Communication strategies to address geohydrological risks: the POLARIS web initiative in Italy
Abstract. Floods and landslides are common phenomena that cause serious damage and pose a severe threat to the population of Italy. The social and economic impact of floods and landslides in Italy is severe, and strategies to target the mitigation of the effects of these phenomena are needed. In the last few years, the scientific community has started to use web technology to communicate information on geohydrological hazards and the associated risks. However, the communication is often targeted at technical experts. In the attempt to communicate relevant information on geohydrological hazards with potential human consequences to a broader audience, we designed the POpoLazione A RISchio (POLARIS) website. POLARIS publishes accurate information on geohydrological risk to the population of Italy, including periodic reports on landslide and flood risk, analyses of specific damaging events and blog posts on landslide and flood events. By monitoring the access to POLARIS in the 21-month period between January 2014 and October 2015, we found that access increased during particularly damaging geohydrological events and immediately after the website was advertised by press releases. POLARIS demonstrates that the scientific community can implement suitable communication strategies that address different societal audiences, exploiting the role of mass media and social media. The strategies can help multiple audiences understand how risks can be reduced through appropriate measures and behaviours, contributing to increasing the resilience of the population to geohydrological risk.