“Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Defining the Preparatory Conditions in Support of Active Defence for Different Fire Danger Ratings

This is a paper presented at the 2013 Bushfire CRC Research Forum.

In Australia, householders can stay and defend their properties during a bushfire if the household is adequately prepared. State (and territory) fire agencies have provided householders with checklists of desirable preparatory actions, including property preparation, judging ability of individuals, and acquiring equipment and resources for active defence. However, the lack of consistency in the existing checklists implies not all the listed preparatory actions are critical for making the decision of actively defending; in addition, agencies agree that the levels of desired preparedness should be associated with Fire Danger Ratings (FDR), the indicator of fire weather intensity. Still, no clarification exists concerning the exact levels to which a household should prepare to actively defend during different FDRs. This study therefore attempts to explore the critical nature of preparatory actions in relation to FDRs based on expert knowledge. To this aim, a survey was conducted with bushfire experts who were requested to rate whether each preparatory action is critical under different FDR conditions. Results from 36 experts confirmed our hypothesis that some preparatory items are not critical or only critical at certain FDRs. However, a more in-depth study with a range of experts is required to provide further consensus concerning the critical preparatory actions and to clarify discrepancies of opinions for items highlighted as controversial through the survey process.