J10.1 Risk Communication Across Cultures

Tuesday, 25 January 2011: 11:00 AM
618-620 (Washington State Convention Center)
Vankita Brown, NOAA/NWS, Silver Spring, MD

America's coastal cities are more vulnerable to hurricanes and severe storms than ever. These increasingly diverse coastal population centers require equally complex public health solutions. Individuals living in these coastal communities are vulnerable not just because of geographical location but also because of social and cultural influences. Effectively communicating risk to these populations requires considerable research into the socio-cultural variables that informs or even guides behavior.

This NOAA National Weather Service sponsored research project began in 2009 as an exploratory investigation to examine the impacts of culture on weather-related risk behavior and how best to motivate appropriate behavior by diverse and vulnerable populations. Twenty-two in-depth interviews were conducted with members of the New Orleans, Louisiana community who lived through the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. The researcher transcribed and assessed emerging themes from the interviews. The findings yielded from this initial research uncovered cultural, social, and psychological factors that affect evacuation decision-making in the threat of a hurricane. Socio-cultural and psycho-social factors that emerged were participant's strong attachment to their homes, their sense of faith in God, past experiences, importance of social networks, and regional cultural temperament. These variables and findings were then used to develop the second phase of the project, which will take place in the Fall of 2010. The researcher will use a survey instrument that measures socio-cultural context, communication components, place attachment, and fatalism. Additionally, focus groups will assess how social influences inform protective action behaviors. The results of this study have potential implications for various weather industry partners, meteorologists, emergency management personnel, and risk communicators on the ways to enhance risk communication to, and perception among vulnerable publics.

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