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Community engagement and wildfire preparedness: The influence of community diversity


Paton, D and Buergelt, P, Community engagement and wildfire preparedness: The influence of community diversity, Wildfire and Community: Facilitating Preparedness and Resilience, Charles C Thomas Publisher, Ltd, Douglas Paton and Fantina Tedim (ed), Illinois, USA, pp. 241-259. ISBN 9780398088422 (2012) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2012 Charles C Thomas Publisher, Ltd

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The need to move from passive forms of risk communication (e.g., distributing information in pamphlets, media advertising) to more active approaches based on community engagement is a theme that permeates several contributions to this volume. Community engagement is used in this chapter to describe a bottom-up process that places responsibility for risk management planning and decision-making in public hands. It is fundamentally concerned with empowering people. As such, it becomes pertinent to consider engagement with regard to how formal risk management agencies interact with communities and their members and with regard to how members of these communities relate to one another. Chapter 14 discusses engagement from the perspective of how agencies interact with communities to facilitate effective information exchange and the development of shared, complementary perceptions of risk, responsibilities, and roles. This chapter discusses engagement from the perspective of intra-community relationships and how the quality of the interaction between community members influences preparedness. In particular, it discusses how the dynamics of interaction between family members and between neighbors who share comparable levels of wildfire risk can either facilitate or inhibit people taking action to prepare for wildfires. The foundation for the work discussed in this chapter was finding that a single variable, critical awareness (which assesses the frequency with people to discuss wildfire issues with others in their community and regularly think about hazard issues), was the strongest predictor not only of whether people decided to prepare, but also of their deciding not to prepare for earthquake hazards (Paton, Smith & Johnston, 2005). Finding a similar outcome in a subsequent study of wildfire preparedness (Paton, Kelly, Biirgelt & Doherty, 2006) prompted asking questions about how discussions about risk (captured by critical awareness) influenced how people made choices about confronting and addressing wildfire risk. To seek answers to this question, symbolic interactionism was selected from the various theoretical frameworks available in social research as the theoretical foundation most appropriate for such an investigation. The next section discusses symbolic interactionism and its implications for studying community engagement and preparedness.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Social and personality psychology
Research Field:Social psychology
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Natural hazards
Objective Field:Natural hazards not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Paton, D (Professor Douglas Paton)
ID Code:83087
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2013-02-28
Last Modified:2014-05-05
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