Articles | Volume 6, issue 3
07 Jun 2006
07 Jun 2006

Integrating public risk perception into formal natural hazard risk assessment

Th. Plattner, T. Plapp, and B. Hebel

Abstract. An urgent need to take perception into account for risk assessment has been pointed out by relevant literature, its impact in terms of risk-related behaviour by individuals is obvious. This study represents an effort to overcome the broadly discussed question of whether risk perception is quantifiable or not by proposing a still simple but applicable methodology. A novel approach is elaborated to obtain a more accurate and comprehensive quantification of risk in comparison to present formal risk evaluation practice. A consideration of relevant factors enables a explicit quantification of individual risk perception and evaluation.

The model approach integrates the effective individual risk reff and a weighted mean of relevant perception affecting factors PAF. The relevant PAF cover voluntariness of risk-taking, individual reducibility of risk, knowledge and experience, endangerment, subjective damage rating and subjective recurrence frequency perception. The approach assigns an individual weight to each PAF to represent its impact magnitude. The quantification of these weights is target-group-dependent (e.g. experts, laypersons) and may be effected by psychometric methods.

The novel approach is subject to a plausibility check using data from an expert-workshop. A first model application is conducted by means of data of an empirical risk perception study in Western Germany to deduce PAF and weight quantification as well as to confirm and evaluate model applicbility and flexibility.

Main fields of application will be a quantification of risk perception by individual persons in a formal and technical way e.g. for the purpose of risk communication issues in illustrating differing perspectives of experts and non-experts. For decision making processes this model will have to be applied with caution, since it is by definition not designed to quantify risk acceptance or risk evaluation. The approach may well explain how risk perception differs, but not why it differs. The formal model generates only "snap shots" and considers neither the socio-cultural nor the historical context of risk perception, since it is a highly individualistic and non-contextual approach.