Effective Risk and Warning Communication During Natural Hazards

Effective Risk and Warning Communication During Natural Hazards

About this project

This project, Effective risk and warning communication during natural hazards, commenced in 2014 and adopts a multi-hazards approach to examine the effectiveness of response and recovery communication in communities affected by natural hazards. It applies well-established risk communications and psychological theory of human behaviour to determine whether existing emergency messages could be revised to improve comprehension. The project is part of the Communication and warnings cluster.


Dr Paula Dootson, A/Prof Dominique Greer, Sophie A. Miller and Prof Vivienne Tippett, QUT


Australia’s emergency services agencies face immense challenges when responding to natural hazards. Evacuating people in affected regions requires time, influence, coordination and expertise.

Triggering large-scale public evacuations in time-critical situations of flood or bushfire is problematic, as there is always some uncertainty about whether, or how, a natural hazard will occur. Compounding this problem is that emergency services are not the only source of information that the public uses when considering taking action. There are also environmental cues, such as the weather outside, what is being said by the media, or what actions peers are taking, all of which can inhibit taking timely protective action.

When cues from different information sources are in conflict, such as when a flood evacuation warning has been issued but the weather conditions in the immediate area appears sunny and fine, it can cause uncertainty about the right action to take. Emergency service providers have suspected that these conflicting cues exist but this is the first research to offer empirical evidence of the impact of conflicting cues and how they influence public behaviour in Australia.

Results show that conflicting cues do exist and can affect information processing of risk perceptions, and therefore prevent appropriate protective action. The significant results were evenly spread across hazards, suggesting the problem is not unique to one hazard.

Download the Hazard Note at bnhcrc.com.au

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