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Examining risk literacy in a complex decision-making environment: A study of public avalanche bulletins

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Author: Finn, Henry
Each winter, approximately 140 individuals die in avalanches in North America and Europe during recreational outings in mountainous backcountry terrain. To help recreationists manage the risks of avalanches, avalanche warning services publish daily bulletins which detail current and forecasted avalanche conditions. The effectiveness of these bulletins depends on whether the risk information they contain is accurately understood and sensibly acted upon by recreationists as they plan and conduct their backcountry trips. This study builds on existing research in risk literacy to present a comprehensive framework for evaluating avalanche bulletin literacy in relation to the needs and practices of different recreational user types. The responses of 3,198 participants to an online survey offer valuable insight on recreationists’ avalanche bulletin literacy skills, how these skills relate to each other, and which background factors, such as avalanche training and backcountry experience, have an influence on how bulletins are comprehended. The results from this research provide actionable recommendations for the design and implementation of future interventions.
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