Shanghai is a megacity located in a hazard-prone region, but one in which local residents have not actively engaged in disaster risk management. This paper aims to identify factors of perception that influence residents' propensity to adopt risk-mitigating measures. It presents results of a structured questionnaire survey administered to Shanghai residents. Results show that risk-mitigating measures are deemed to be important if people: (1) have frequently experienced extreme weather; (2) believe that extreme weather events are severe in Shanghai; and (3) are concerned about other public risks confronting international society, such as energy security and terrorism. It is important to note that the third point has resulted in greater impacts than the other two factors. A cultural explanation is offered in this paper. Public risk awareness emanates from a generic concern over the security of the human world. This generic concern acts as a socio-cultural backdrop that contextualises the ways in which individuals respond to natural hazards. The significance of this factor indicates the need for broadening the analytical scope of risk perception research in China. These findings are useful for local policymakers, emergency managers and community and aid organisations seeking to develop creative strategies for risk education and communication.