Inform citizens about the risk they may face and about possible actions and measures, they can take to reduce vulnerability and better prepare themselves


Disasters can be substantially reduced if people are well informed about the risk they may face and the measures they can take to reduce their vulnerability and better prepare themselves and if they provide disaster managers with information on what is happening on the ground. The media, alongside disaster management authorities plays an important role in ensuring that this occurs. A combination of appropriate media tools and means should be employed when delivering information to citizens about emergency situations and recommending behaviours that can mitigate the negative consequences of disaster situations. To increase their efficiency the design of all communication and management strategies should take into account both cognitive and affective mechanisms of processing risk information, and the need to be responsive to different socio-cultural circumstances.

Applicable to:

Stakeholders: Policy Makers, Disaster Managers

Disaster Phases: Prevention, Preparedness, Response

Types of Actors Concerned: Non-active citizens, Active citizens, National civil protection bodies, Healthcare and emergency services, Media, NGOs, Red Cross

Hazards: Natural hazards, Man-made non-intentional hazards or emergency situations, Man-made intentional hazards

Cultural Map Entries:

Communication patterns between the different actors of disaster response

Specialised assistance tools developed by the German Red Cross for people with special needs

Preparedness actions for all vulnerable groups during heat waves

Comunitat Valenciana' is a public service in the Valencian region that receives emergency calls in Valencian, Spanish, English, French and German

Language-independent communication in case of disaster

Cultural differences in visual communication and perception

Text messages, the most efficient and resilient mode of communication after a disaster

Media's role and influence on public perceptions in the social construction of risks

Topics that generate irresponsible media alarmism

Blame: an important aspect in media's coverage of risk

Personal experience guides behaviour more than received information

People tolerate natural disasters better than man-made ones and media has an important influence on this

The media's influence on individuals who are directly involved in disaster events

Mass media as an important tool in addressing risks to the public/society

People from post-communist countries rely on regional and national authorities for both risk communication and prevention measures

Communicating risks and individual preparedness

Communication strategy and risk perception

Impact of visual aids on risk perception

Links between trust in authorities and disaster behaviours

Lack of knowledge of disaster guidelines and procedures found in a study with Bucharest residents

Low levels of awareness of appropriate behaviour in a disaster found in a study with Bucharest residents

Considerable interest in disaster preparedness information found in a study with Bucharest residents

High incidence of expectations of a disaster found in a study with Bucharest citizens

Information gaps between authorities and citizens on how to prepare for a disaster

High levels of interest in disaster preparedness information amongst citizens in Malta

Information as a tool for reducing gendered differences in risk perception

Citizens' first response in a disaster would be to call family and friends

Use of social media not the preferred immediate response in an emergency amongst Maltese citizens

Social media usage for ongoing communication with family and friends during a disaster

Likelihood of using social media to submit information to authorities during a disaster

Importance of safety instructions in non-native languages

Positive experiences of first responder action in the recovery phase of a disaster outweighs negative ones

Real time use of social media during disasters

Citizen perception of effectiveness of authorities in natural vs man-made disasters

Perceived trustworthiness of media in disaster situations

Varying levels of trust in public institutions vs private media channels

Information channels to be used to communicate information about disaster preparedness

Perceptions of individual preparedness for disaster amongst citizens in Frankfurt

Interest in receiving information about disaster preparedness amongst citizens in Frankfurt

Differing reactions to the reporting of local vs international first responder activity

The importance of conveying disaster-related messages in at least three languages

Adapting disaster-related messages to specific groups

The importance of communicating directly to encourage appropriate response behaviours amongst certain communities

Importance of considering communication channels used by the elderly, who may not be active on social media

Differences in relationships with authority figures across cultural groups

Illicit lifestyle' communities and communication in disaster situations

Traditional vs modern communication channels

Age and profession-related differences in the use of social media for disaster communication messages

Different communication channels to be used for different social and cultural groups

Citizens and the culture of inclusive policy-making

The importance of restoring social networks among citizens to enable effective response efforts

"Home alone" scenario for children during a disaster less likely in Italy

Technology-use is often country dependent

Citizens' expectations during a disaster is often related to their trust in authorities

Trust issues in risk communication

Trust and communication

Lack of trust hampering risk-adapted behaviour

Cultural adaptations in communication

Social capital can help building trust

Local identities as a source of coping mechanisms

The socio-cultural construction of disasters

Introduction to disaster and risk communication between citizens and authorities

Example for the effectiveness of grassroot campaign in risk communication

The "crisis and risk communication model" by Reynolds & Seeger

Example of ineffective communication by public institutions in a disaster setting

Lack of trust in authorities

The potential of self-help / open source initiatives and citizen alert systems in disaster communication

Cultural clashes between disaster managers and local communities example

The impact of the media on citizens' attitudes and behaviours

The role of new media in disaster communication

Opportunities during the disaster recovery phase

NGO roles in disaster management

The complementary nature of NGOs in disaster management

NGO roles in the preparedness phase

Media impact on citizens

The role of the media during a disaster

Interdependency between different communication channels

The role of traditional media

Roles of traditional and social media in disasters

Practical approaches in communication for empowerment

Findings from the C4E Initiative

C4E Initiative results

The leadership Advance Online approach

Risk communication

Popular knowledge definition

Media roles in empowering citizens in the Czech Republic

Communication strategies of the Territorial Coordination Master Plan of the Province of Potenza

Implementation activities of the Territorial Coordination Master Plan of the Province of Potenza

Intensified information-seeking as a response to a disaster event

Information categories concerning short term disaster recovery

Information dissemination as a two-way process

Trust in authorities in disaster settings

Implementation steps:

Recommendations on overall principles to consider when designing & implementing disaster communication strategies

A. Employ risk communication practitioners to design the disaster communication strategies as this may help counter the multiple effects of selective media coverage on people's risk perceptions. Related cultural factors: Communication

B. Consider the influence of the affective processes on people’s risk perception, when communicating risk and crisis information, as emotions can either increase or lower the perception of the risk. Use altruistic emotions to enhance motivation for preparedness. Related cultural factors: Communication

C. Consider the way information is provided regarding the risk as public communication influences citizen’s level of perceived risk regardless of whether the information is provided by authorities or by experts. Related cultural factors: Communication

D. Carefully asses all public communication activities concerning risks, as to avoid unnecessary panic on one hand and unpreparedness and complacency on the other. Related cultural factors: Communication

E. Utilize the ecosystem approach to disaster communication, which enables the set-up of a more efficient multichannel crisis management, which is not only focused on communication but also considers preparedness, alerts and recovery. Related cultural factors: Communication

F. Citizens should be made aware of the existence, role and functionalities of a disaster management system. They should also be convinced that the technology and the DMAs’ capacities are credible. The warning messages should use the local language and wording. Related cultural factors: Communication, Languages

G. Provide consistent information by using single messages from single source, to create trust in institutions, while remaining sensitive to cultural differences, as well as the abundance of available information and the way it is processed by target groups. Related cultural factors: Communication

H. To improve situational awareness, address citizens as partners, who can report information on the situation on the ground through different trusted communication channels. Related cultural factors: Communication

I. Use a participatory approach to communication, whereby the top-down messages (from an expert to a lay audience) are complemented by feedback and inquests, also answered respectfully. Related cultural factors: Communication

J. Support communication between citizens and local authorities to enable authorities to integrate citizens' preferences into their strategic planning. Related cultural factors: Communication

K. Provide timely consistently, and regularly updated risk and crises messages anddeliver it throughmultiple channels. Related cultural factors: Communication

L. Develop communication strategies pre and post disaster according to the specificities of each disaster, depending on the perception and behavioural adaptation of the citizens to the disaster. Related cultural factors: Communication

M. Use media to educate people on matters related to disaster management. Related cultural factors: Communication

N. Use media to promote a model of ‘shared responsibility’, in which citizens are encouraged to play an active role in the production and sharing of crisis information. Allow citizens to collect and share quantitative and qualitative information related to the environment of existing public places as well as their well-being in those placesRelated cultural factors: Communication, Social networks

O. Withholding information in the response stage from and/or lying to affected communities should be avoided at all costs, as well as delaying communication without a serious reason as they may create panic or lead to lack of trust in authorities. Related cultural factors: Communication

P. Communicate quickly and do not allow rumours to take over. Offer up-to-date, truthful, clear and concise information. Take into account that the media also plays the role of a watchdog, which scrutinizes the actions of public authorities. Related cultural factors: Communication

Q. Investigate the causes of the disaster and offer the results truthfully to the public. Related cultural factors: Communication

R. Provide timely and accurate information about the actual level of risk while coaching people about preparedness activities, they can engage in to minimize the potential harm and about activities they should perform in the event of a disaster. Related cultural factors: Communication

S. Use media to calm people and encourage them to become active actors through their contribution to the process of managing a crisis generated by a disaster (natural or man-made), giving them an insightful perspective from the spot (places that are closest to the area where the disaster stroke) and thus help communities and families locating victims. Related cultural factors: Communication

T. Ensure collaboration among the different emergency services and civil society organisations to ensure that information is disseminated among them in a fast, clear, understandable, accurate and complete manner. Related cultural factors: Communication

U. Novel and complex disasters need more explanations and available information for the citizens. Related cultural factors: Communication

Recommendations on selection of platforms and means of delivery in disaster communication

V. When communicating a risk, crisis or disaster relevant information, choose the proper type of media, as each communication platform has its own characteristics, influencing how, where and why a specific message is produced and delivered. Related cultural factors: Communication

W. Information on risks and actual disasters should come from popularly trusted sources and relayed through trusted communication channels. Related cultural factors: Communication, Attitudes toward authorities, Attitudes toward the media

X. Ensure interaction between citizens and authorities via social media or dedicated disaster mobile applications. Related cultural factors: Communication

Y. Use mainstream and social media to develop more integrative strategies on the part of institutions involved in crisis and disaster mitigation. Related cultural factors: Communication

Z. Understand how information gets to be generated, diffused, rolled in social and mainstream media environments and how it can be used creatively to enhance the capacity of the community to react and cope with disaster. Related cultural factors: Communication

AA. Choose the communication channel that is most used by the target population and take advantage of possible cultural characteristics that allow for a horizontal spread of information. Related cultural factors: Norms/values, Customs/traditions/rituals, Worldviews, Open-mindedness, Individual/collective memory, Local knowledge, Languages, Communication, Livelihoods, Rule of law, Power relations, Attitudes toward authorities, Attitudes toward the media, Attitudes toward environmental issues, Gender roles, Age-related roles, Ethnicity, Educational system, Density of active citizenship, Social networks, Social control, Social exclusion, Access and use of infrastructure/services

AB. Carry-out a pre-assessment of both the technological level of the community where a communication strategy is being implemented, to ensure that all communication platforms employed are accessible to the citizens, and the level of literacy, to ensure that the format of the message enables understanding. Related cultural factors: Communication

AC. Accept the risk of providing redundant information due to the existing multitude of social media channels and mobile phone apps and, rather than attempting to avoid redundancy, perceive overlapping information streams as strength, given that cultural groups and cultural factors overlap as well. Related cultural factors: Communication

AD. Use traditional media to influence the behaviour of the communities directly affected by man-made and natural disasters as a result of the fact that they have long played an important role in educating the public on disaster risk. However, media interventions appear to have a greater influence upon general behaviours and are not suitable for the provision of real time, context-specific information. Related cultural factors: Communication

Recommendations on disaster communication content and format

AE. Provide accurate information in the risk communication strategies about different types of risk to ensure that citizens’ risk perception is based on rational analyses. Related cultural factors: Communication

AF. Use visual aids and visual communication when possible to avoid miscommunication, translation errors and semantics misinterpretation in sending messages to citizens. Related cultural factors: Communication, Languages

AG. Try to avoid discussing risk in terms of probabilities (interpretation of statistical information), but provide risk prevention measures. Related cultural factors: Communication

AH. The information about risks should have an affective code rendering it more salient and meaningful. For example, by using different symbols to emphasize important information, using letter grades to mark safety data or adding affective descriptions alongside numbers (i.e. excellent, good). Related cultural factors: Communication

AI. Undertake information campaigns to advise people about the disaster risks in their area. Make sure to have them in different languages and preferably through easily understandable drawings/symbols. Related cultural factors: Communication

AJ. In the event of a disaster, disseminate the location of the volunteers’ coordination centres, their contact information as well as the actual material needs of humanitarian responders to streamline the process in a coordinated manner. Related cultural factors: Communication

AK. Emphasizing the preparedness of authorities for terrorist attacks, increases risk perception in citizens. Related cultural factors: Communication, Attitudes toward authorities

AL. Risk perception changes based on media coverage of that particular disaster type so the policy should be that the coverage (i.e. number of times something is mentioned in the media) reflects real frequency of that hazard. This will create informed citizens with adequate risk perception. Related cultural factors: Communication

AM. Quickly debunk misleading information about your action during the crisis. Take into consideration that myths/false information perpetuated through media channels may also hinder response and recovery initiatives through their distorted representation of the behaviour and the needs of the affected populations. Related cultural factors: Communication

AN. Convey messages in at least three languages: the language of the country, an international language, the language of the minority with the highest share, as to ensure successful communication process with different cultural groups. Related cultural factors: Communication, Languages

AO. Identify specific groups (if any)andseek out themessagethatistheeasiest to understand (e.g.: children, drawings, colouring books, animations, games; the elderly: readable text, uppercase, brief). Related cultural factors: Communication, Age-related roles

AP. Adapt the language for communication to the lowest level of understanding to ensure successful communication process with different cultural groups. Related cultural factors: Communication

AQ. To improve behavioural change in disaster preparedness:

AQ.1. promote a “culture to help” by embedding shared cultural values (e.g. Mediterranean family value, or collective memory of neighbourhood help in previous disasters) in behavioural guidelines such as information leaflets or other campaigns;

AQ.2. design information brochures that appeal to citizens’ feelings which are more likely to activate or change behaviour, rather than merely providing “facts” about disaster risks;

AQ.3. appeal to citizens’ feelings of responsibility towards vulnerable others, e.g. family or community members, as a motivator that is stronger than self-protection.

Related cultural factors: Norms/values, Customs/traditions/rituals, Worldviews, Communication, Livelihoods

AR. Always provide ample information as it prevents suboptimal emotional behaviours. Related cultural factors: Communication

AS. When making leaflets position pictures that instigate negative emotion on the front, and pictures that instigate positive emotion next to recommendations as this will enhance preparedness. Related cultural factors: Communication

AT. Information should not consist only of statistical data and dry facts but should incorporate narratives, (e.g. stories by other victims or community members). Related cultural factors: Communication

AU. When preparing citizens for disaster use both short and long-term time-frames (e.g. mention immediate consequences but also life-time concerns). Related cultural factors: Communication

AV. Inform people about the ongoing clean-up, remediation, recovery, to facilitate broad-based, honest, and open discussion and resolution of issues regarding cause, blame, responsibility, and adequacy of response and eventually to document, formalize, and communicate lessons learned and rebuilding efforts. Related cultural factors: Communication

AW. Meet citizens’ information and emotional needs by delivering to them helpful, verified, empathetic information; notify them that the information process is an ongoing one. Related cultural factors: Communication

AX. Use emotional discourses in disaster media coverage to raise aid donations and invite members of the public to care about ‘distant suffering’. Related cultural factors: Communication

AY. Pay special attention to the way information is presented to the public by using a more personal and emotional tone. Related cultural factors: Communication

AZ. Use humour and “lol-culture” to continuously educate and engage target groups online, as well as stay up-to-date with relevant trendsRelated cultural factors: Communication, Age-related roles

Recommendations on communicating with different vulnerable groups

BA. Raise awareness among people with special needs regarding the measures, which they need to take for their protection in case of disaster by organizing information campaigns, publishing and distribution of information materials tailored to their specific demands. Related cultural factors: Communication, Social exclusion, Access and use of infrastructure/services

BB. Pay special attention to the perception of increased vulnerability of some social groups and tailor messages according to the characteristics of each group. Related cultural factors: Communication, Social exclusion

BC. People with less education need to be given more detailed information. Related cultural factors: Communication, Educational system

BD. Consider cultural factors in disaster communication. Related cultural factors: Communication


file icon Deiverable 2.1: Report on actors in disaster management - CARISMAND
pdf, 3.9 MB
file icon Deliverable 2.2: Report on systems and processes in disaster management - CARISMAND
pdf, 9.2 MB
file icon Deliverable 3.2: Report on best and emerging practices of technologies for disaster risk management and their adaptation to different cultural groups - CARISMAND
pdf, 3.4 MB
file icon Deliverable 4.1: Mapping risk perception in the context of disasters - CARISMAND
pdf, 2.2 MB
file icon Deliverable 4.2: Report on “risk cultures” in the context of disasters - CARISMAND
pdf, 1.8 MB
file icon Deliverable 5.3: Report on citizens’ reactions and opinions: Citizen Summit 1 (Romania) - CARISMAND
pdf, 1.9 MB
file icon Deliverable 5.4: Report on citizens’ reactions and opinions: Citizen Summit 2 (Malta) - CARISMAND
pdf, 2.4 MB
file icon Deliverable 5.5: Report on citizens’ reactions and opinions: Citizen Summit 3 (Italy) - CARISMAND
pdf, 1.8 MB
file icon Deliverable 5.6: Report on citizens’ reactions and opinions: Citizen Summit 4 (Germany) - CARISMAND
pdf, 2 MB
file icon Deliverable 5.7: Report on citizens reactions and opinions Citizen Summit 5 (Portugal) - CARISMAND
pdf, 1.6 MB
file icon Deliverable 5.8: Report on citizens reactions and opinions Citizen Summit 6 (The Netherlands) - CARISMAND
pdf, 1.6 MB
file icon Deliverable 5.9: Interim synthesised report on citizens’ reactions and opinions: Citizen Summits 1 (Romania) and 2 (Malta) - CARISMAND
pdf, 1.1 MB
file icon Deliverable 5.10: Report on Stakeholder Assembly 1 (Romania) - CARISMAND
pdf, 2.7 MB
file icon Deliverable 6.3: Report on cultural issues as provided for within select European states and their relevance in disaster situations - CARISMAND
pdf, 3.3 MB
file icon Deliverable 7.1: Report on literature review - CARISMAND
pdf, 2.5 MB
file icon Deliverable 7.3: Report on cultural factors and citizen empowerment - CARISMAND
pdf, 2.4 MB
file icon Deliverable 8.1: Report briefing on risk communication models and best practices - CARISMAND
pdf, 2.5 MB
file icon Deliverable 8.2: Report on the role of the media in disaster risk communication - CARISMAND
pdf, 5.6 MB

Further reading:

Bankoff, G. (2004b). The historical geography of disaster: ‘Vulnerability’ and ‘local knowledge’ in Western discourse. In G. Bankoff, G. Frerks, & D. Hilhorst (Eds.), Mapping Vulnerability: Disasters, Development and People (pp. 25–37). London and Sterling, VA: Earthscan.

Bankoff, G., Cannon, T., Krüger, F., & Schipper, E.L.F. (2015). Introduction: Exploring the links between cultures. In F. Krüger, G. Bankoff, T. Cannon, B. Orlowski, & E.L.F. Schipper (Eds.), Cultures and Disasters: Understanding cultural framings in disaster risk reduction (pp. 1–17). London and New York: Routledge.

De Brito Moreira R.., Castro Degrossi L., Porto de Albuquerque J. (2015). An experimental evaluation of a crowdsourcing-based approach for flood risk management; available at

De Groeve T., Casajus Valles A. (2015). Science Policy Interfaces in Disaster Risk Management in the EU - Mapping the support provided by science in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. ISBN 978-92-79-52740-1, ISSN 1831-9424, doi:10.2788/023384; available at:

Lajunen, T., Corry, A., Summala, H., & Hartley, L. (1998). Cross-cultural differences in drivers' self assessment of their perceptual-motor and safety skills: Australians and Finns. Personality and Individual Differences, 24, 539−550.

Quarantelli, E. L., Lessons from research: Findings on mass communications system behavior in the pre, trans and postimpact periods, Newark, DE: Disaster Research Center, 1991.

Reynolds Barbara and Matthew Seeger, “Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication as an Integrative Model”, in Journal of Health Communication, 2005

Siegrist, M., & Gutscher, H. (2006). Flooding risks: A comparison of lay people's perceptions and expert's assessments in Switzerland. Risk Analysis, 26(4), 971–979.