident perceptions of natural hazard risks in the region, as well as assessing current levels of active preparedness. Recent USGS field investigations using Lidar and other technologies have enhanced current knowledge of seismic hazard, and an update to the USGS six-yearly National Seismic Hazard Assessment is due for release into the public domain in 2013. It is likely that some parts of the region will have an increased risk compared to the last assessment. USGS will engage with local emergency management officials and the public to communicate the risk to communities in eastern Washington. This research will provide a very useful ‘pre-communication’ measure of public awareness and perceptions, and it will enable future studies to investigate the effectiveness of the USGS publi c communication programs on resident awareness. (auth)

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