SA Country Fire Service

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REPORT SHOWS PUBLIC ARE UNPREPARED FOR BUSHFIRE

26/03/2015

A major report into bushfires during the 2013-2014 summer season indicates that the majority of home-owners in bushfire-prone areas are still ignoring or are unaware of bushfire safety messages leading up to and during the fire danger season.

The report, Capturing Community Experiences, South Australian Bushfires 2014 was prepared by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre in association with the SA Country Fire Service and was the result of extensive interviews held with communities affected by three major fires in January 2014 at Eden Valley, Bangor and Rockleigh.

The 2014 fires provided a research opportunity to investigate bushfire risk perceptions, decision-making processes and behaviour of residents across three very different events: a rapid-onset fire (Eden Valley); a long-campaign fire (Bangor); and repeat fire incidents (Rockleigh).

It shows that while the CFS's community awareness and engagement practices were adequate and on-going, many members of the communities under-estimated or were otherwise unprepared for the impact of bushfire.

"The report showed that as the land use and lifestyles of the communities interviewed differ, so too does their demand for information," said CFS Chief Officer Greg Nettleton.

"The findings show that many residents delayed critical decision making with regard to leaving their homes, potentially endangering their lives.

"This was despite on-going and wide-spread information promoting the 'leave early' message in the lead up to and during the bushfire season," Mr Nettleton said.

Senior Researcher & Cultural Anthropologist at Appleton Institute at CG University, Dr Kirrilly Thompson, said only ten percent of interviewees had a written fire plan to guide their decision making.

Mr Nettleton said that analysis of the data confirmed that fire agencies need to carefully tailor their fire preparedness strategies and community engagement programs for specific communities.

"The quality and content of our bushfire action messages are good, but we must re-double our efforts to break through the 'information clutter' to ensure those messages hit home," Mr Nettleton said.

"A 'one size fits all' approach in providing warnings and information to the community during fires is no longer appropriate, and we will be continuing to work with communities across South Australia to ensure the content of our messages and the ways they are delivered are relevant to all communities.
To view the full report visit the CFS website – www.cfs.sa.gov.au

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Further information:
Contact the Bushfire Information Hotline on 1800 362 361, for hearing or speech impaired users, phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 1800 362 361 or teletype service TTY 133 677 then ask for 1800 362 361.
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