Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-296
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-296
05 Feb 2024
 | 05 Feb 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Surprise floods: the role of our imagination in preparing for disasters

Joy Ommer, Jess Neumann, Milan Kalas, Sophie Blackburn, and Hannah L. Cloke

Abstract. What’s the worst that could happen? After a flood has devasted communities, those people affected, the news media, and the authorities often say that what happened was beyond our imagination. Imagination encompasses the picturing of a situation in our mind linked with the emotions that we connect with this situation. However, the role imagination actually plays in disasters remains unclear. In this regard, we analysed the responses of a survey which was disseminated in the 2021 flood affected areas of Germany. Some respondents perceived that due to their lack of imagination of the flood, they did not take adequate action in advance. This indicates that imagination plays an important role in disaster preparedness. Limited or lacking imagination could be linked to never having experienced a flood before, difficulties in interpreting forecasts and warnings, the perceived distance to waterbodies, and cognitive biases such as wishful thinking. Based on these results, we recommend future research should investigate to what extend visual support can advance forecast and warning communication in triggering the imagination of citizens in short-term. In a long-term perspective, research should focus how to cultivate imagination over time through participatory risk management, developing climate storylines, citizen weather observations, and the like.

Joy Ommer, Jess Neumann, Milan Kalas, Sophie Blackburn, and Hannah L. Cloke

Status: open (until 23 Mar 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-296', Hanna Ruszczyk, 09 Feb 2024 reply
Joy Ommer, Jess Neumann, Milan Kalas, Sophie Blackburn, and Hannah L. Cloke
Joy Ommer, Jess Neumann, Milan Kalas, Sophie Blackburn, and Hannah L. Cloke

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Short summary
What’s the worst that could happen? Recent floods are often claimed that they were beyond our imagination. Imagination is the picturing of a situation in our mind and the emotions that we connect with this situation. But why is this important for disasters? This survey found that when we cannot imagine a devastating flood, we are not preparing in advance. Severe weather forecast and warning need to advance to trigger our imagination of what might be about to happen and start preparing.