Rethinking communication in risk interpretation and action

Shabana Khan*, Jyoti L. Mishra, Kuna hui Elaine Lin, Emma E.H. Doyle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Communication is fundamental to the transfer of information between individuals, agencies and organizations, and therefore, it is crucial to planning and decision-making particularly in cases of uncertainty and risk. This paper brings forth some critical aspects of communication that need to be acknowledged and considered while managing risks. Most of the previous studies and theories on natural hazards and disaster management have limited perspective on communication, and hence, its implication is limited to awareness, warnings and emergency response to some selected events. This paper exposes the role of communication as a moderator of not just risk interpretation and action but also various factors responsible for shaping overall response, such as individual decision-making under uncertainty, heuristics, past experiences, learning, trust, complexity, scale and the social context. It suggests that communication is a process that influences decision-making in multiple ways, and therefore, it plays a critical role in shaping local responses to various risks. It opens up the scope for using communication beyond its current use as a tool to manage emergency situations. An in-depth understanding of ongoing communication and its implications can help to plan risk management more effectively over time rather than as a short-term response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1709-1726
Number of pages18
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Sept 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • Experience
  • Heuristics
  • Risk
  • Trust
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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