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Public information seeking, place-based risk messaging and wildfire preparedness in southern California

Velez, Anne-Lise K., Diaz, John M., Wall, Tamara U.
The International journal of wildland fire 2017 v.26 no.6 pp. 469-477
geographical variation, information dissemination, information sources, models, people, radio, risk perception, rural areas, television, wildfires, wildland-urban interface, California
Southern California is a challenging environment for managing and adapting to wildland–urban interface fires. Previous research shows risk perception and information seeking are related and that public information dissemination influences locally specific risk perception and preparedness actions. Here, we examine relationships between residents’ wildfire knowledge and experience, readiness actions and media choice to determine how to integrate preparedness information and the recently developed Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index into public information. Based on frequencies, means tests and correlations, we find television most frequently used for both daily news and wildfire information and that most people intend to seek information from the same sources in future fires. Wildfire knowledge, experience and past preparedness actions influence the number of sources from which respondents report seeking information. We note significant geographic differences in information sources used before and during wildfire, with higher percentages of residents in more rural areas relying on television, radio, Reverse 911, and friends and family for information during a wildfire. Findings support previous research results indicating sources considered trustworthy are not always considered the most up-to-date. Our findings support other empirical research recommending a multimedia, two-way communication model for event-based and readiness information supplemented with one-way sources like television.