Study captures insights on bushfire risk and response

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Fire Note 131: In October 2013, bushfires swept across parts of New South Wales, leaving a trail of destruction and loss. The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) commissioned the Bushfire CRC to conduct community-focused research with a number of communities hit hard by the 2013 bushfires in the Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands and Port Stephens. The aim was to understand how people prepared for and reacted to these disasters and assist future development of emergency management responses, community education and public safety initiatives.

The researchers used interview and survey methods to capture insights on a range of factors, such as how people perceived bushfire risk, how they prepared their properties for possible threat, their responses to warnings and their views of leaving early on high fire danger days.

This Fire Note focuses specifically on the results of the interview component of the research. Among its key findings, it shows that the majority of people interviewed had an informal plan for bushfire, but did not write their plan down. Some people indicated that they had obtained the local NSW RFS survival plan kit, but only a relatively small number used the guide. The research also reveals that people delayed their decision to stay or leave until the bushfire actually threatened and they could see signs such as smoke. Significantly, very few people proactively left early on the basis of extreme weather forecasts.

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