Info - Project PIB

The potential of the internet 
for enhancing
residents' bushfire preparedness

A project within the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for  National Bushfire Research

Bernd ROHRMANN (University of Melbourne)
= Project summary =

In this research, the capability and the utility of information sources provided by authorities for the public via the Internet and especially the WorldWideWeb (WWW) shall be analyzed. It is anticipated that 'electronic' information channels will eventually become as commonplace in bushfire preparedness as in many other fields of public information, communication and education. However, there is not yet much research on this topic. Crucial research questions are: How well are these new risk communication means utilized by residents, and why or why not? How likely are they to actually advance problem awareness, preparedness and coping with actual fires? How can the usability and effectiveness of these tools for individual risk management be improved?

The research plan comprises conceptual work (based on the author's socio-psychological Risk Communication Model) and a set of  empirical studies, including focus groups, experiments, surveys and expert panels. Both current practices and novel developments are to be examined. This project is to be conducted in collaboration with experts from authorities.The information needs and decision context of 'end-users' will be carefully considered.  The results should be of significant value for every fire authority which wants to enhance the utility of WWW- and Internet-based based information means for residents and thereby improving bushfire preparedness and disaster management in residential areas.

This project will be funded by the National Bushfire CRC. (Note: pertinent arbitrations are underway but not yet completed because of problems with the Melbourne University Research & Innovation Office). It is designed as a two-year enterprize and commenced in July 2004. So far, two of the planned studies have been conducted:

[X] "Implications of prior evaluation studies for fire websites", conducted as a focus group approach with experts from several fire authorities and disaster management organisations.
[Y] "Surveying bushfire events on websites - experiences of people from different cultural background"", conducted as a pretest survey. This study included a comparison of websites and newspaper articles.

It is intended to communicate the findings of this social-science project in scientific journals as well as in conferences and workshops which focus on research application.

In March 2006, I decided to shut down this project, because the
Melbourne University Research & Innovation Office did not handle my project as was needed, and consequently I did not get access to the accepted budget for the project, nor was any reimbursement for running and personally pre-financing this research realized. However, I will maintain my interest in people's bushfire preparedness and pertinent social science research, and have published the results gained so far.
= Contact address =

Associate Professor Bernd ROHRMANN
Dept. of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, AUSTRALIA
E-Mail:  mail { at }        WebSite:

BR 30-04-07