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NERC researchers develop natural hazard communications

A team of ten young researchers sponsored by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has developed solutions to communicate natural hazard risks, as part of the World Bank’s Understanding Risk Forum in Mexico.

Focusing on real communication challenges in the Mexican municipalities of Iztapalapa, Mexico City and Dzilam de Bravo, Yucatan, the researchers worked in interdisciplinary groups to understand the natural hazards affecting communities, identify target audiences and develop risk communication outputs tailored to their target groups.

NERC, working with the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction & Recovery (GFDRR), NASA Disasters Programme and FM Global, brought together 35 young researchers and professionals from 13 countries, and from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, to work on the challenge of risk communication.

Organised by the Water Youth Network, the 24-hour ‘pressure cooker’ event comprised of young people from different disciplines to develop innovative insights and creative perspectives for effective risk communication strategies tailored to users’ needs.

Throughout the event, the groups received expert knowledge and feedback from specialists including BBC Media Action, Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Iztapalapa Municipality Department of Civil Protection, the British Geological Survey and the Environment Agency, before presenting their risk communication strategy to a panel.

NERC associate director of innovation & partnerships Sophie Laurie said: “It is important to provide researchers with the opportunity to develop skills in working with different disciplines and stakeholder groups so that more people can benefit from world-class research. NERC is proud to be working with these global partners to support the next generation of disaster risk communication professionals.”

Invited by the Iztapalapa Municipality Department of Civil Protection, the researchers saw at first hand an innovative approach to understanding and communicating natural hazard risk, being piloted in a part of the city particularly vulnerable to earthquakes, floods and soil fracturing.

Watch this film about the event below. 

The group visited the control room which receives data from satellite and seismic monitoring stations to provide early warnings of earthquakes and hurricanes, and the risk communication outreach truck which was used to raise awareness within the community.

One participant, Joanna Pardoe, a post-doc researcher working on the NERC-DFID funded Future Climate for Africa programme at the London School of Economics, said: “This interdisciplinary event, that cuts across science policy and practice, has been extremely useful and is definitely something that academia would benefit from more of.”

NERC hopes that the event will encourage environmental scientists to work across disciplines and with policymakers, businesses, NGOs and affected communities to use their valuable knowledge to better understand and communicate natural hazard risks.

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