Social vulnerability to environmental hazards: How cognitive factors influence preventive behavior to forest fires in people living in the wildland-urban interface. A case study of the Valparaiso region, Chile.

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The objective of this research is to determine to what extent risk perceptions influence behavior that mitigates vulnerability to forest fires in people living in the wild-urban interface, which is the area where forests meet human settlements. There are four perceptions, categorized in two groups, that have been analyzed. In the risk perception category we find: perception of likelihood of event, perception of severity of the consequences of the event, and in the coping perception category we find: perceived capacity to cope with and also the perceived effectiveness of the coping behavior. In addition to this, the role of organizations -in relation to these cognitive variables- involved in fire prevention was analyzed. The research question is answered through bibliographic research and semi-structured interviews with representatives of two institutions in Chile who work on the implementation of preventive programs in populations in danger. Based on their responses, the study sought to understand the perceptions of these communities developed in the face of the possible occurrence of forest fires. The results suggest that cognitive factors alone can not explain self prevention behaviors and contextual factors are required to be included in the variables for a better understanding of the phenomenon.
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