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Keywords:

  • Coastal flood risk;
  • information-seeking behavior;
  • path analysis;
  • risk communication;
  • risk perception

Recent flood risk management puts an increasing emphasis on the public's risk perception and its preferences. It is now widely recognized that a better knowledge of the public's awareness and concern about risks is of vital importance to outline effective risk communication strategies. Models such as Risk Information Seeking and Processing address this evolution by considering the public's needs and its information-seeking behavior with regard to risk information. This study builds upon earlier information-seeking models and focuses on the empirical relationships between information-seeking behavior and the constructs of risk perception, perceived hazard knowledge, response efficacy, and information need in the context of coastal flood risks. Specific focus is given to the mediating role of information need in the model and to the differences in information-seeking behavior between permanent and temporary residents. By means of a structured on-line questionnaire, a cross-sectional survey was carried out in the city of Ostend, one of the most vulnerable places to coastal flooding on the Belgian coast. Three hundred thirteen respondents participated in the survey. Path analysis reveals that information need does not act as a mediator in contrast to risk perception and perceived knowledge. In addition, it is shown that risk perception and perceived hazard knowledge are higher for permanent than temporary residents, leading to increased information-seeking behavior among the former group. Implications for risk communication are discussed.