Macquarie University
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Social dimensions of volcanic hazards, risk and emergency response procedures in southern Iceland

posted on 2022-03-28, 19:12 authored by Deanne K Bird
The Katla volcano in southern Iceland is one the most hazardous in the country. Frequent, destructive eruptions producing catastrophic jokulhlaup (glacial outburst floods), tephra fall and lightning hazards pose a serious risk to many local communities. Extensive geological and geophysical research details the current state of Katla and provides insights into past eruptive episodes but only one study, conducted with residents from two communities in 2004, had assessed Katla with respect to the local population. In order to develop successful risk mitigation strategies however, emergency management agencies must consider the hazard in conjunction with the varying factors affecting the society at risk. As a result, this research explores some of the social dimensions of hazard, risk and emergency response procedures in relation to Katla. The aim of the research is to provide a social framework for disaster risk reduction by offering an in-depth social assessment to complement the physical. Using mixed methods research, the study incorporates field observations during evacuation exercises, semi-structured interviews with emergency management officials and residents, and structured questionnaire interviews with residents, tourists and tourism employees. The research shows that each stakeholder group is inherently different and volcanic risk mitigation strategies need to be structured accordingly. Recent efforts which culminated in full-scale evacuation exercises in 2006 did not take this into consideration. On a practical level, these exercises indicated that most residents would respond positively to evacuation orders. At a conceptual level however, this research identified many contextual issues, (e.g. knowledge and perception of hazard and risk, level of trust) which affect people's ability to adopt the recommended protective action. In rural communities, emergency management agencies need to consider local knowledge, livelihood connections and attachment to place in order to develop effective mitigation strategies. Within the tourism sector, emergency management agencies must ensure that education campaigns raise awareness of hazard, risk and emergency response procedures. Significant effort is still urgently needed to address disaster risk reduction in southern Iceland as Katla is thought to be in a heightened state of activity and an eruption, without prolonged precursory signals, is expected in the near future.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. The use of questionnaires for acquiring information on public perception of natural hazards and risk mitigation - a review of current knowledge and practice -- 3. Volcanic risk and tourism in southern Iceland: implications for hazard, risk and emergency response education and training -- 4. Resident perception of volcanic hazards and evacuation procedures -- 5. Residents' perception of and response to volcanic risk mitigation strategies in a small rural community, southern Iceland -- 6. Different communities, different perspectives, different mitigation strategies? Issues affecting residents' behaviour and response in southern Iceland -- 7. Summary -- Appendices A-O


"Copyright 2010 Deanne K. Bird. All rights reserved. This work may not be reproduced in whole or part without permission of the author." "This thesis is presented in fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy undertaken through a Co-tutelle agreement between Macquarie University and the University of Iceland"--title page. Includes bibliographic references Thesis by publication.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Science, Department of Environment and Geography, and University of Iceland, Reykjavík, Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, Department of Geography and Tourism

Department, Centre or School

Department of Environment and Geography

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Damian Gore


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Deanne K. Bird 2010.






1 online resource (xiv, 234 pages) illustrations (chiefly coloured), maps

Former Identifiers

mq:28201 2066926