Wildfire Response Operations: Intentional Fear Reduction through Social Media Updates

27 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2021

See all articles by Patricia Moravec

Patricia Moravec

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Operation & Decision Technologies; University of Texas at Austin - Red McCombs School of Business

Lu (Lucy) Yan

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Operation & Decision Technologies

Alfonso Pedraza Martinez

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Operation & Decision Technologies

Date Written: March 10, 2021

Abstract

The increase in extreme weather disasters over the past ten years, combined with the increased usage of social media in transmitting information during these disasters, has led to a growing need to understand the implications and best practices in utilizing social media to inform those at-risk. People panic during natural disasters, and a first method to enable rational response is to reduce fear and anxiety. We examine whether the information provided from an organization with an authoritative, reliable reputation through social media could help reduce public fear. Two studies form our research. First, through an exploratory study on wildfires in California, we find empirical evidence that increased operational transparency, i.e., informing the public about the operation activities, does negatively influence fear, such that fear decreases when information is posted by the premier authority on wildfire fighting. Second, drawing from operational transparency theory and theories on expertise and reputation, we conduct an online experiment to reveal underlying mechanisms that are effective in reducing fear. Our results suggest that highlighting expertise in social media posts reduces fear. This same information also increases user intention to heed warnings from this authority. Our findings provide actionable strategies to relief organizations. Of particular import is that this intervention requires little or no additional cost to organizations, making it a feasible solution for agencies that face budget shortages while they struggle to fight the consequences of climate change.

Keywords: Disaster, Operational Transparency, Climate change, Expertise, Social Media

Suggested Citation

Moravec, Patricia and Moravec, Patricia and Yan, Lu (Lucy) and Pedraza Martinez, Alfonso, Wildfire Response Operations: Intentional Fear Reduction through Social Media Updates (March 10, 2021). Kelley School of Business Research Paper No. 2021-05, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3806611 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3806611

Patricia Moravec (Contact Author)

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Operation & Decision Technologies ( email )

Business 670
1309 E. Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47401
United States

University of Texas at Austin - Red McCombs School of Business ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States

Lu (Lucy) Yan

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Operation & Decision Technologies ( email )

Department of Operations and Decision Technologies
1309 E. Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47401
United States

Alfonso Pedraza Martinez

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Operation & Decision Technologies ( email )

Business 670
1309 E. Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47401
United States

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