News from the CRC

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For the first time, emergency services and police across Australia will be surveyed about their mental health and wellbeing
For the first time, emergency services and police across Australia will be surveyed about their mental health and wellbeing

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.

More news from the CRC

Storm surge damage at Ponte Vedra Florida from Hurricane Irma. Photo by Daniel Smith, Cyclone Testing Station.
Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC researcher Dr Daniel Smith is part of an international team assessing the impacts from Hurricane Irma in Florida.
Ed Pikusa and Holger Maier receive their outstanding achievement award from Dr Richard Thornton.
A cluster team and PhD student have been recognised with CRC awards at AFAC17 powered by INTERSCHUTZ, the CRC's annual conference held in collaboration with AFAC in Sydney recently.
Alex Wolkow assessed how sleep deprivation and stress impacted on firefighter performance.
The next round of funding is available for the CRC’s Tactical Research Fund, established to support short-duration research projects to meet the near term needs of Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC partners.
Celeste Young presenting at the 2017 Research Forum
For a second straight year, the attendance record was broken at AFAC17 powered by INTERSCHUTZ, with more than 3,200 emergency service managers, volunteers, researchers and industry representatives gathering in Sydney...
CRC sign
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
Ngarkat, Sth Australia, fire and smoke
New fire modelling software, teaching kids about bushfire and research on Cyclone Debbie are all covered in the latest edition of Fire Australia.
Future versions of Amicus will hopefully include a searchable database, allowing comparisons with historical fires, such as Black Saturday (pictured), in similar conditions. Photo: Country Fire Authority
New prediction software developed by CSIRO is helping to combine the complex science of fire behaviour prediction with the expert knowledge needed to fill in the gaps.
Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service
School curriculum changes have made the study of bushfire impacts compulsory for NSW primary students in Year 5 and 6, giving fire agencies a unique opportunity to improve community resilience
An aerial shot of the damage from the Margaret River fire in 2011
Prescribed burning can be a highly effective bushfire mitigation strategy, but despite good science, planning and practice, it is an inherently risky business.
Photo: NSW State Emergency Service
CRC research is investigating the impacts of Cyclone Debbie and helping to inform mitigation and resilience to severe wind

News archives

All the resources from our 2016 conference

Research program in detail

Where, why and how are Australians dying in floods?

2015-2016 year in review

Bushfire planning with kids ebook

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Index of Editions

Issue Three of Fire Australia for 2017 features new prediction software for predictions of bushfire spread, how NSW's geography curriculum allows students to become agents of change for community resilience, suggestions for reducing the risks involved in prescribed burning, research on the impacts of severe wind during Cyclone Debbie, and new natural hazards science at the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC.
Issue Two of Fire Australia for 2017 features information about a weather phenomena called a mountain wave that produces severe fire behaviour, an analysis of flood fatalities in Australia, what we can learn about disaster preparation from Indonesia, and leadership for our emergency service volunteers.
Issue One of Fire Australia for 2017 features firestorms, disaster resilience, fire preparation in Bangladesh and the International Day for Disaster Reduction.
PhD progress, human factors and decision-making capabilities, asbestos risk and the role of pharmacies in disasters are showcased in the Spring 2016 edition of Fire Australia magazine.
The Winter 2016 edition of Fire Australia magazine highlights important research including reducing hazard impacts with smarter spending, fire modelling and wind behaviour as well as the rewarding experience of PhD student placements in the sector.
Mitigating disasters: how damage from floods, fires and storms can be prevented through careful planning and investment; a new approach to flood forecasting using remote sensing data; and case studies from the CRC are highlighting paths to integrate bushfire science into government policy and planning.
Developing a smartphone app to measure fuels for bushfire, 2015's International Day for Disaster Reduction, a case study on the Be Ready Warrandyte initiative and a look at what could happen if Adelaide was hit by a large earthquake.
Community resilience in the remote north, how NSW RFS used research to change their approach to engagement around bushfire survival planning, and case studies on CRC research impact.
How extreme water levels could impact Australia's coasts and what can be done to mitigate the risks, the gulf in earthquake risk reduction, and a look at the milestone UN Sendai conference on risk reduction.
The vital elements of operational fire modelling and retrofitting older homes for severe wind events.