The effect of traumatic disaster experiences of typhoon and flood on the risk perception of the people Chin-Chin Kuo* and Jiunn Liang Kuo** Abstract Understanding people’s risk perception of different environmental hazards not only helps mitigating environmental disasters but also helps developing effective environmental management. Taiwan has very special geological features, e.g. steep mountains and short rivers, which make the habitants very vulnerable to environmental threats such as typhoons and floods. Serious damage may mean mudslides and floods as well as the loss of lives. In August of this year, the country was devastated by Typhoon Morakot - the worst typhoon to strike Taiwan in half a century, with record-breaking heavy rains--about 2500mm rainfall in 2-3 days, almost 2/3 or 3/4 of the amount of rainfall the area receives in a normal year. The stream that was usually only one or two meters wide had become a 100- 200 meter wide earth and rock flood path. Bridges were broken; buildings collapsed; some villages upstream were buried. Hundreds of villagers were reported missing or dead in the mudslide and flooding. People are usually warned to be on guard against typhoons. However, this time people seemed to have been totally unprepared for the typhoon. Or rather they did not expect such drastic weather. From the reports of the newspapers, both the government and the residents displayed a general lack of risk perception. A lot of residents in the mountain areas did not want to evacuate. Rescue from the government was slow and inefficient. Risk management during and after the typhoon was chaotic. Pawlik (1991) had identified five characteristics of environmental change which may account for slow or improper human responses: Low Signal-to-Noise Ratio of Global Change; Extreme Masking and Delay of Cause-effect Gradients; Psychophysics of Lowprobability Events; Social Distance -Between Actors and Victims of Global Change; Low Subjective Costeffectiveness of Environment. Riad, Norris, and Ruback (1990) also pointed out the phenomenon of why people sometimes decide not to evacuate from a dangerous situation is influenced by a combination of individual characteristics and 3 basic social psychological processes: (1) risk perception, (2) social influence, and (3) access to resources. These studies had shown that risk perception of the environmental threat seems to play an important role in people’s preparation and action for the typhoon. A subsequent strong typhoon Parma followed Morakot and landed in south Taiwan in October. Although the strength of the wind weakened, the people seemed to have a better preparation than before. In the time period between the two typhoons, one seems to see a change in people’s perception of the risk. People showed more concern and prepared for the storm. Few empirical studies have been conducted to examine Taiwanese risk perception of typhoons and floods. The aim of this study is therefore to examine people’s perception of environmental risks in relation to the recent environmental disaster and the effect of the disaster on the awareness of threat in the subsequent typhoon Parma. A review of local newspapers will first be conducted to find evidences about people’s sensitivity (or insen- sitivity) to the risk of these two storms, Typhoon Morakot and the subsequent Typhoon Parma. Then a comparison will be made of the perceptions and actions taken by the residents, the victims and the government in preparation for the two typhoons and rainstorms. The study of Taiwanese subjects will add new information about the relationships between human risk perception and typhoon disasters. It can provide useful sources for developing effective management and environmental education programs.