Expecting the Unexpected: Predicting Physiological and Psychological Wildfire Preparedness from Perceived Risk, Responsibility, and Obstacles

Authors


  • During the period the research was conducted, Prof. Morrison changed his affiliation from University of Western Australia to Murdoch University, Western Australia, Australia.

Address correspondence to Dr. Ilona McNeill, School of Psychology, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Western Australia, 6009, Australia; tel: +61 8 6488 7493; fax: +61 8 6488 1006; ilona.mcneill@uwa.edu.au.

Abstract

People who live in wildfire-prone communities tend to form their own hazard-related expectations, which may influence their willingness to prepare for a fire. Past research has already identified two important expectancy-based factors associated with people's intentions to prepare for a natural hazard: Perceived risk (i.e., perceived threat likelihood and severity) and perceived protection responsibility. We expanded this research by differentiating the influence of these factors on different types of wildfire preparedness (e.g., preparations for evacuation vs. for defending the house) and measured actual rather than intended preparedness. In addition, we tested the relation between preparedness and two additional threat-related expectations: the expectation that one can rely on an official warning and the expectation of encountering obstacles (e.g., the loss of utilities) during a fire. A survey completed by 1,003 residents of wildfire-prone areas in Perth, Australia, revealed that perceived risk (especially risk severity) and perceived protection responsibility were both positively associated with all types of preparedness, but the latter did not significantly predict preparedness after controlling for other predictors and demographics. Also, the two new expectancy-based factors were significantly associated with all types of preparedness, and remained significant predictors of some types of preparedness after controlling for other predictors and demographics: the expectation of being able to rely on an official fire warning and expecting to lose electricity both still predicted less preparedness around house resilience, and expecting to lose water still predicted increased planning preparedness. We discuss public policy implications that follow from this research.

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