Couples' Bushfire Survival Planning: A Case Study: The 2011 Lake Clifton (WA) Fire

Presentation at Research Forum of the 2012 Bushfire CRC and AFAC Annual Conference.

Evidence from several sources indicates that during the 2009 Victorian bushfires (Black Saturday), many couples changed their bushfire plans under threat, others failed to execute effective actions in time and some of these couples perished. Whilst there were many cases of successful couple decision making, there were also failures of survival-related couple decision making. Evidence presented to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission concerning fatalities suggests that some of these may not have occurred if couples had made decisions more appropriate to their situation in the face of imminent threats from the fire. Transcripts of 40 interviews with members of different households conducted by Bushfire Research CRC research teams following the Lake Clifton bushfire ( WA, 10 January 2011) were analysed for evidence of: (a) couples' bushfire risk perception in relation to their long-term bushfire planning; (b) safety decisions as a joint activity; (c) the degree of couple consensus about the bushfire plan; (d) the level of comprehensiveness of the bushfire plan; and (e) gender role preferences in bushfire intended actions and preparation. Findings indicate mostly moderate levels of concern by couples about bushfire risk. Long term preparation was often focused narrowly on protection of the house, with less attention given to the likely needs of children, pets, and important records and other valuables. There was thus a low level of comprehensiveness in most couples' long term planning and preparation. In terms of gender role preferences, household bushfire preparation was mainly managed by husbands. The majority of those interviewed said that if they were threatened by a bushfire in the future, they would act in the same way as they had on the day of the fire.

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