Life on the edge, living with risk: research

What will motivate people to safeguard their properties from fire hazard and improve their chances of survival?

This is one of the key questions posed by the latest Bushfire CRC Research To Drive Change online forum, Living On The Edge, to be held next Monday 11 August.

The live webinar draws on the Bushfire CRC research of Professor Ross Bradstock of the University of Wollongong and Associate Professor Ruth Beilin of the University of Melbourne, together with industry end user commentary and insights from Mike Wouters, a senior fire ecologist in South Australia’s Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

The separate but linked Bushfire CRC studies provide useful perspectives on how people living in fire-prone areas perceive fire risks from fuel hazards. The findings also suggest competing values and lifestyle priorities may be potential barriers to action on hazard reduction, according to Dr Noreen Krusel, who is overseeing the utilisation of the Bushfire CRC research. Dr Krusel is the Manager of Research Utilisation at the Australasian Fire And Emergency Services Authorities Council, the peak body for Australasian fire, land management and emergency services.

Dr Krusel said community safety educators could use the insights from the studies to start conversations with householders on what they needed to safeguard their properties and improve their chances of survival in the event of a bushfire.

One of the studies explores how householders perceive the value and risks of living in or near bushland and analyses the complex mix of hazards, risk, benefit and value perceptions which influence the way that they approach fire hazard.

“The results indicate that people do recognise fire risk, but may treat it as a lower priority than other lifestyle values and factors, such as lack of time, cost barriers and aesthetic quality,” Dr Krusel said.

The other study provides a mechanism for householders to personally assess and document or ‘mud map’ the actual and perceived fire risk directly in and around their properties.

“The place-mapping, or mud map, technique gives householders a tool to capture and reflect on the actual fire risk confronting their property. And it is also a useful conversation starter for fire-planners to help people take action on the risk reduction and fire preparation,” Dr Krusel said. “In this way, the mud-map can become a plan for action.”

Mr Wouters said providing detailed risk information and offering  physical support for fuel reduction activities on properties (among other options) may encourage people to make fire preparation and management a higher priority or overcome some of the barriers to taking action.

Living On the Edge is the sixth in the Bushfire CRC’s Research To Drive Change online forum series.  For further information, to register, or explore past and future forums, visit the Research To Drive Change page on the Bushfire CRC website.

Release date

Tue, 05/08/2014