The science between tsunami science and evacuation decisions

Monday, 15 December 2014
Jamie McCaughey1,2, Patra Rina Dewi3, Ibnu Mundzir4, Rizanna Rosemary5, Lely Safrina6, Patrick Daly1 and Anthony Patt2, (1)Earth Observatory of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, (2)ETH Zurich, Human-Environment Systems Group, Department of Environmental Systems Science, Zurich, Switzerland, (3)KOGAMI (Tsunami Alert Community), Padang, Indonesia, (4)International Centre for Aceh and Indian Ocean Studies, Banda Aceh, Indonesia, (5)Syiah Kuala University, Communication Department, Faculty of Social and Political Science, Banda Aceh, Indonesia, (6)Syiah Kuala University, Psychology Department, Banda Aceh, Indonesia
The science of rare natural hazards provides us an opportunity that our ancestors lacked: the chance to learn what hazards we could face, and how reliable any particular precursor may or may not be. Connecting hazard science to societal learning is far too complex a challenge for our intuitions to be of much use. Instead, we need to use evidence - the science of science communication - to identify what actually works. As practitioners, we first worked with NGOs and local governments in coastal Sumatran communities to develop tsunami evacuation guidance that is consistent with the science of tsunamis and suitable for the communities that face the threat. This work identified important practical questions that social science can address: how do people decide whether to evacuate, and how do hazard knowledge and experience influence this? How acceptable are false alarms? What modes of communicating tsunami science and its uncertainties may lead to greater willingness to evacuate, and greater acceptance of false alarms? Which parts of the vast body of research on communication, risk perception, and decision-making might be significant in these contexts? We are beginning research at the household level that will address these questions and feed back into our continuing science-communication practice.