Community level influence on individual behaviours with respect to bushfire readiness and decision making in the face of immediate threat
This research identified the community characteristics that are important to property owners' perceptions of risk and their ability to control or influence a desired outcome.
The research focused on how these community characteristics related to structure (e.g. physical location, rural/tree change/rural/urban interface); demography (e.g. age, number of children); community networks; social capital and community competence; previous experience with disasters and trust in relevant agencies.
It investigated the way in which the community context moderated the relationship between warning messages and resultant behaviours. It also defined the profile of a well-prepared and resilient community and whether community level interventions could improve the overall preparedness of community members.
The work of three PhD students complimented this project. The impact of social networks on information flow in fire prone communities was the focus of Sondra Dickinson’s PhD research. Sondra, of the University of Melbourne, analysed social networks to better understand how communities respond to bushfires. She explored whether relationships within communities were developed in response to actual or anticipated fire risk, and whether those relationships formed for the purpose of providing support.
Andrew Chapman, of the University of Western Australia, examined how individual and community level factors predict individual preparedness for bushfire for his PhD. Also at the University of Western Australia, Jessica Boylan developed and tested a self-report tool that can be used to measure an individual’s psychological preparedness for a bushfire for her PhD. This measure will benefit researchers in the development and evaluation of theories about shaping and promoting bushfire safe behaviour.