Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2021-324
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2021-324

  15 Nov 2021

15 Nov 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Travel and terrain advice statements in public avalanche bulletins: A quantitative analysis of who uses this information, what makes it useful, and how it can be improved for users

Kathryn C. Fisher1, Pascal Haegeli1, and Patrick Mair2 Kathryn C. Fisher et al.
  • 1School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, V5A 1S6, Canada
  • 2Dept. Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, 02138, United States

Abstract. Recreationists are responsible for developing their own risk management plans for travelling in avalanche terrain. In order to provide guidance for recreationists on mitigating exposure to avalanche hazard, many avalanche warning services include explicit travel and terrain advice (TTA) statements in their daily avalanche bulletins where forecasters offer guidance about what specific terrain to avoid and what to favour under the existing hazard conditions. However, the use and effectiveness of this advice has never been tested to ensure it meets the needs of recreationists developing their risk management approach for backcountry winter travel.

We conducted an online survey in Canada and the United States to determine which user groups are paying attention to the TTA in avalanche bulletins, what makes these statements useful, and if modifications to the phrasing of the statements would improve their usefulness for users. Our analysis reveals that the core audience of the TTA is users with introductory level avalanche awareness training who integrate slope-scale terrain considerations into their avalanche safety decisions. Using a series of ordinal mixed effect models, we show that reducing the jargon used in the advice helped users with no or only introductory level avalanche awareness training understand the advice significantly better and providing additional context for the advice made the advice more useful for them. These results provide avalanche warning services with critical perspectives and recommendations for improving their TTA so that they can better support recreationists who are at earlier stages of developing their avalanche risk management approach and therefore need the support the most.

Kathryn C. Fisher et al.

Status: open (until 27 Dec 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Kathryn C. Fisher et al.

Data sets

Travel and terrain advice statements in public avalanche bulletins: A quantitative analysis of who uses this information, what makes it useful, and how it can be improved for users---Data and Code Haegeli, P., Fisher, K., and Mair, P. https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/ACZX5

Model code and software

Travel and terrain advice statements in public avalanche bulletins: A quantitative analysis of who uses this information, what makes it useful, and how it can be improved for users---Data and Code Haegeli, P., Fisher, K., and Mair, P. https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/ACZX5

Kathryn C. Fisher et al.

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Short summary
Avalanche bulletins include travel and terrain statements to provide recreationists with tangible guidance about how to apply the hazard information to terrain. We examined which bulletin users pay attention to these statements, what determines their usefulness, and how they could be improved. Our study shows that reducing jargon and adding simple explanations can significantly improve the usefulness of the statements for users with lower levels of avalanche awareness education.
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