Towards a community-based volcanic hazard-risk communication approach
Jorge Romero M., Francisca Vergara-Pinto
Volcanic risk is frequently assessed from a hazard-based approach, and usually considers material vulnerability and exposure of the communities living with volcanoes. The products consist of risk zoning, protocols and strategies for emergencies. Despite great efforts have been carried out to incorporate the human dimensions in volcanic risk communication; it is still premature to consider that the locals and their own perceptions and knowledge are totally involved in the process.
In this regard, literature shows that the common approach to risk communication, based solely on scientific knowledge, is often hazard-focused and one-way. Instead, less attention is paid to local realities and the specific gaps prioritized by the people at risk. A people-centered risk communication approach, instead, may not only cover gaps of knowledge about hazards, but the need to build permanent spaces for dialogical communication, as well as bridges between stakeholders that usually find each other only during volcanic crises. We suggest that the inclusion of the local ecological knowledge (LEK) and the participation of local inhabitants in risk communication increase the possibilities of acquiring knowledge by them to fill their uncertainties and making it part of everyday life. In this context, we consider LEK in relation to the knowledge gaps on volcanism within community, which can be complemented by valuable specific information provided by volcanologists, to reduce uncertainty.
We suggest this approach is fundamental to assess volcanic risk reduction, supporting decision making at the local scale during and after eruptions, and in all the levels – e.g. family, community, authorities-, especially at rural human settlements with deep territorial identities based on the volcanic landscape.