Fostering community bushfire preparedness through engagement and empowerment

Mai Frandsen, Douglas Paton, Kerry Sakariassen

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    That bushfires can exceed the capacity of fire-fighting resources makes facilitating household and community bushfire preparedness a crucial risk management goal. This goal cannot be accomplished simply by making information available to people (e.g., Martin, Bender, & Raish, 2007; Johnston et al., 2005; Lindell & Whitney, 2000; Paton, Bürgelt & Prior, 2008). Sustained hazard preparation is a function of how people interpret information in social and community contexts. This view was echoed by the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission (henceforth Commission: VBRC, 2010) where evidence presented (p. 354) suggest that involvement in bushfire preparedness groups such as ‘Community Fireguard’1 makes a significant contribution to people’s safety. Being actively involved with other community members and exchanging information and stories about bushfires are important precursors of the development of people’s risk beliefs and the enactment of these beliefs in ways that facilitate community bushfire safety (e.g., Frandsen, 2010; Kneeshaw, Vaske, Bright, & Absher, 2004; McGee & Russell, 2003; Paton et al., 2008; Vogt, Winter, & Fried, 2005; Winter, Vogt, & McCaffrey, 2004). The Commission’s recommendation went further and argued for bushfire preparedness to be seen as a ‘shared responsibility’ between communities, fire agencies, and governments (VBRC, p. 352). If the benefits of this goal are to be realised, it is first necessary to identify how the relationship between community and agency can be developed in ways that promote bushfire safety as a shared responsibility. Consequently, research into how communities and agencies can be engaged in reciprocal and complementary ways is required (Kumagai, Bliss, Daniels, & Carroll, 2004; McCaffrey, 2007; McGee & Russell, 2003; Paton & Wright, 2008; Winter, Vogt, & McCaffrey, 2004). One approach to achieving this is the subject of this pape
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)23-30
    Number of pages8
    JournalAustralian Journal of Emergency Management
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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