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Would you like to know more? The effect of personalized wildfire risk information and social comparisons on information-seeking behavior in the wildland–urban interface

James Meldrum, Hannah Brenkert-Smith (), Patricia A. Champ (), Jamie Gomez (), Hilary Byerly (), Lilia Falk () and Christopher M. Barth ()
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Hannah Brenkert-Smith: University of Colorado Boulder
Patricia A. Champ: U.S.D.A. Forest Service
Jamie Gomez: West Region Wildfire Council
Hilary Byerly: University of Colorado Boulder
Lilia Falk: West Region Wildfire Council
Christopher M. Barth: U.S. Bureau of Land Management – Montana/Dakotas, Fire and Aviation Management

Natural Hazards: Journal of the International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, 2021, vol. 106, issue 3, No 18, 2139-2161

Abstract: Abstract Private landowners are important actors in landscape-level wildfire risk management. Accordingly, wildfire programs and policy encourage wildland–urban interface homeowners to engage with local organizations to properly mitigate wildfire risk on their parcels. We investigate whether parcel-level wildfire risk assessment data, commonly used to inform community-level planning and resource allocation, can be used to “nudge” homeowners to engage further with a regional wildfire organization. We sent 4564 households in western Colorado a letter that included varying combinations of risk information about their community, their parcels, and their neighbors’ parcels, and we measured follow-up visits to a personalized “Web site”. We find that the effect of providing parcel-specific information depends on baseline conditions: Informing homeowners about their property’s wildfire risk increases information-seeking among homeowners of the highest-risk parcels by about 5 percentage points and reduces information-seeking among homeowners of lower-risk parcels by about 6 percentage points. Parcel-specific information also increases the overall response in the lowest risk communities by more than 10 percentage points. Further, we find evidence of a 6-percentage point increase in response rate associated with receiving a social comparison treatment that signals neighboring properties as being either low or moderate risk on average. These results, especially considered against the 13 percent overall average response rate, offer causal evidence that providing parcel-specific wildfire risk information can influence behavior. As such, we demonstrate the effectiveness of simple outreach in engaging wildland–urban interface homeowners with wildfire risk professionals in ways that leverage existing data.

Keywords: Nudge; Information-seeking; Public engagement; Wildland fire; Personalized information; Social comparison (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1007/s11069-021-04534-x

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