Acknowledging structural variances of communities to aid in communicating risk information

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

Given the serious risk that bushfire poses to Australian communities, an understanding of how people mobilise social networks as resources for dealing with the threat of bushfire is crucial. Social networks as an object of study constitute the pathways through which people offer and obtain information, forge relationships and engage in pursuits or interactions. These networks indicate ways people are able to process and share significant information, thus highlighting avenues for safety agencies to best reach target audiences and effectively provide emergency services. The primary focus of this paper centres on methods to communicate future risks, by discussing two outcomes of combining applied anthropological methods with the discipline of Emergency Management. Using field data obtained from a comparative ethnography conducted in two different Victorian (AU) regions, these outcomes include:

  1. evidence of network constructions in bushfire-risk areas that are highly influenced by elements of physical and social landscapes, and
  2. presentation of insights on selection processes that influence how people (in these particular landscapes) are able to share, receive, and importantly, accept, different types of information.

These outcomes indicate the significance of assessing at-risk areas independently, as social landscapes will differ in construction despite similarities or differences in physical environments.