The Effects of Risk Perception and Adaptation on Health and Safety Interventions
WILDFIRE RISK: HUMAN PERCEPTIONS AND MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS, pp. 142-155, Wade E. Martin, Carol Raish, Brian Kent, eds., 2008
14 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2011
Date Written: 2008
Human habitation has made significant intrusions into forested lands, particularly in the western United States, but in other parts of the world as well. At the interface of the natural and built environments, known as the wildland-urban interface (WUI), communities and property owners are exposed to the potential ravages of wildland fire. Efforts to manage these threats have led to outreach programs in which communities and homeowners can participate to protect themselves and their property from loss. Likewise, in the United States, a national fuel management effort has sought to reduce the burden of volatile fuels on national forests and has as one of its motivations the reduction of fire-related risk in the WUI. Both outreach programs and the national fuel program can be viewed as offering the public options for self-protection, and members of the public living in the WUI engage in self-protection when they abide by the behavioral recommendations of outreach programs and provide support to fuel management efforts. Even casual observation reveals, however, that people who are exposed to the risks of wildland fire do not always abide by the recommendations and guidelines offered by fire management authorities to protect their homes and property by undertaking voluntary self-protective actions, such as providing a defensible space around dwellings and removing flammable materials from near buildings. Likewise, the public at large (including those exposed to the risks of wildland fire) is not consistently and uniformly supportive of hazardous fuel management programs that have as a prime objective the reduction of wildland fire risk. How can human behavior with respect to wildland fire risk be understood? What factors influence how those exposed to this risk translate that exposure into voluntary self-protective behaviors? From an agency perspective, these questions are central to determining the potential success or failure of interventions intended to yield a public response that is consistent with the risks as analyzed by the agency. From a public perspective, they provide opportunities for insights into the factors that motivate voluntary self-protection in general and shed light on how risk-reducing interventions influence the people they are intended to benefit.
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