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A Multi-Modal, Life Cycle Approach to Risk and Crisis Communication

Risk and crisis communication models have evolved over recent decades with a shift from command-and-control, top-down, linear approaches to holistic, cyclic models that strive for greater transparency. These newer models are people-centered, include a wider range of stakeholders, and are designed to (re)build trust. A challenge with these models is that they fail to consider the life cycle of a disaster, or how to effectively use different models and approaches at various points in this life cycle. Risk and crisis communication needs differ at pre-disaster, disaster, and post-disaster stages. Moreover, it is important to determine thresholds, indicators, and transition points for shifting from one model to the next. Standard risk and crisis communication models – even the more evolved and holistic - tend to apply a one-size-fits-all approach, which may be ineffective during natural disasters. Existing models also fail to distinguish between internal and external communication, and poorly explain how best to incorporate multiple stakeholders from various levels of government including First Nations, first responders, healthcare providers, media, and others. This knowledge synthesis will focus on reviewing existing models, and move towards developing a multi-modal, life cycle approach. Consultation with key stakeholders will inform this research, and an initial emphasis will be placed on wildfire risk in British Columbia.

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