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Cape Charles, VA, United States

Bostrom A.,University of Washington | Joslyn S.,University of Washington | Pavia R.,University of Washington | Walker A.H.,SEA Consulting Group | And 2 more authors.
Human and Ecological Risk Assessment | Year: 2015

ABSTRACT: Complexity and uncertainty influence opinions, beliefs, and decisions about health, safety, and other kinds of risk, as demonstrated in research on health, climate change, storm forecasts, pandemic disease, and in other domains. Drawing from this research, this article summarizes insights into how people understand and process uncertain or complex information and explores key oil spill and oil spill response-relevant issues regarding the communication of complexity and uncertainty—from the presentation of uncertainties around forecast parameters to the deployment of online oil spill response simulation tools. Recommended practices from this article include (a) to continue to develop and evaluate interactive Web-based oil spill response simulations to help users explore tradeoffs in response decisions, (b) to take how people simplify information into account in designing communications processes and products (and evaluate), (c) to provide numbers along with verbal probability descriptions, and (d) if using graphics, to communicate probability or uncertainty, using simple graphics and testing them, as effects may not be predictable and some kinds of graphics are easier to understand than others, depending on context, numeracy, and graphicacy. © 2015, Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Leschine T.M.,University of Washington | Pavia R.,University of Washington | Walker A.H.,SEA Consulting Group | Bostrom A.,University of Washington | Starbird K.,University of Washington
Human and Ecological Risk Assessment | Year: 2015

ABSTRACT: Scenario analysis (SA) is the process of developing plausible futures around the forces affecting an organization in the face of uncertainties over which it has little control. SA is widely used in the private sector and increasingly a tool of environmental planners grappling with problems of great complexity and uncertainty. SA ideally marries expert judgment with the broader perspectives engaged stakeholders bring. While the 1990 Oil Pollution Act (OPA) brought substantive improvement to oil spill contingency planning, many issues remain. Reguatorily prescribed definitions of ‘worst case’ lead to SA practice that seldom achieves the full promise of the SA approach. Contingency planning overly focused on tactical and operational considerations can leave response managers little prepared to deal with public concerns that emerge in the event of a major spill, concerns increasingly magnified through social media. Politics continues to contribute to poorly conceived contingency planning in which adopted scenarios bear little resemblance to events that subsequently transpire. Risk attenuation and risk amplification both inhibit scenario-based planning around oil spills, evinced by the Deepwater Horizon spill. Improvements in pre-planning in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill nevertheless provide a foundation for more effective use of SA. © 2015, Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Bostrom A.,University of Washington | Walker A.H.,SEA Consulting Group | Scott T.,University of Washington | Pavia R.,University of Washington | And 2 more authors.
Human and Ecological Risk Assessment | Year: 2015

ABSTRACT: This study applies a mental models survey approach to assess public thinking about oil spills and oil spill response. Based on prior interdisciplinary oil spill response research, the study first applies qualitative interview results and a response risk decision model to the design of a survey instrument. The decision model considers controlled burning, public health, and seafood safety. Surveying U.S. coastal residents (36,978 pairs of responses) through Google Insights identifies beliefs and gaps in understanding as well as related values and preferences about oil spills, and oil spill responses. A majority of respondents are concerned about economic impacts of major oil spills, and tend to see ocean ecosystems as fragile. They tend to see information about chemical dispersants as more important than ecological baseline information, and dispersants as toxic, persistent, and less effective than other response options. Although respondents regard laboratory studies as predictive of the effects of oil and of controlled burning, they are less confident that scientists agree on the toxicity and effectiveness of dispersants. The results illustrate opportunities to reframe discussions of oil spill response in terms of tradeoffs between response options, and new possibilities for assessing public opinions and beliefs during events. © 2015, Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Walker A.H.,SEA Consulting Group | Pavia R.,University of Washington | Bostrom A.,University of Washington | Leschine T.M.,University of Washington | Starbird K.,University of Washington
Human and Ecological Risk Assessment | Year: 2015

ABSTRACT: The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill was a pivotal moment in the expression of and reporting on stakeholder risk perceptions about oil spills, response options, and safety. Public engagement through both traditional and social media was arguably much higher than in prior spills. The DWH response organization undertook a wide variety of activities to manage risks and communicate with both the general public and those directly affected, such as commercial fishers. However, these did not fully address widespread concerns about ecological and human health risks associated with dispersant use. Consequentially the DWH spill heightened awareness of persistent risk communication problems around oil spill response, and especially dispersant use. Oil spill risk research and experience suggests that institutional and operational factors inhibit engaging communities and stakeholders during oil spill preparedness and response, and that such engagement is essential for effective risk management. In this article we review and assess current oil spill preparedness and response practices for community and stakeholder engagement, including related institutional and operational constraints. This assessment suggests five example risk management practices to improve and advance risk communications during oil spill preparedness and response activities. © 2015, Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Starbird K.,University of Washington | Dailey D.,University of Washington | Walker A.H.,SEA Consulting Group | Leschine T.M.,University of Washington | And 2 more authors.
Human and Ecological Risk Assessment | Year: 2015

ABSTRACT: This research examines how information about an oil spill, its impacts, and the use of dispersants to treat the oil, moved through social media and the surrounding Internet during the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Using a collection of tweets captured during the spill, we employ a mixed-method approach including an in-depth qualitative analysis to examine the content of Twitter posts, the connections that Twitter users made with each other, and the links between Twitter content and the surrounding Internet. This article offers a range of findings to help practitioners and others understand how social media is used by a variety of different actors during a slow-moving, long-term, environmental disaster. We enumerate some of the most salient themes in the Twitter data, noting that concerns about health impacts were more likely to be communicated in tweets about dispersant use, than in the larger conversation. We describe the accounts and behaviors of highly retweeted Twitter users, noting how locals helped to shape the network and the conversation. Importantly, our results show the online crowd wanting to participate in and contribute to response efforts, a finding with implications for future oil spill response. © 2015, Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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