News from the CRC
New natural hazards science for Australia
By Nathan Maddock. This article first appeared in Issue Three 2017 of Fire Australia.
An exciting series of new research has begun at the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, with nine new projects now underway. Joining the existing platform of natural hazards science, the projects will cover mental health and well-being, coastal management, emergency management capability, risk communication, land use planning, sustainable volunteering and recovery post-disaster.
Making the next phase of national research into natural hazards, the projects will support fire, emergency service and land managers as they work to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters.
These important projects will build on the existing foundation of natural hazards research established by the CRC in 2013. The CRC has reached an exciting point in its life, with many of its existing projects beginning to mature. Some of the original projects have now finalised their research, while many others are set to begin the next stage of the science.
The nine new projcets outlined below will broaden the scope of the existing national natural hazards research and offer vital outcomes for fire, emergency services and land managers—and through them, Australian communities.
National mental health and wellbeing study of police and emergency services
In conjunction with beyondblue, up to 20,000 current and former personnel from 35 police and emergency organisations across Australia will be asked to participate in a survey about their mental health and risk of suicide. Undertaken through the University of Western Australia, the National mental health and wellbeing study of police and emergency services will develop evidence-based strategies to support individuals, improve organisational culture and address systemic concerns that affect mental health and wellbeing.
These strategies will be developed in collaboration with a cross-section of the police and emergency services sector, including agencies, unions, government departments, individuals, and family and community groups.
Forecasting impact for severe weather
Led by the Bureau of Meteorology and Geoscience Australia, the Forecasting impact for severe weather project aims to develop a pilot capability to make useful predictions of the impacts of extreme weather, influencing the ability for agencies and individuals to take actions to reduce damage. The project will focus on case studies along the east coast, looking at damaging winds, flooding and heavy swells.
Urban planning for natural hazard mitigation
Led by the University of Melbourne and the University of Adelaide, the Urban planning for natural hazard mitigation project will produce innovative ways of intergrating urban planning and natural hazard risk management. It will increase the understanding of what planning and emergency management can and cannot do, separately and together. It will also develop new ways to apply the tools and methods available for planning systems to the design and management of communities as they change, including population growth and where development occurs.
Flood risk communication
Previous CRC research has showed that most flood fatalities are avoidable. Continuing this line of research, the Flood risk communication project will develop an understanding of the motivations, beliefs, decision-making processes and information needs of at-risk groups for flood fatalities.
Led by Macquarie University, the study will cover both age and gender, including an understanding of what a ‘Plan B’ would look like, how to motivate proactive decision-making before the journey, what the current challenges and barriers are to this, and what further support and information is needed. Outcomes from this project will include targeted risk-communication materials.
Diversity: building strength and capability
Led by Victoria University, the Diversity: building strength and capability project will investigate how diversity is understood and practised in emergency management. The project will seek to identify the constraints and enablers in implementing inclusion activities, and understand how diversity can improve current operational environment and systems.
Catastrophic and cascading events: planning and capability
Led by Macquarie University, the Catastrophic and cascading events: planning and capability project will identify how to improve management approaches to catastrophic events. These events can take many years to recover from, with many of the affected population choosing to permanently relocate to other areas. Economic losses can be severe when industry is disrupted, businesses close, and further demands are made for capital injections from government to support recovery costs.
Hazards, culture and Indigenous communities
Led by Western Sydney University and Deakin University, the Hazards, culture and Indigenous communities project will investigate the hazard priorities of diverse Indigenous communities in southern Australia, and the emergency management sector’s engagement with these communities. Collaborative research involving Indigenous peoples and emergency management practitioners will explore how better engagement can be supported, with a focus on the interaction of scientific, Indigenous and other knowledge sources.
Factors affecting long-term community recovery
Led by the University of New England and Massey University, the Factors affecting long-term community recovery project will investigate two complementary areas of research relating to the long-term recovery of communities after a disaster.
The first area looks at community connectedness from the perspective of people who move home often and live in different locations, and the role this plays in both their, and the community’s, social recovery after an emergency. The second area will use case studies to examine the enablers and barriers to successful recovery, looking at natural, cultural, human, social, political, built and financial capital.
Enabling sustainable emergency volunteering
Led by RMIT University and the University of Western Australia, the Enabling sustainable emergency volunteering project will investigate how to adapt the emergency management sector to new ways of volunteering. It will also identify the change management practices required to achieve this goal.