Articles | Volume 13, issue 11
Research article
27 Nov 2013
Research article |  | 27 Nov 2013

The role of risk perception in making flood risk management more effective

M. Buchecker, G. Salvini, G. Di Baldassarre, E. Semenzin, E. Maidl, and A. Marcomini

Abstract. Over the last few decades, Europe has suffered from a number of severe flood events and, as a result, there has been a growing interest in probing alternative approaches to managing flood risk via prevention measures. A literature review reveals that, although in the last decades risk evaluation has been recognized as key element of risk management, and risk assessment methodologies (including risk analysis and evaluation) have been improved by including social, economic, cultural, historical and political conditions, the theoretical schemes are not yet applied in practice. One main reason for this shortcoming is that risk perception literature is mainly of universal and theoretical nature and cannot provide the necessary details to implement a comprehensive risk evaluation. This paper therefore aims to explore a procedure that allows the inclusion of stakeholders' perceptions of prevention measures in risk assessment. It proposes to adopt methods of risk communication (both one-way and two-way communication) in risk assessment with the final aim of making flood risk management more effective. The proposed procedure not only focuses on the effect of discursive risk communication on risk perception, and on achieving a shared assessment of the prevention alternatives, but also considers the effects of the communication process on perceived uncertainties, accepted risk levels, and trust in the managing institutions.

The effectiveness of this combined procedure has been studied and illustrated using the example of the participatory flood prevention assessment process on the Sihl River in Zurich, Switzerland. The main findings of the case study suggest that the proposed procedure performed well, but that it needs some adaptations for it to be applicable in different contexts and to allow a (semi-) quantitative estimation of risk perception to be used as an indicator of adaptive capacity.