Articles | Volume 9, issue 6
24 Nov 2009
 | 24 Nov 2009

Taking the heterogeneity of citizens into account: flood risk communication in coastal cities – a case study of Bremen

T. Martens, H. Garrelts, H. Grunenberg, and H. Lange

Abstract. The likely manifestations of climate change like flood hazards are prominent topics in public communication. This can be shown by media analysis and questionnaire data. However, in the case of flood risks an information gap remains resulting in misinformed citizens who probably will not perform the necessary protective actions when an emergency occurs. This paper examines more closely a newly developed approach to flood risk communication that takes the heterogeneity of citizens into account and aims to close this gap. The heterogeneity is analysed on the meso level regarding differences in residential situation as well as on the micro level with respect to risk perception and protective actions. Using the city of Bremen as a case study, empirical data from n=831 respondents were used to identify Action Types representing different states of readiness for protective actions in view of flood risks. These subpopulations can be provided with specific information to meet their heterogeneous needs for risk communication. A prototype of a computer-based information system is described that can produce and pass on such tailored information. However, such an approach to risk communication has to be complemented by meso level analysis which takes the social diversity of subpopulations into account. Social vulnerability is the crucial concept for understanding the distribution of resources and capacities among different social groups. We therefore recommend putting forums and organisations into place that can mediate between the state and its citizens.