Public Preparedness for Heatwaves

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Research overview

The Centre for Decision Research (CDR) has secured a grant of £195,633 from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for a project entitled “Understanding public perceptions of and responses to heat waves: A behavioural decision research approach.” 

Heatwaves cause excess deaths, illness and discomfort. Professor Bruine de Bruin notes that “Compared to people from warmer climates, UK residents are less prepared to protect themselves against heat. People in the UK often have positive perceptions of heat waves, even those who are at risk for heat-related health problems.” Although heat waves are rare in the UK, they are projected to become more common under a changing climate.

The proposed project builds on interdisciplinary insights from behavioural decision research and environmental social science to improving communication strategies that aim to promote public preparedness for heat waves.

Recommended strategies for personal protection include keeping out of the sun, avoiding physical exertion, and drinking plenty of liquids. Short-term strategies for home cooling include keeping curtains drawn and windows shut and long-term strategies include adding insulation and installing external shades. 

As Principal Investigator, Professor Bruine de Bruin will build on her expertise in behavioural decision making to design communications that promote more informed decisions about heat protection.

Project team

Professor Wandi Bruine de Bruin (Centre for Decision Research, Leeds University Business School)
Professor Suraje Dessai (Chair in Climate Change Adaptation, University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment's Sustainability Research Institute)
Dr Andrea Taylor (Postdoctoral Researcher, Leeds University Business School)
Dr Carmen Lefevre (Research Fellow in Behavioural Decision Making, Leeds University Business School)
Professor Baruch Fischhoff (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)
Dr Sari Kovats (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

Project partners

Swiss-based International Risk Governance Council
UK-based ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy
IRGC is an independent non-profit organisation that has Special Consultative States at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
CCCEP is an interdisciplinary multi-university research centre sponsored by ESRC

Further details

Understanding public perceptions of and responses to heat waves: A behavioural decision research approach