Updated: 19-Mar-2003 NATO Speeches

Round Table

20 March 2003

Risk Perception and Risk Communication

Mr. Roger Steen, Senior Adviser,
Directorate for Civil Defence and Emergency Planning, Norway

We make ourselves more and more vulnerable, through national policies and local planning, and we are often unaware of the consequences of our actions. Our modern life depends on, open roads, bridges, tunnels, electricity, safe food and water supply, and the information technology. Only good planning and hard work in the field of security, safety and preparedness gives us the opportunity to build a more resilient society.

To trigger activities in the field of safety, security and preparedness it is necessary for us to be aware of all the risks and vulnerabilities and to have the correct perception and understanding of these threats and weaknesses in the modern society. To create this understanding (perception) it is important for us to have a good risk communication. Risk communication is a complex, multidisciplinary, multidimensional, and evolving process of increasing importance in protecting the community. Risk communication benefits include improved decision making, both individually and collectively.

The area of risk communication research has its roots in the need of a better understanding of what kind of information people actually require and want in circumstances of threat, hazard, crisis or catastrophe. Risk communication also deal with the prevention, and the aftermath, of such events. Risk communication is linked to risk perception research in that it is necessary to know how, when and why people perceive risk in a certain way, and to the area of crisis communication, which deals with ongoing crises as well as follow-up evaluations.

The aim of this presentation is also to make some reflections about how risk perception may influence the management of risks in society. Perception of risk is normally filtered through both cultural factors and social relations, and will influence how we give priorities in managing risks.

The presentation will outline following: Risk in an Interconnected Society, Risk Awareness, Assessment of Risk and Vulnerability, Risk Perception, Risk Communication, and finally outline some of the main challenges ahead of us.

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