Perception of natural hazard risk and preparedness : a case study of St. Jean Baptiste, Manitoba

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Ogston, Deanna Jill
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The goals of this thesis research are to examine the perception of natural hazard risk and preparedness, and to determine which factors contribute to each of these. The respondents in this study consist of 49 household residents and 9 keypersons from the community of St. Jean Baptiste, located in the Red River Valley of Southern Manitoba. The household respondents were randomly chosen and the keypersons were purposefully selected based on the assumption that their roles in the community would lead them to have increased knowledge and experience with natural hazards. The specific objectives of this study are fourfold: 1) to examine the household and keyperson respondents' perceptions of different hazard types with an emphasis on natural hazards, and specifically flooding; 2) to examine the difference between perceived risk (household residents) and objective risk (keypersons) with regard to natural hazards; 3) to identify and analyze factors that determine perception of flood hazard risk; 4) to examine the relationship between disaster preparedness and risk perception, with respect to natural hazards. Through survey questionnaires, respondents were asked their experiences of and opinions about natural hazards, with a particular emphasis on the 1997 Red River Flood. In addition, interviews were conducted with two long-standing residents for a more in-depth investigation of the subject. The data was analyzed using the Likert scaling method as well as descriptive techniques for non-Likert type questions. Computational techniques, such as the calculation of mode and mean, and diagrammatic respresentation, such as bar charts of frequency distributions, were also employed in the analysis. A review of the published literature on natural hazards and disasters, and on the specified aspects related to the objectives of this study, such as perception of hazard risk, disaster preparedness, and the differences between objective and perceived risk, was undertaken. The study objectives are fulfilled through the testing of three stated hypotheses which are as follows: 1) that levels of risk perception and preparedness are related to a variety of variables including; recent experience with past events, length of time lived in the community, education, and age of the individual; 2) that preparedness for a hazard event, specifically flooding, is influenced by perception of that event, 3) that the difference between objective and perceived risk is not as marked as sources in the literature have stated. The findings of the study conclude that several identifiable variables are determinants of the perception of flood hazard risk and disaster preparedness. These include past experience with hazard events, the length of time that an individual has lived in the community, the levels of education and the age of the individual. For example, those household respondents who had higher levels of education were more likely to adopt preparatory measures than those with lower levels. In addition, hazard preparedness is related to perception of flood risk. This was clearly evident as respondents who assigned in 1997 Red River Flood a higher severity rating were more likely to undertake preparatory measures than those who perceived the Flood as less severe. Contrary to expectation, a notable difference does exist between objective and perceived risk, as was suggested in the literature. As a whole, the keypersons' responses often differed from those of...