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James R. Meldrum, Patricia A. Champ, Hannah Brenkert-Smith, Travis Warziniack, Christopher M. Barth, Lilia C. Falk
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Communication & Education
Risk assessment
Wildland Urban Interface

NRFSN number: 13447
Record updated:

Research across a variety of risk domains finds that the risk perceptions of professionals and the public differ. Such risk perception gaps occur if professionals and the public understand individual risk factors differently or if they aggregate risk factors into overall risk differently. The nature of such divergences, whether based on objective inaccuracies or on differing perspectives, is important to understand. However, evidence of risk perception gaps typically pertains to general, overall risk levels; evidence of and details about mismatches between the specific level of risk faced by individuals and their perceptions of that risk is less available. We examine these issues with a paired data set of professional and resident assessments of parcel-level wildfire risk for private property in a wildland-urban interface community located in western Colorado, United States. We find evidence of a gap between the parcel-level risk assessments of a wildfire professional and numerous measures of residents' risk assessments. Overall risk ratings diverge for the majority of properties, as do judgments about many specific property attributes and about the relative contribution of these attributes to a property's overall level of risk. However, overall risk gaps are not well explained by many factors commonly found to relate to risk perceptions. Understanding the nature of these risk perception gaps can facilitate improved communication by wildfire professionals about how risks can be mitigated on private lands. These results also speak to the general nature of individual-level risk perception.


Meldrum, James R.; Champ, Patricia A.; Brenkert-Smith, Hannah; Warziniack, Travis; Barth, Christopher M.; Falk, Lilia C. 2015. Understanding gaps between the risk perceptions of wildland-urban interface (WUI) residents and wildfire professionals. Risk Analysis. doi: 10.1111/risa.12370.

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