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Incoporating Cultural Competence into the Risk Communication & Community Engagement Strategies of the Environment Agency

by Akinkugbe , Seinde , MS

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probability despite the fact that it might have high impact. Thus when passing on risk
information, officers should consider using a long horizon to make the risk more apparent.
For instance, Morrow (2009) suggest that “ instead of telling people there’s a 1 in 100
chance that a flood is going to occur next year, telling them that if they’re living there for 25
years there’s a greater than 1 in 5 chance that they’ll have at least one flood” (p.37). This
gives messages some sort of credence and can influence people’s perception of risk.

8. Disseminating risk information
Most national campaigns have always viewed the public as a homogenous unit and adopt
a mainstream approach when disseminating risk information. This assumption is often
wrong as most people who do not speak English as a first language may not receive
information through mainstream radio, television and newspapers. A localised based
approach is more likely to be successful when disseminating information too hard to reach
groups. These could take various forms ranging from:

Information sessions , pen days and local community events
Memorandum of understanding with Interpersonal media channels such as:

Asian radio stations or Radio Africa.
Local racial and equality commission.
Local press and social media networks i.e. Face book, Twitter, You tube.
Migrant resource centres or community based service clubs i.e. (Rotary

clubs, Girl Guide and boy scouts).

Religious bodies i.e. churches and mosque or NGOS
Piggy back on work with other bodies especially the local authority
Libraries and schools

9. Using insurance to promote community resilience


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Persuading people to take up flood precaution measures is often an overwhelming task.
However if people are given a signal for safety, they might know how exposed they are
and buy into flood risk reduction initiatives. Kunrether and Erwann (2001) suggest using
risk based insurance premiums as a signal to reflect risk in an area. “Risk-based premium
provides that signal, but it also encourages investment in cost – effective mitigation
measures. If you do something to make a house or your property safer you should get a
premium reduction”. Hence it might be helpful if The Environment Agency work with
insurance firms in providing low insurance premium packages to people who have some
form of mitigation measures.

10. Using training and qualifications as an incentive
Training and qualifications can also be used as an incentive to promote community
resilience programmes. This might be useful in persuading people when they see the
benefits they can gain from flood risk alleviation initiatives. Training can involve recruiting
flood wardens within the community and then giving some form of NVQ qualification in
flood risk management. Such training helps to get buy-in and enables flood wardens to
educate their local community. This can be beneficial for the longer term and sustainability
of a flood risk communication project

6.5 Closing Remarks

The above are just suggestions and are not necessarily prescriptive. However looking at
the number of recommendations provided in this chapter, it is clear to see that there are
a lot of issues which need to be resolved. The author hopes that these recommendations
and project can help the Environment Agency fulfil its legal obligation as a category 1
responder, to warn and inform communities who are hard to reach. There is no single
flood awareness method that will guarantee a successful risk communication
programme. However depending on the area , a combination of the methods above can

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guarantee success. The rule of the game is tenacity and respect for people’s outlook
hence community engagement officers need to bear this in mind. This research has
critically examined the importance of delivering culturally appropriate preparedness
messages in a multicultural society, however more work needs to be done in this subject
area. For instance, it was noted that there was a limited amount of literature on risk
perception and religion during the course of research. Religion does make people repel
danger; hence it is recommended that this area of understudy is further developed.


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The shared attributes of a group of people; a common heritage or leaned set of beliefs,
norms and values. Culture is not static, but changes over time and context (DHSV, 2010,

The term “cultural competence” is a set of congruent behaviours, attitudes and policies
that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables effective
work in cross – cultural situations (Cross, Bazron, Dennis and Isaacs, 1989, p.3).

Race is a dynamic set of historically derived and institutionalized ideas and practices that
sorts people into ethnic groups according to perceived physical and behavioural human
characteristics associates differential value, power, and privilege with these characteristics
and establishes a social status ranking among the different groups (Markus, 2008, p.654).

Ethnicity as a dynamic set of historically derived and institutionalized ideas and practices
that allows people to identify or to be identified with groupings of people on the basis of
presumed commonalities including language, history, nation or region of origin, customs,
ways of being, religion, names, physical appearance (Markus, 2008, p.654)



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The process through which an older generation induces and compels a younger
generation to reproduce the established lifestyle (Oltedal, Moen, Rundmo & Klempe,
2004, p.10).
Acculturation comprehends those phenomenon, which results when groups of individuals
having different cultures come in into continuous first-hand contact, with subsequent
changes in the original cultural patterns of either or both groups (Redfield, Linton &
Herskovits ,1936 , p.149).

Cultural sensitivity means been aware that cultural differences and similarities exist and
have an effect on values, learning and behaviour (DHHS, 2003, p.7)

An early warning system is a technical facility, which consists of a monitoring system for
detection of the relevant processes or process changes and of a communication system
for alerting target groups (United Nations, 2006)

Risk communication is an interactive process of exchange of information and opinion
among individuals, groups and institutions. It involves the messages about the nature of
risk and other messages not strictly that expresses concerns, opinions or reactions to
risk messages (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2003).

Risk perception is the subjective assessment of the probability of a specified type of
accident happening and how concerned we are with the consequences. To perceive risk
includes evaluations of the probability as well as the consequences of a negative

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outcome. Perception of risk goes beyond the individual, and it is a social and cultural
construct reflecting values, symbols, history, and ideology (Sjoberg, 2004, p.8).

The process of transmitting information to the general population to increase their levels
of consciousness about disaster risks so they can prepare appropriately to cope with a
disaster (VUSSC, 2010, p.77)

A method of education and public awareness in disaster management in which
community members are involved in the planning and implementation of the awareness
programme (VUSS, 2010, p. 63).

Actions taken in reaction to a disaster or similar hazards (VUSS, 2010, p.51).

The feeling that one’s group has a mode of living, values and patterns of adaptation
that are superior to those of other groups. (Psychological Glossary, 2010)

Standard patterns of behaviour of members of a community. (VUSS, 2010, p.90).


A group of people identified as a specific class as they share common unique features
such as culture, language, ancestry and nationality. The Columbian Encyclopaedia

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Refers to the wide range of cultural groups that make the UK population and
communities. The term acknowledges that groups and individuals differ according to
religion and spirituality, racial backgrounds and ethnicity as well as language. Taken
literally, the term includes all UK citizens it is used however to describe those groups
that are different from the English speaking minority (DHSV, 2010, p. 8).

The capacity of an organisations or individual to communicate effectively with persons
of limited English proficiency, those who are illiterate or have literacy skills, and
individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. (DHSV, 2010, p. 9).

The Environment Agency services a diverse group of people. Diversity refers to age,
culture, disability, ethnicity, and gender, level of education, physical appearance,
religion and sexual orientation. (DHSV, 2010, p. 9).

This phenomenon occurs when water covers previously dry areas, i.e., when large
amounts of water flow from a source such as a river or a broken pipe onto a previously
dry area, or when water overflows banks or barriers (VUSS, 2010, p.24).

Is a situation generated by the real or imminent occurrence of an event that requires
immediate attention” (VUSS, 2010, p.24).


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Is a natural or human-caused event which causes intensive negative impacts on
people, goods, services and/or the environment, exceeding the affected community’s
capability to respond” (VUSS, 2010, p.24).

Is the extent to which a community’s structure, services or environment is likely to be
damaged or disrupted by the impact of a hazard” (VUSS, 2010, p.24).


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Appendix : Searched websites

Environment Agency:
ISI Web of Knowledge:
Cochrane Library:
Relief web:
United States Department of Health / Human Sciences:
United States. Environmental Protection Agency:

Worldwide search engines
Google Scholar:



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Figure 1 Risk communication perspectives: culled from (Fisher, 1991)
Two-way dialogue
Telling them
what has been
decided or
Giving them
information about
estimated risk
Giving them
information about
estimated risk
Finding out what
their concerns are
Telling them
what to do
Letting them
interpret it and
decide on their
Helping them
interpret it without
interjecting bias
Including their
concerns in the
risk assessment
Letting them decide
on their own
Helping them
interpret the
results and
helping them use
ways to affect the

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