From hypothetical scenario to tragic reality: A salutary lesson in risk communication and the Victorian 2009 bushfires
Article first published online: 9 FEB 2010
© 2010 The Authors. Journal Compilation © 2010 Public Health Association of Australia
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Volume 34, Issue 1, pages 24–31, February 2010
How to Cite
Burns, R., Robinson, P. and Smith, P. (2010), From hypothetical scenario to tragic reality: A salutary lesson in risk communication and the Victorian 2009 bushfires. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 34: 24–31. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2010.00469.x
- Issue published online: 9 FEB 2010
- Article first published online: 9 FEB 2010
- Submitted: April 2009 Revision requested: July 2009 Accepted: November 2009
Vol. 34, Issue 5, 534, Article first published online: 6 OCT 2010
- Emergency management;
- risk communication;
Objective: To investigate the ways that the risk of a bushfire emergency and communication strategies are perceived by different community segments.
Methods: A brief questionnaire preceded focus group discussion of a bushfire scenario with four communications from different sources. Groups were recruited to represent different community segments within a bushfire-prone peri-urban Shire in Victoria.
Results: Four groups (28 participants) were recruited. Bushfire experience was highest in the over 40-year-olds, who would use a variety of information sources, preferred to receive information from trusted local sources, such as emergency services and the council, and were more likely to be a member of a local organisation than the under 40s. Younger people used television, local papers, and friends, family and neighbours as information sources. Young parents felt disempowered through lack of local knowledge, and trusted government departments less than older residents. All wanted clear, current, specific local information about ground conditions and actions to be taken during a fire outbreak.
Conclusions/implications: Knowledge of and preparedness for bushfire is unequally spread throughout a bushfire community. There is a need in public health risk and emergency situations to focus on community development, information and consultation.