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Evaluation of socio-spatial vulnerability of citydwellers and analysis of risk perception: industrial and seismic risks in Mulhouse

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Abstract:

Social vulnerability has been studied for years with sociological, psychological and economical approaches. Our proposition focuses on perception and cognitive representations of risks by city dwellers living in a medium size urban area, namely Mulhouse (France). Perception, being part of the social vulnerability and resilience of the society to disasters, influences the potential damage; for example it leads to adequate or inadequate behaviour in the case of an emergency. As geographers, we assume that the spatial relationship to danger or hazard can be an important factor of vulnerability and we feel that the spatial dimension is a challenging question either for better knowledge or for operational reasons (e.g. management of preventive information). We interviewed 491 people, inhabitants and workers, regularly distributed within the urban area to get to know their opinion on hazards and security measures better. We designed and mapped a vulnerability index on the basis of their answers. The results show that the social vulnerability depends on the type of hazard, and that the distance to the source of danger influences the vulnerability, especially for hazards with a precise location (industrial for example). Moreover, the effectiveness of the information campaigns is doubtful, as the people living close to hazardous industries (target of specific preventive information) are surprisingly more vulnerable and less aware of industrial risk.

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