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Feature: Building Relationships on Trust in Disasters

Trust in Evacuation Warnings

The role of trust is important in disaster management and social media. Joint research over the past twelve months between The University of Padua (Italy), Trinity College Dublin and Stillwater Communications (Ireland) has uncovered some important details about trust and its role in disaster communications.

When people are asked to evacuate from an area they are put in a position where they have to trust the authority of emergency managers who tell them that it is safer to leave their homes than to stay. While this might seem like an easy decision, the events of Hurricane Katrina highlighted a major issue when many people mistrusted the warnings that were given and chose to stay in their homes where they felt safer. This was, in part, due to exaggerated stories of looting and mistrust in government, where people felt it would be safer to stay in a familiar place than to relocate temporarily.

Trust in Who Delivers the Message

Graph of levels of trust from Ipsos Mori

Ipsos Mori’s survey on trust shows a low level of political trust compared to an increasing level of trust in experts. Click image for source

One recent poll (above) by Ipsos Mori (a UK research company that specialise in media and advertising) highlights the low level of trust in politicians and journalists when compared to experts. In evacuation situations, politicians often deliver messages from emergency managers, including warning messages and evacuation orders. Read more