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Module 11 - Public awareness strategies

Fire Paradox aims at reducing the effects of devastating fires by using, paradoxically, fire itself. Public awareness strategies constitute a key issue since the project is innovative in a field which concerns directly many people, especially in the south of Europe, and indirectly the whole European population because of the mass media diffusion about devastating fires.

In the first analysis, communication follows an apparently simple pattern: a transmitter sends out a piece of information, which is then conveyed to a receiver through an information channel, i.e. a media. In fact, communication is complex and involves a source, a process of encoding, a message, a channel, a process of decoding, a receiver, the potential of feedback and the chance of noise. Therefore, a very preliminary analysis shows that effective communication depends not only on the quality and the clarity of the transmitted message, but also on the channel, i.e. the type of media used, and finally on the receiver. The same message will be interpreted in many different ways according to the receivers, as the receiver filters out and modifies the transmitted information.

On the whole, a message that is not correctly built or a faulty communication leads to misunderstandings and misinterpretations… There are many testimonies, and a lot remains to be done in the field of fires as much as natural disasters. Faced with the difficulty of defining both objectives and policies for the prevention of forest fires – an issue common to all countries - by using traditional techniques, one can easily imagine the massive scale of work and the precautions to be taken in the diffusion of the results of research on such a project. It is necessary to determine the targets, the types of messages, the level of the stakes for the public, to distinguish between public and private entities, to know about historical and geographical specificities, to assess the effectiveness and relevance of a communication action.

These various parameters should imperatively be taken into account to define a communication strategy. Of course the study of the media is crucial: we have to apply the analysis of the effects of mass communication on knowledge and attitudes to the case of the fire, especially fire paradox. The media are a primary source of information, can shape attitudes, perception and beliefs, contribute to the definition of the agenda setting but the receiver transforms the message, according to his culture, history, and social environment.

Faced to this complexity of the communication process we have both to define our theoretical approach and to collect information on fire communication cases.

In this module we will study how the main vector of communication, the media and especially the press, considers the question of forest fires. The goal of this kind of research is to establish how the media (and especially the press) are disseminating information about forest fires. Our methodology will consist to draw the main lessons from the French case and then to test our analyse to other countries. We will ask to experts inside the consortium to confirm or supplement our analysis. Of course the different partners associated to module 11 will contribute to enhance those information sources at an international level.