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Authors: Cerase, Andrea* 
Amato, Alessandro* 
Crescimbene, Massimo* 
La Longa, Federica* 
Title: Tsunami risk perception and understanding in southern Italy: implication for awareness and mitigation strategies
Issue Date: Sep-2018
Publisher: Mistral Service Anna Lo Presti Via Romagnosi, 28 98100 - Messina (Italy).
Keywords: Tsunami risk perception
Risk comunication
Abstract: In late 2017 and early 2018 the Tsunami Alert Centre of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (hereinafter CAT-INGV) has put in place a pilot research on tsunami risk perception and understanding, first aimed at improving both risk and scientific communication strategies and activities. The research arises from a decennial debate on risk communication failures, which started by an in-depth analysis of the L’Aquila earthquake wrong predictions issued during the 2009 seismic crisis and the following trial, that started by 2010 (Cocco et al. 2015; Amato, Cerase and Galadini, 2015). The notorious L’Aquila case shocked the community of geo-scientist across the world, thus demonstrating that “good intuitions” are very likely to turn into “undue assumptions” and then in “risk communication failures” or worse, in “communication disasters”. According to a well - established ethical principle, delivering untested risk communication should be considered as an unacceptable practice, as well as delivering an untested drug (Fischhoff & Morgan, 1993: 199), and any effective and sustainable risk communication strategy should be grounded on well-researched principles instead of “good” intuitions (Bostrom and Löfstedt, 2003). As a consequence, the lack of knowledge about the way complex phenomena such as tsunamis are perceived and understood by coastal population may result in serious misunderstandings and even in rising outrage towards both tsunami early warning and risk governance systems, implicating the risk for scientist to be targeted by harsh criticism and / or to have a serious reduction of the intended effectiveness of risk mitigation measures. Our pilot research foresees a sample of > 1000 interviews to be administered in two tsunami-prone regions of Southern Italy - Calabria and Apulia - and data collection is nowadays ongoing. Although research is not yet completed at the time we write, evidence from first 374 interviews provides an amount of relevant implications about the ways demands placed on risk reduction strategies both at local and regional level. Along with the investigation of risk awareness, risk cultures and tsunami mental models, the research enlists some questions aimed at investigating knowledge and preferences of respondents regarding Tsunami Early Warning systems operations, the media most frequently used to get information on a daily basis and the most appropriate channels to spread timely and effective early warning messages. Research was also intended to identify the most appropriate message and channels to effectively spread both risk communication and alert messages: as Science pointed out “warnings often fail to travel the ‘last mile’ to people living in areas, often remote, that are at risk of being swamped” (Science, 2014). Although Italy coastal setting and tsunami exposition could not be compared to Indonesia or Japan ones, overcoming the last mile still remains a big challenge for risk and crisis communication Despite commonplaces and stereotypes people appear being not so misinformed on tsunamis as one may suppose, and they also have high expectations regarding authorities, civil protection and research institutions capabilities to face tsunami risk and manage with early warning issues. In addition, some target categories (e.g. elder women) would like to be getting early warnings through "traditional" broadcast media and sirens rather than receiving information by SMS or smartphone apps, hence suggesting the need of modulating EWS from actual conditions of recipients (age, education, media channels availability and literacy etc.).
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