D1.2 Local perceptions, risk awareness, needs and expectations about societal resilience
Each year, emergency and disaster situations claim a heavy toll in human lives and economic loss. There is a general consensus among scholars that civilian populations that are more prepared for emergencies are more capable of better reacting during the materialization of varied adversities, making them less vulnerable, in other words: more resilient. Ample research has been carried out over the last three decades (and more) to conclude which factors contribute to public readiness to emergencies and disasters and enhance societal resilience to cope with adversities. These factors can be broken down into contextual factors , elements that are inherent in the society and are difficult to modify (e.g., socio-economic status, religiosity), and target factors, individual and societal attributes that can be more easily modified, therefore placing them as prime candidates for intervention plans to promote societal resilience (e.g., risk awareness, level of trust).
The purpose of the survey summarized in this deliverable was to identify and analyze contextual aspects (such as cultural, socioeconomic and geographic contexts) and target aspects (such as local perceptions, risk awareness, needs, expectations and levels of preparedness) amongst civil societies in varied countries (6 within and 2 beyond the EU). Objectives of this study included (a) comparing views and perceptions of diverse populations, to identify commonalities and diversities concerning societal resilience; (b) understanding the relationships between risk awareness and actual resilience among different civil societies; (c) mapping the trust of citizens in varied responders and authorities in order to understand its impact on their societal resilience; and (d) gathering knowledge about the use of social media and other popular communication technologies by citizens, and social groups as a tool for societal resilience.
A cross sectional study that explored attitudinal factors as expressed by diverse samples of target countries across Europe and beyond took place during the months of JanuaryFebruary 2021. Diverse samples (N≥500) of adults (over 18 years of age) from 8 countries (Italy, Romania, Spain, France, Sweden, Norway, Israel, and Japan) were engaged in this study. The online questionnaire used for this study was based on several validated tools, as well as tools developed specifically for the purpose of this study. The final questionnaire included 75 items pertaining to different constructs of risk awareness, Social norms and sense of communality, Coping skills, styles, and resources, Preparedness, Perception of trust & responsibility, Communication, and Resilience. The primary outcomes of this study were resilience and preparedness.
The results suggest that for the overall sample, pandemics were the risk of which participants showed the highest concern with a mean distance (how far placed from the “self”) of 7.11 (±5.40SD) followed by critical infrastructure fail (9.76±6.03SD), social disturbance (10.39±6.02SD), natural hazards (12.57±6.63SD), and extreme weather events (12.72±6.99). In most countries, trust levels are relatively high for emergency services and the health services, and relatively low for politicians and media. In the overall sample (N=4,013), the individual preparedness index, which delineates the compliance with general household adjustment recommendation for emergencies, averaged at 4.44±2.05SD (out of 8). Some variability was observed between the countries, with some countries (e.g., Spain, Norway and Italy) reporting higher preparedness rates than others (e.g., Japan). In the overall sample, levels of individual resilience were mediocre. Multivariate analysis showed that the following variables are predictors of individual resilience: coping skills (β=0.41), digital literacy (β=0.23), sense of responsibility (β=0.12), individual preparedness (β=0.11), risk awareness (β=0.09), societal resilience (β=0.07), age (β=0.04), communication needs (β=0.04), and level of education (β=-0.03). For societal resilience, the predicting variables are trust (β=0.59), social norms and communality (β=0.20), communication needs (β=0.09), individual resilience (β=0.05), individual preparedness (β=0.04), risk awareness (β=0.04), and age (β=0.03).
The results of this study show that there are commonalities and differences between societies across Europe and beyond concerning societal resilience at large, including concerning preparedness, individual resilience and risk perception. In particular, this study shows that societies share varied characteristics that may contribute towards a common model for assessing societal resilience (“Societal Resilience Modle”) and for explaining and predicting resilience and readiness, which is relevant regardless of the nationality of participants. Nevertheless, when zooming into each society, differences can be found in attitudinal factors associated with said resilience. The conclusion of this study with regard to risk awareness is that societies have different risk perception. Therefore, instead of trying a global approach to resilience promotion, a regional-based approach is needed to adapt and adjust to local context, both within each country and between countries. Lastly, the findings here suggest that societies have little trust in governments and varied trust toward emergency services, health services, and other stakeholders relevant for disasters and emergencies. Trust can be fostered through appropriate risk communication initiatives that value transparency, accuracy, simplicity, and timing. Since trust is a major component in societal resilience and is even found in this study to serve as a predictor of societal resilience, it is imperative that wherever trust between the public and the authorities is not strong enough, it will be increased.