Tool RISK COMMUNICATION
Why communicate risks?
Communication of risks and thereby raising awareness are important precautionary components of an integrated heavy rain risk management. Municipalities need to disseminate and explain information from hazard analysis and risk assessment to those at risk. Also, possibilities and limits of measures to reduce heavy rain risks need to be communicated. Without communicating the risks of heavy rain, those affected cannot understand them sufficiently, cannot act accordingly or implement risk reduction measures. Some may not be aware of them at all!
What needs to be communicated?
Risk communication measures serve to raise awareness of various issues. You must therefore define the information you want to communicate precisely. The combination of the content with good practice examples and success stories will motivate affected persons and institutions to reduce the risks and provide incentives. On the one hand, the various target groups should be made aware of possible hazards and understand the risks. It must be clear where problems exist and who is affected. On the other hand, it must also be shown which actions can be taken to minimise the risk and which risks cannot be avoided.
Whom to talk to?
Heavy rain risks affect many people and institutions from various disciplines. Therefore it is essential to tailor risk communication activities to different target groups. Think about who you want to reach with your messages and choose a target group-specific format and target group-specific information medium. Target groups can be, for example: private persons, house owners, employees in administration (not familiar with the subject), companies, politicians, farmers, forestries. Remember that these groups are affected differently, for example old persons or small children are more vulnerable to heavy rain risks than others.
Which measures are suitable?
We distinguish four activities in which general approaches to risk communication and public relations work are described. Different activities should be combined in a risk communication strategy or for an information campaign. But be aware that you need to further specify them in your context. As examples and for your inspiration see also the activities implemented in RAINMAN pilot actions below.
Visualisation is an effective way of pointing out dangers to affected persons and institutions.
Maps indicate the specific hazard and risk on site and could be provided on the municipality’s online portal for example. Easily understandable instructions and information for the interpretation of the maps are necessary. A contact person should be named for questions and explanations. Knowledge of the existing hazards and risks helps in selecting preventive measures and supports the correct behaviour in the event of a heavy rain event. If a hazard and risk map is not available other measures should be taken into account, for example contacting affected persons and institutions.
In addition, there are various other ways of drawing attention to the specific risk situation on site, for example by installing billboards at locations that have been damaged during past heavy rain events or where measures have already been taken.
Find more information in the tool “ASSESSMENT and MAPPING”.
Easily understandable and accessible information is important to raise flood risk awareness and support the implementation of private risk reduction measures.
Information can be made available as reading materials, for example in print products (handbooks, guidelines, brochures, flyers) or on online plattforms. The products should be differentiated according to content and tailored to a specific target group, e.g. citizens, homeowners, companies, forestry, agriculture, etc. A large number of high quality information materials have already been developed by various actors. The use of existing products should therefore be checked.
Easy access to the information needs to be guaranteed, i.e. on a central platform or place. Additionally, public relation and media work support the distribution of information.
To increase the knowledge on heavy rain risk management different forms of interactive events and participation formats can be organised, depending on the specific target group.
The objectives of interactive events for specific target groups can range from one-way information transfer over mutual exchange of information to actual participation, in which the target groups are actively involved in decision processes. The format of the events can be exhibitions, information events, workshops, training sessions, or individual consulting services, all with the objective to pass on the necessary information, develop new competences and enhance better informed decision making to reduce heavy rain risks.
An event or a participatory process could focus on, for example, the explanation of mapping activites and results, the identification of possible risk reduction measures and the explanation of best practice examples. In addition, events also serve as networking and learning from each other. The integration of heavy rain risk specific contents into existing and well-known events or formats or the combination with other topics is possible.
Interactive events and participation formats vary from several hundred participants in major events to single participants in individual consulting services.
Risk communication activities in education can help to increase awareness and knowledge of risks in the future. The younger generations are particularly important for the future development of dealing with heavy rain risks. In addition, they are already exposed to the dangers today.
Recommendations for successful risk communication
Where to find more information and inspiration?
For the design of successful risk communication in heavy rain risk management, there are already some guidelines and handouts in various countries that can support and inspire you in designing your risk communication.
- Federal Ministry Republic of Austria – Sustainability and Tourism (2018): Hochwasserrisikomanagement in Österreich. Ziele – Maßnahmen – Beispiele [pdf; 7.0 MB] – A brochure on instruments and responsibilities of flood risk management in Austria with practical examples. In chapter 4, general recommendations on the topic of risk communication are given.
- Prutsch, A., Glas, N., Grothmann, T., Wirth, V., Dreiseitl-Wanschura, B., Gartlacher, S., Lorenz, F. & Gerlich, W. (2014): Klimawandel findet statt. Anpassung ist nötig. Ein Leitfaden zur erfolgreichen Kommunikation. Federal Environment Agency, Vienna [pdf; 8.9 MB] – General guidelines for communicating climate change adaptation and its approach, contents, target groups and possible instruments with examples also beyond Austria.
- Federal Ministry Republic of Austria – Agriculture, Regions and Tourism: Website with information and awareness raising on flood hazards (in German language only)
"In the RAINMAN project, we set one of our priorities in the development of measures for risk communication on materials for the education sector. The RAINMAN project partners have developed various materials for teachers and students that my team and I have already tested in practice. From our point of view, it is important that the younger generation is also aware of the risks posed by heavy rainfall and learns elements of risk management at an early stage. In this way we help to improve the handling of heavy rain risks in the future and to sustainably change the awareness of the population." (Dr.Eng. Mariusz Adynkiewicz-Piragas, Institute of Meteorology and Water Management, National Research Institute, Poland)
"In the course of RAINMAN's project work and the implementation of our pilot action, we have realised how important it is to get in touch with local people and institutions. It became clear that many house owners have flood experiences and have already implemented measures to reduce heavy rain risks, but also that there is still much to be done. We wanted to motivate further house owners to take action. Therefore, we initiated for instance an e-participation offer for house owners where they could share their flood experiences with us. However, we had to realise that it is not easy to encourage people participating in online knowledge exchange formats." (Dr. Sabine Scharfe, Saxon State Office for Environment, Agriculture and Geology, Germany)