In his paper, Slovic (2002), opines that risks (that ultimately cause great harm and loss to people) mainly arise due to three major causes: Natural, technological or unintended human error and the new form of risk, which arises from the intelligent opponent ganging up to maliciously cause terror among the people: the terrorists. A critical summary of his point of view on the community perception of risk is provided in the next paragraphs.
Fundamentally, community perception of risks stems from the social and individual values, process, power and trust (Slovic, 2002). For example, there has been great disagreement among the people on the best strategies to adopt to mitigate some of the risks, simply because of the clash in social and cultural values of the people involved hold. Members of the public have not been amused by some of the mitigation policies their respective governments adopt. The 9/11 attack on the USA was a classical case of attack on the social values of the country. It has been argued that American foreign policy drastically changed after the attack; the country became less tolerant to some particular religion perceptively associated with the unfortunate attack. Admittedly, American national values were attacked as well which exposed her vulnerability. Over the years, therefore, there has been a deliberate move to brand certain religion as sympathizers of terrorism, consequently, putting more pressure on the US government to act ruthlessly.
In an attempt to critically study the community risk perceptions, Slovic (2002) proposes about three methods: Axiomatic measurement, socio-cultural measurement and the psychometric paradigm. However, psychometric paradigm provides the most suitable way to study risk perception. This method attempts to penetrate the psychological realm of the community with an attempt to uncover their deep feelings, attitudes and values on the subject matter. Normally, a taxonomical approach is adopted where a multidimensional identification of the extreme risks perceptions and attitudes are analyzed in a psychometric scale. People can be asked to provide their views about the riskiness of a particular hazard and their subsequent judgment on the manner in which it was handled. Thereafter, they are matched with the hypothesized properties. Notably, the hypothesized characteristics include: voluntariness, dread, controllability, knowledge among others. Furthermore, the method can be used to expose similarities and differences among groups on their perceptive thinking on the subject matter.
Furthermore, Slovic (2002) opines that perception has great impact. Normally, when a particular risk is registered, there are social implications tied to the occurrence. Notably, risks and hazards cause great loss and damage to people and property. The devastating effects can push the community to rethink about its social values in the context of the disaster, for example. Post-risk measures such as company litigation, stringent policy reforms and ‘water tight’ legislations can sometimes be adopted. As mentioned earlier, communities and members of public would sometimes pile pressure on the government to take unprecedented directives in a bid to minimize the impacts of such risks and prevent future occurrence if it results from human or technological error. Admittedly, governments sometimes go overboard and occasionally sacrifice some established national norms and values to ‘secure’ the future of the country. For example, in political crises, where, mostly, two opposing factions could be locked in a tough war and possibly, the United Nations unintentionally risks some lives in order to force the conflicting parties to reach a ceasefire by allowing military intervention. Normally, the rationale is to ensure the least lives be lost to restore peace and stability. However, sometimes, this proves unfruitful causing the risk to escalate even further, largely due to the local community perception. This situation is perfectly coined by Slovic (2002); he describes it as a ripple effect.
Risks are also described to affect the feelings of the community and thereafter change their emotional attachment in unfamiliar situations. There is normally great fear that comes out when an unfamiliar occurrence breaks out. Due to the inexperience nature of the community about the situation, different perceptions would dominate the space. This is normal as opined by Slovic (2002). But, if allowed for long, can contribute further to the devastating effects of the risk. Slovic (2002) asserts that there are two main processing systems that shape the kind of decisions to be made during such crises. The one, which is normally inaccessible to conscious awareness and control, works at the pressing of ‘early-warning systems’ button which are built from the past experiences related to the situation at hand. The other one works by algorithms and rules.
In conclusion, therefore, analysis of community perception of risk may seemingly be thought of as a simple affair, but as the experts have found over the years, it is among the most complex issues to predict with certainty. Governments have often used this to their advantage especially when they want to champion a particular course in the society. Although different people react differently to several risks that occur, however, the pattern is generally the same. At first risks, are largely viewed as unexpected natural courses which occur involuntarily however other individuals believe some risks are due to the human error and technological mishaps. Notably, therefore, the best way to analyze these risks is to consider the intensity of their impacts to human beings and the established systems.
Personal and Societal Response Towards Risk
Although the sinking of the Titanic ship is a century old story, it reminds everyone about the unfortunate marine accident, perhaps the worst ever in the marine industry. The following paragraphs describe how the various influences on people’s perceptions of the risk that gave rise to disastrous consequences; the people who were the victims and those who were entrusted with controlling all the possible risks. Lastly, management of such risks is briefly discussed as well.
Largely, it is believed the main cause of the ship accident was the ripping of its starboard side by an iceberg as the ship belatedly attempted to avoid it on its path. Despite the early warning signals by some of the crew members, the captain reportedly ignored all of them putting the lives of hundreds on-board at risk. Notably, there was safety systems embedded in the ship that could help save many lives. However, after further investigations into the cause of the accident, some experts pointed out the improper design of the ship as the root cause (Ewers, 2008). Beforehand, everyone including the people on-board, most of them business people, tourists among others believed that the ship was unsinkable, perhaps some one played around with their naivety. But, seemingly, it was almost impossible to doubt the ingenuity of the ship builders at that time. The ship was a huge masterpiece of engineering and art; but deep inside, it was doomed to fail from the word go mainly due to the improper design. For example, the quality of steel used to make the ship’s body has been put to doubt. Furthermore, the government authority in-charge of the marine transport understandably gave the ship the clean bill of health before her maiden voyage.
Many lives were lost in the accident. Out of the 2223 people on board, only about 700 survived (Luoden-Brown, 2011). Luoden-Brown (2011) bluntly blames the British board of trade, the captain of the ship, and the ship designers and builders for the unfortunate marine accident. The people who were at the receiving were no ordinary people; the ship was carrying the wealthy business people and international tourists; a notable figure (among those who survived) Joseph Bruce Ismay (Managing Director of the White star line at the time) was also blamed; allegedly, he directed the captain to cruise faster. The captain was blamed for ignoring the early warning signs of impending ice afloat on the ship’s path and allegedly allowing the life boats to be thrown out partially-filled. The board of trade, at the time, was solely responsible for the maritime policy formulation and implementation. However, they terribly failed to protect the lives of the maritime passengers. Perhaps, there were gaps in the maritime policy and actually the accident proved a great lesson to the shipbuilders. Water tight regulations around maritime safety were crafted afterwards. From the safety systems to communication technologies, great developments have happened in the industry. For example, at the time of the accident, there were few lifeboats onboard which even they were to be loaded to full capacity, still many lives could have still be lost. Hence, policy on the number of lifeboats and life jackets has ensured that the number must exceed the people onboard. Also, there are modern communication systems such as rudder control to monitor process and exchange signals between the controls and the modern ships. This ensures effective communications at all times during the journey.
Legal and Victim Views of Risk
Global security concern has pushed governments to enact or amend various legislations in the security arena. Notably, the USA enacted the Maritime Transportation Security Act in 2002 to curb cases of insecurity onboard and at the ports.
The general expectations of the act include:
Great responsiveness of the authorities-in-charge. Among them include: the secretary in-charge,
The facilities management commitment to the ideals of public safety and security
Ewers, J. (2008). The Secret of How the Titanic Sank. Available at:
Slovic, P. (2002). Perception of Risk Posed by Extreme Events. Available at:
Louden-Brown, P. (2011). Titanic: Sinking the Myths. Available at: