Householder responses to flood risk: the consequences of the search for ontological security

Harries, Tim (2008) Householder responses to flood risk: the consequences of the search for ontological security. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

As the recent floods in the UK have shown, most householders in at-risk areas are not prepared for floods. In fact, even amongst those who know they are at risk, less than 10% have taken any practical steps to prepare for flooding.

This research attempts to explain that phenomenon by examining the effects of the rhetorical strategies that lay-people employ to help them cope with household flood risk.
Looking at at-risk householders who have been flooded, as well as at those who have not, it combines close textual analysis of spoken interviews with secondary analysis of survey data to identify the rationalities that structure lay-people's talk and behaviour on the issue of flood risk.

The low take-up of mitigation measures, it concludes, can be explained by the fact that householders prioritise the reduction of anxiety over the reduction of the risk of physical
harm. Anxiety is familiar, predictable and causes immediate harm; flooding is unfamiliar to most residents, is unpredictable and is represented as difficult to control. As a result, householders eschew mitigation measures if they are uncertain of their efficacy and if they feel they will make them more anxious. Instead, they choose to protect a representation of life that enables them to feel secure.

If state agencies are to influence householder responses to flood risk, it is suggested, they need to understand this rationale and to work with it. In order to increase the take-up of
mitigation measures they should minimise the anxiety associated with taking mitigation measures - avoiding messages that provoke fear responses, making flood risk mitigation seem a normal part of home security and providing householders with individually tailored advice so that they feel less anxious about making a mistake when they choose
which measures to implement.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: B. > Theses
Item ID: 13589
Depositing User: Adam Miller
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2015 14:14
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2019 02:42
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/13589

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