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This research is informing emergency warnings for a storms, fires, floods and cyclones. Photo: cksydney, Flickr
This research is informing emergency warnings for a storms, fires, floods and cyclones. Photo: cksydney, Flickr
Release date
02 Feb 2017
More information:
Prof Vivienne Tippett
Project Leader

Enhancing emergency warnings

With the multitude of warnings issued when an emergency hits, how can emergency services ensure their critical safety advice is heard and acted upon, rather than dismissed as noise? Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC research undertaken through the Queensland University of Technology is helping emergency services warn communities by actively testing the wording and structure of warning messages to better understand how messages are understood and translated into direct action. The Connecting communities and resilience team, led by Prof Vivienne Tippett, have sought to support broader initiatives in the communications and warnings space, not just for individual organisations, but also at the national level by providing reviews and assisting with the development of evidence based warning doctrine.

The researchers are collaborating closely with the industry, with the Inspector-General of Emergency Management Queensland, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, Emergency Management Victoria, Victoria State Emergency Service, Country Fire Authority, New South Wales State Emergency Service, Country Fire Service, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services Western Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology all requesting reviews of their warning information.

Katherine Philp, Manager Regional Engagement at the Bureau of Meteorology, believes the research is providing valuable insights that will make a difference.

“We are working to constantly improve our communication, particularly during severe weather, so the observations and findings are of huge interest,” she says.

Local councils are also benefiting, with the Bundaberg Regional Council looking at the frequency of their warnings, the wording of the information they disseminate during an emergency, along with the delivery methods.

“Improvements to existing pre-formatted warnings will be captured in the next review of the Bundaberg Local Disaster Management Plan and subordinate plans,” says Matt Dyer, the council’s Disaster Management Officer.

The council is also considering how to involve the community in future warning development and identifying how local citizens would best receive warnings that are practicable and timely.

“Minds have been expanded; opportunities have been glimpsed and a realisation had that there is an existing and emerging body of information that can be integrated into local arrangements,” Mr Dyer says.

“The Bundaberg Local Disaster Management Group is proud to model an example of how to build relationships across sectors to the greater disaster management good.”

SEQwater are also benefiting from the science, and have sought input from the team on how to improve their messaging about releasing water from dam’s during a flood, with a focus on achieving proactive action by the community.

Highlighting the wide-reaching implications of this research, ABC local radio in Wide Bay, Queensland, are also engaged with the research team, looking at ways they can improve their emergency broadcasting.

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