Info - Project IDP

Improving disaster preparedness through effective risk communication

Bernd ROHRMANN ( University of Melbourne)

= Project overview =

A research project financed by the Australian IDNDR Secretariat within the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction. The socio-psychological study focussed on bushfires.

In Australia, bushfires are particularly devastating natural disasters. However, many residents in risk areas are insufficiently prepared for fire events in technical and/or organizational and/or psychological terms. Thus they need to be optimally informed about the hazard characteristics, preventive measures and appropriate behaviors during the onset of a fire event, and they must understand their own responsibility for fire preparedness. Authorities have to compose pertinent emergency planning and communicate the relevant information to residents and communities as a whole if the vulnerability of exposed populations to natural disasters is to be reduced. The more disaster management requires active involvement and participation of residents the more vital become risk information/communication/education. However, mere distribution of material is not enough - it is crucial that communication efforts are effective, i.e., enhancing actual preparedness. This requires socio-psychological expertise and critical outcome evaluation.

The focus of the project is to examine and consequently improve current bushfire risk communication. In an experimental field study, two means of risk information were investigated: (A) brochures distributed by fire authorities to residents; and (B) briefings and group work within campaigns such as "Community Fireguard". The outcomes of both (A) and (B) were assessed according to evaluation criteria derived from risk communication theory. The study design includes two sets of data collection: firstly, two-phase surveys with residents, based on a standardized questionnaire; and secondly, focus group discussions, bringing together bushfire experts and interested lay-people. The study was conducted in 1998 and 1999.

The results from this research include the identification of subjective barriers to accepting risk information and preconditions for effective risk communication and empirically founded recommendations for future bushfire preparedness campaigns.

>= Project outcomes =

The main conceptual outcome of this project is a model of the fire risk communication process; click  idp-mod for a model presentation.

The main empirical findings are published in the following articles:

ROHRMANN, B. Critical assessment of information on bushfire preparedness for residents.  The Australian Journal of Disaster Management, 15, 14-20, 2000. {reprint: cai.pdf}

ROHRMANN, B.: Community-based fire preparedness programs: An empirical evaluation. Australasian Journal of Disaster Studies, 99-1.

= Contact address =

Prof. Bernd ROHRMANN,  via
Roman Research Road venture, Melbourne, Victoria 3054, AUSTRALIA
E-Mail: mail {at}

BR 21-12-00