When it comes to preparing for disaster there are 4 distinct types of people. Which one are you?


Darren Pateman/AAP

Agathe Tiana Randrianarisoa, RMIT University and John Richardson, The University of MelbourneImagine it’s summer in Australia and a bushfire is bearing down on your suburb. Are you the pragmatic type – you’ve swapped phone numbers with the neighbours, photocopied your ID and have your emergency plan at the ready? Or are you the sentimental type – you’ve backed up the family photos but forgotten to insure the house, or don’t have an evacuation plan for the cat?

Our research out today shows when it comes to getting ready for disasters, there are four types of people. And this matters, because good disaster preparedness doesn’t just help people during and immediately after a disaster – it can also mean a quicker recovery.

The research, commissioned by Australian Red Cross, examined the experiences of 165 people who lived through a disaster such as fire and flood between 2008 and 2019. We identified a number of steps people wished they’d taken to prepare for disaster, such as protecting sentimental items, planning where the family should meet if separated and better managing stress.

The Black Summer bushfires, this year’s New South Wales floods, the storms around Melbourne and even COVID-19 remind us how disasters can disrupt people’s lives. Hopefully, examining the hard-won lessons of those who’ve lived through the worst life can throw at us will help individuals and communities better prepare and recover from these events.

man, woman and two children in blankets
Examining the hard-won lessons of those who’ve lived through disaster will help others prepare.
Dean Lewins/AAP

Our key findings

The survey questions focused on preparedness actions people took before a disaster, their experience of a disaster and recovery.

Participants were 18 years or older and had experienced a disaster between January 2008 and January 2019. This allowed time for people to experience the challenges and complexity of the recovery process.

Among our key findings were:

  • feeling prepared leads to a reduction in stress when dealing with the recovery process. And the less people are stressed, the better their recovery up to ten years after a disaster.
  • generally, the more people do to get prepared, the more they feel prepared. However, one in five respondents who reported not feeling prepared had undertaken actions that should have made them feel prepared. And 3% said they were prepared when they hadn’t undertaken any action, which mostly comes from the lack of knowledge of the most efficient preparedness actions.
  • the source of advice matters. More of those who received preparedness advice from Australian Red Cross – either directly or through its Get Ready app – had recovered. Those who had no preparedness training or received advice from family or friends were least likely to report having felt in control during the emergency.



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man gathers leaves
The research found disaster preparedness, such as clearing fire risk around the home, can be linked to recovery.
Dominica Sanda/AAP

3 ways to prepare

Three distinct groups of preparation actions emerged, which we outline below.

Protect my personal matters:

  • develop strategies to manage stress levels
  • protect or back up items of sentimental value
  • make copies and protect important documents such as identification papers, wills, financial documents
  • make plans for reunification of family if separated during an emergency.

Build my readiness:

  • identify sources of information to help prepare for and respond to an emergency
  • find out what hazards might affect their home and plan for them
  • use preparedness materials such as bushfire survival plans.

Be pragmatic:

  • make a plan for pets/livestock/animals
  • swap phone numbers with neighbours
  • take out property insurance.

Those who had taken action to prepare for disaster were asked what other actions they wished they’d taken. The top answer was having copies of important documents, such as ID and financial papers, that are potentially complicated to replicate and may be needed during recovery.

The full range of answers is below:



Which preparedness type are you?

Our research showed four types of persona emerged in terms of preparing for a disaster. Hopefully, identifying these groups means preparedness messaging can in future be customised, based on people’s characteristics.

Have a look at the graphic below – is there a type you identify with the most?


The Conversation/author provided data, CC BY-ND

Recovery is complex

Our survey asked if people felt they had recovered from the disaster. Importantly, we did not propose a standard definition of recovery, which allowed respondents to define their recovery in their own way. We then sought to determine how a person’s disaster preparation affected recovery.

Nearly 18% of respondents said they had not recovered at the time of the survey. Surprisingly, 86% of those said they took action to get prepared (compared to 76% of those who had recovered). But those who had not recovered were more likely to feel their preparation actions were not enough. Importantly, 86% also experienced high levels of stress during the recovery, compared to 60% who had already recovered at the time of the survey.

Interestingly, the proportion of respondents who found the recovery process slightly stressful, somewhat stressful or extremely stressful are comparable (15%, 16% and 16% respectively). However, four out of ten respondents reported high levels of stress during the recovery.

What’s more, a greater proportion of those who had not yet recovered required government assistance after the disaster (71%), relative to those who felt they had recovered (38%).

In the group of those not yet recovered, people earning less than A$52,000 a year were over-represented.




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COVID-19 revealed flaws in Australia’s food supply. It also gives us a chance to fix them


children rake branches
Disaster preparedness advice should be tailored to the needs of those receiving it.
Dan Peled/AAP

Ready for anything

Our research shows being prepared can help reduce the long-term impacts of a disaster. The level of disaster preparedness in the Australian population is traditionally low, and so it’s important to demonstrate the benefits to ensure more people get ready for emergencies.

Preparedness programs should have a greater focus on preparing for the long-term impacts of a disaster. And these programs should differ based on people’s characteristics and they type of preparation support they need, particularly focusing on those who have less capacity to prepare and recover from the disruption of disaster.


This story is part of a series The Conversation is running on the nexus between disaster, disadvantage and resilience. It is supported by a philanthropic grant from the Paul Ramsay Foundation. Read the rest of the stories here.The Conversation

Agathe Tiana Randrianarisoa, PhD student and Senior Researcher, RMIT University and John Richardson, Honorary Fellow, Child and Community Wellbeing Unit, Beyond Bushfires Research Program, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Asking people to prepare for fire is pointless if they can’t afford to do it. It’s time we subsidised fire prevention



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David Bowman, University of Tasmania

Once again, Australia is on fire. This year it’s the turn of Western Australia and South Australia, where bushfires are threatening homes and lives. In the south of Tasmania, conditions are dry and the region is entering a period of peak fire danger.

In the lead up to every bushfire season, the mantra is the same each year: prepare, prepare, prepare. Remove the fuel load. Clean out the gutters. Mow lawns, tidy gardens, create a burnbreak between bushland and your house. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Have a plan.

After 40 years studying the interaction between humans and fire, I have seen this mantra rolled out every year — and watched, every year, as it is comprehensively ignored by large numbers of people. Why? Because they are bad or lazy? No.

The fact is asking people to prepare for fire is pointless if they can’t afford to do it. If you don’t have time or money (or both), it doesn’t matter how many times authorities tell you to prepare. It’s not going to happen. What if we had a system, like Medicare, where the cost of these fire prevention measures was subsidised by the public system?




Read more:
Friday essay: living with fire and facing our fears


We know the current system doesn’t work

Institutions such as local fire authorities, councils or governments can say “we have done our bit and we expect the community to do their part and manage their risk, their property, their bushfire plan”.

But it’s just passing the problem along to the next person, without considering whether they’re able to actually take up that advice.

For years, authorities have essentially handed people a very formidable and expensive checklist of things to do, right up to the level of retrofitting your house to be compliant with modern building standards. These are significant time and financial investments.

The cost of failing to prepare is huge. Bushfire often spreads by embers landing in a series of unprepared properties. If your neighbours don’t make their home defendable, chances are it may cause your house to burn down.

There are many reasons people don’t prepare, and a key one is affordability. If you’re not physically able to get up a ladder to clean your gutters or mow around your property and remove fuel load — and you can’t afford to pay someone to do it — what are you supposed to do?

You might think, “Well, if people choose to live in a bushfire prone area then that’s their problem. Why should they get subsidies?” But there are many reasons people might not be able to prepare, including poverty, old age, and health issues.

And if they don’t prepare, it won’t just affect them; it could create a vector for the fire to spread to other properties. Research suggests disasters, including fires, are more likely to occur in low socioeconomic areas.

A man cleans leaf litter out of gutters.
Many people are not physically able to get up a ladder to clean gutters and can’t afford to pay someone to do it.
Shutterstock

It’s time to look at preventative fire measures the same way we look at preventative healthcare.

Our taxes fund Medicare and public health measures because Australian society recognises it’s cheaper in the long run. It’s cheaper than allowing low-level health problems to fester until they become so threatening they have to be dealt with in the mind-bogglingly expensive emergency department.

In the same way, subsidies for household bushfire preparation would help prevent the vast taxpayer expense incurred for emergency fire-fighting when fire strikes.

What might the system look like?

The system could take many forms.

State governments already give vouchers to citizens to incentivise spending in one area. Think of the NSW government’s Active Kids or Creative Kids voucher systems, or its planned dining and entertainment voucher system.

So why not give vouchers you can use to pay someone to clear your gutters, mow your lawn or clear dry grass and other fuel loads?

Insurers could offer lower premiums to people who take action to reduce fire risk around their home by ember-proofing or installing gutter-guard, for example (in the same way there are insurance benefits if you make your house more resistant to being broken into).

A burnt out house.
Insurers could offer lower premiums to people who take action to reduce fire risk around their home.
Shutterstock

Perhaps councils could offer lower rates for low-income people who, in exchange, pay for measures to reduce their fuel load.

Or we could have a bulk-billing system, where you can ask a service provider to assess your home’s risk and do basic fire load reduction, and it’s charged to a Medicare-style system.

To me, these ideas make a lot more sense than more punitive measures being considered in some places, where authorities could clear a fire risk around a house themselves and simply send the bill to the occupant or land owner.

The punitive system just puts more pressure on people who may not be able to afford to reduce their home’s fire risk, much less deal with going to court to dispute a bill they’ve been sent. It also means people are less likely to trust and cooperate with fire authorities.

That sounds expensive

Yes, I know these ideas are expensive. So is Medicare. So is the pension system. So is the public health response that helped Australia drive the COVID-19 epidemic into submission. But they’re worth it, aren’t they?

And do you know what else is expensive? Doing the same thing every year, even though it doesn’t work.

We have just been through an enormously expensive bushfire royal commission. And as fire expert Kevin Tolhurst points out here, we’ve had 57 formal public inquiries, reviews and royal commissions related to bushfires and fire management since 1939. A huge expense to taxpayers.

We know the cost of the Black Summer fires ran into the billions, with costs to the health system, individuals, businesses and emergency services.

Aerial fire suppression aircraft are expensive. Having 100-day firefighting campaign is an extraordinary drain on the public purse — and that’s before you even start counting the cost of economic disruption that comes with it.




Read more:
As bushfire and holiday seasons converge, it may be time to say goodbye to the typical Australian summer holiday


It sounds a bit radical

I know! But radical change is what’s needed — and it’s possible. In early 2020, I wrote it was time to re-arrange the Australian school calendar around fire seasons and people said this was crazy. But then a few months later we completely rearranged schooling around the pandemic — an idea that, in January, would have seemed completely unworkable.

It turns out radical change is possible when push comes to shove. And for climate change-related fire risk, push really has come to shove.

Our current system involves telling people to create “a defendable space” around your house. I’ve been on Google Earth to look to at how that’s played out in many bushland suburbs; you don’t need to be a genius to work out there they are not defendable spaces.

Climate change adaptation does feel radical, but it’s also necessary.

If we are sitting round going into a hotter, drier, more fire-prone world, what are we doing if we are not enabling people to adapt?


This story is part of a series The Conversation is running on the nexus between disaster, disadvantage and resilience. You can read the rest of the stories here.The Conversation

David Bowman, Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The ‘Waterfall Tour 2010’


The ‘Waterfall Tour 2010’ is the name of the latest holiday/trip that I’m currently on. It’s not as well organised as my previous holiday around the state which came with a Google Map, Blog updates and photos, etc. However, this one will end up being fairly well represented. Already I have some content on the web and more will follow tonight – more photos and videos. I doubt that I will get everything ‘up to the minute’ as I did last time, as I expect most to be done in the aftermath of the actual trip.

I only decided this morning that I would go on this trip and then left half an hour later – forming the route of the trip as I went along. It is now fairly well formed in my head – I think.

When I finally get everything together, there should be content on Flickr (photos), YouTube (videos), Google Maps (map of the route), Blog posts on Kevin’s Walk on the Wild Side (my wilderness and travel Blog) and Kevin’s Daily (a Blog on which I post either a photo, video, link or quote each day), as well as content on my website at kevinswilderness.com . For Facebook and Twitter followers, you would already be getting updates from both Flickr and YouTube I think, as these sites are getting the photos and videos fairly quickly after they are ready. However, video preparation may take me a little longer now as well – I have a bit to edit and piece together.

Anyhow, as it comes together and is ready to share you can catch it all here on the Wild Side Blog and/or updates on progress in both Facebook and Twitter.

To keep you interested (perhaps), tomorrow I am probably going to see something like 4 or 5 waterfalls, if not more. I saw two today and 1 yesterday.

 

CROCODILE ATTACK NEAR COOKTOWN IN QUEENSLAND


A terrible tragedy is unfolding near Cooktown in Queensland, Australia. An Australian fisherman has probably been taken by a 6 metre crocodile on the Endeavour River while checking crab traps on foot. Arthur Booker, 62, from the town of Logan, south of Brisbane has not been seen since about 8.30am Tuesday morning.

The man and his wife were on a two-day holiday at the Endeavour River Escape campsite near Cooktown, north of Cairns in Queensland. Mr Booker had already packed his boat on the top of his 4WD vehicle in preparation to leave.

A local crocodile known as Charlie is the alleged culprit of Arthur Booker’s disappearance according to local Terry Rayner. However, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service regional manager James Newman has said that there are other large crocodiles in the area.

Police are searching for the man but all that has been found is the man’s watch and footwear. The search will continue tomorrow.

BELOW: Footage of the Endeavour River, scene of the attack and the search for the victim.