how do people behave when they receive risk information?
what is the role of social networking in communicating disaster risk information?
how do technological innovations in natural hazard risk assessment help reduce human suffering? and
how can technological innovations help communities use risk information and become more resilient?
Ana Lucia Hill spoke of the importance of education in the pre-disaster phase. She advocated educating people and providing them with tools to enable them to make “wise decisions”. In the pre-disaster phase, it is also important to put into place early warning systems. One of the early warning systems that Mexico employs is a message (SMS) to phones with a distinct tone announcing the arrival of the message. The alert tone notifies the public that the message is important, comes from an authoritative source, and that it should be read immediately. During a disaster, Ms. Hill said it's important to make sure that there is a plan in place so disasters are handled appropriately, and emergency situations are eliminated, even if 21st century technology is not working. Ms. Hill said that tools like Twitter (including twitpics) can be useful, but she issued a caution, as well: the quantity of information transmitted via social networking sites may not be of high quality or reliability or include enough information to be actionable. After disasters, it is important to utilize the technology that is available to the community, such as cell phones and televisions, to gather information, dispense simple instructions on how individuals can help themselves, or how to call for help.
Ms. Hill ended with an illustration of how the act of communicating information – even if it’s done effectively – is not the same as understanding how that information is received, nor is it the same as understanding what people will do with the information upon receipt. A story that Ms. Hill shared was about recent flooding in southern Mexico that forced people to evacuate their homes. The evacuation instructions were specific in instructing evacuees to “take only necessary items.” One of the evacuees brought her washing machine to the shelter. When questioned about this as a “necessary item,” she replied that she washes clothes for a living, and that she would need her washing machine for work, no matter where she is. While this response (and others) to the instructions was not an expected outcome (many of the men brought their large-screen televisions), Ms. Hill noted that this woman knew what defined her in society, and was clear on what she wanted to protect as it would enable her to recover from the disaster. Ms. Hill also noted that most of the poor and vulnerable, while they have more important priorities than worrying about risk management on a daily basis, do have cell phones and are very good at listening when faced with imminent risk, and will likely do exactly what is asked of them.
Frantz Verella spoke of rebuilding a more resilient Haiti and shared many stories with audience members. During the pre-disaster phase, Mr. Verella said that it is important for people to believe a disaster is imminent, “if you believe, you will do what is needed [to protect yourself before a disaster occurs]”. He spoke of the failures of common control systems like telephones during disasters, when roads are blocked, communication systems are down, and power is out. Mr. Verella told how during the recent earthquake in