Risk Perception, Communication, and Community Relations
Over the past two decades one of the most dramatic phenomenon on the social scene has been the rise of broad, public involvement in decision maldng about complex technologies, including those that protect society from natural hazards such as floods. Spawned by national legislation that required proponents to assess the environmental impacts of their proposed projects, public involvement in regulation of technology, including siting decisions, has become a pandemic feature of modem risk management. As a consequence, the public has greater opportunity than ever before to be aware of both risk managers and the workings of their institutions, largely through increased media scrutiny of technology and its failures (e.g., Singer & Endreny, 1993). Thus, to be a successful risk manager, or risk management institution, is to understand the issues that the public deems important and the mechanisms by which public participation in risk management, including decisions about technologies, can be undertaken in a productive and (relatively) uncontentious manner. To do otherwise is to invite disaster in the form of immense social costs associated with projects that have failed because the public will not provide its support via its role as political constituency or host community.