Evaluating bushfire community education programs

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Fire agencies recognise that public safety and protection of assets during bushfires depend to a large extent on the community’s capacity to respond effectively to the risk from bushfires. This project focused on the development of an evaluation framework and its application to a range of community safety and education programs. It asked the questions. How well do agencies educate communities? How do we measure this? Are there ways that agencies can learn from other jurisdictions across Australia?

The project aimed to help fire agencies evaluate the effectiveness of community safety and education programs and facilitated the application of the evaluation framework to a range of programs and initiatives that are undertaken by agencies.

The team was led by Associate Professor Gerald Elsworth, with his colleagues at RMIT University, Dr Helen Goodman, John Gilbert and Professor John Fien, and postgraduate student Alan Rhodes.

Project researchers contributed to a survey and report of householders on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula for a Coronial Investigation after the January 2005 fires.

The researchers used a technique known as “Concept Mapping” to identify outcomes for community safety programs that stakeholders consider important. The results identified a number of themes related to community safety outcomes. It provided a useful tool to evaluate the effectiveness of community safety programs for bushfires. This evaluation framework is now in use in a number of agencies in Australia.

The methodology has been consolidated into professional development resources including a workshop, online resources and a postgraduate course offered through RMIT University.