Vigilance versus Complacency: Communication Strategies Used During Fargo’s Recent Major Floods to Confront Risk Fatigue
Attansey, Matthew Ignatius
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This study explored and evaluated the communication strategies used by Fargo city leaders to persuade residents to work together as a community to withstand the repetitive flood hazards that threatened the city on a yearly basis, especially in 1997, 2006, and 2009. The literature review explored vigilance and complacency as well as strategies used by high-reliability organizations (HROs) to manage crises with little or no failures. Difficulties in processing multiple messages, desensitization, and fatigue were identified as barriers to remaining vigilant in the face of multiple crises. The communication strategies applied by the HROs to maintain vigilance were shown to be working; however, limited application of those HRO communication strategies to communities have been undertaken in the field. Individual, in-depth interview data were collected. The data revealed the emergence of risk fatigue as a result of multiple flood experiences; however, the strength of the communication strategies applied by city leaders made members of the community demonstrate resilience through their individual and collective actions to respond when called upon. The findings also revealed that all the HRO principles and tenets were identified from the evaluations of the residents to show that HRO principles can be transferred to communities to make them high reliability communities (HRCs).