Best Practices in Risk and Crisis Communication: Implications for Natural Hazards Management

Natural Hazards, Volume 65, Number 1: 683-705, January 2013

25 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2014

See all articles by Toddi A. Steelman

Toddi A. Steelman

University of Saskatchewan

Sarah McCaffrey

United States Forest Service

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

As societies evolve, often the most appropriate response to the hazard must also evolve. However, such shifts in appropriate response to a hazard, whether at the individual or at the societal level, are rarely straightforward: Closing the gap between desired practice and current practice requires effective communication. Although there is a significant literature on how to encourage adaptation before an event and how to communicate during an event, there is less work tying the two together or on how to communicate shifts in larger scale societal response to a natural hazard. In this article, we bring together the best practices and theoretical literature from risk communication and crisis communication and empirical literature on wildfire communication to derive the key characteristics associated with best communication practices. We then use this framework on three case studies of wildfires in California, Montana, and Wyoming, each of which used a different strategy for managing the fire, to understand whether approaching communication more holistically can lead to more desired natural hazard management outcomes. Our working hypothesis was as follows: effective communication before and during a fire would be associated with acceptance of more flexible fire management strategies. The findings indicate how a type of desired management change (more flexible fire management) is associated with more effective communication practices before and during the event.

Keywords: Crisis communication  Risk communication  Wildfire  Disaster  Emergency management  Wildfire policy

Suggested Citation

Steelman, Toddi A. and McCaffrey, Sarah, Best Practices in Risk and Crisis Communication: Implications for Natural Hazards Management (2013). Natural Hazards, Volume 65, Number 1: 683-705, January 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2472159

Toddi A. Steelman (Contact Author)

University of Saskatchewan ( email )

School of Environment and Sustainability
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5A7
Canada

Sarah McCaffrey

United States Forest Service ( email )

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