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Communicating and understanding risk in dynamic situations

Source(s):  Royal Geographical Society (RGS)

As part of the first Disaster Risk Management Professional Practice Group’s fireside chat series, Dr Tina Thomson CGeog spoke to four experts working in Disaster Risk Management.

Naomi Morris, Dr Carmen Solana, Brian Vinall CGeog, and Dr Kelvin Wong CGeog, from the humanitarian, academic and re/insurance sectors, discussed the main challenges of communicating and understanding risk, including how it is vital to consider your audience, how to deal with incomplete information, and the use of social media and miscommunication.

The panellists highlighted the speed at which disaster events can move with many variables changing at the same time, and the challenges this can bring for keeping on track with communication and creating useful outputs for different audiences. Naomi, Data Manager at the World Health Organisation, noted the challenge of turning data from a rapidly changing situation into something useful. She said: “How do you make that information useful for decision making? How do you make that information useful for actually informing a response?” Kelvin, Senior Product Manager at Risk Management Solutions, added: “Whether they are an insurer, a reinsurer, or a broker, our audiences have different needs and timescales. However, we have to create a single suite of products that accurately addresses all their varied needs in a timely manner.”

The session concluded with thoughts on best practice guidance. Carmen, Reader/Associate Professor in Risk Communication at University of Portsmouth, said: “Listen very carefully to the real motivation. What do people really want to know? What do they want to know more about? How is it possible to change? Is there any chance of changing what they might believe?”

Brian, Operations Manager at the Environment Agency, reminded the audience of the need for an expert to help interpret the data and convert it into information and “trusted guidance”. He advised caution on probabilistic forecasts and losing the public’s trust: “The problem we have is the crying wolf - we are only as good as our last forecast. What do we do if we do it eight times and nothing happens? That’s the biggest challenge.”

Read the full summary or watch a recording of the event.

Join the Disaster Risk Management Professional Practice Group for the second event in the fireside chat series Disaster Risk Pooling - enabling mutual cross border resilience taking place on Friday 23 April. Find out more.  

Find out more about our Disaster Risk Management Professional Practice Group.



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  • Publication date 22 Mar 2021

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