News from the CRC

World Vision Australia

With structures packed tightly together in slums, fires can spread very quickly. Photo: World Vision Australia.
Release date
27 Feb 2017

Research helps fire protection in Bangladesh

By Dylan Bruce. This article first appeared in Issue One 2017 of Fire Australia.

Research into how Australian children are involved in bushfire preparations around the home is being applied to disaster preparedness in the slum communities of Bangladesh.

Dr Briony Towers, through her PhD research with the Bushfire CRC completed in 2011, found that including children in the development of an emergency management plan greatly increased its effectiveness.

“If children are given the opportunity to access knowledge and information, and to be involved in emergency management planning, they actually have really great ideas that can improve the plan for the household and their community,” Dr Towers said.

Focusing on child-centred disaster risk reduction in Australia for her PhD in psychology, which she completed in 2011, Dr Towers has continued her child focused work as a research fellow for RMIT University and is involved with the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC.

Dr Towers is now assisting World Vision Australia to deploy a fire detector device, produced by the South African social enterprise Lumkani, in Bangladeshi slums. The Lumkani device is a sensor that, on detecting rapidly rising temperatures, sends out alerts to all other nearby Lumkani devices and to the phones of device owners.

Lumkani device
The Lumkani device is small, but will make a big difference in Dhaka. Photo: World Vision Australia.

World Vision Australia was recently involved in the Google Impact Challenge, which allows the public to vote for a charity project to receive $750,000 in funding. While not taking out the overall prize, World Vision Australia was granted $250,000 by Google and plans to deploy the Lumkani device in informal settlements in Bangladesh. Estimates show that the losses from fires could be halved with the device.

Dr Towers’ previous work with the Bushfire CRC has taught her important lessons about the role of children in disaster preparedness that she can apply to her work on deploying the Lumkani device in Bangladesh.

“My PhD gave me a lot insight into the importance of understanding children’s knowledge and experience from their own perspectives,” Dr Towers says.

“I met kids that had been given genuine roles in their family’s plan, and they were able to give me detailed descriptions of how to defend a property and what the different dangers are that you need to be thinking about.

“These kids were telling me all this information that is all consistent with the advice of the fire agencies, and that was because they had been given a genuine role in their family’s emergency response plan.”

According to Dr Towers, children who are included in the planning phase can become competent in making disaster risk reduction decisions at a young age, preparing them for future roles as community decision-makers. “They can actually be making really good decisions around disaster risk reduction now as children and young people.”

In her work in Bangladesh, Dr Towers will apply the lessons learned from her research to best support the deployment of the Lumkani device. “Making sure children and youth have a seat at each table where a decision is being made about implementing the warning system and making sure they have the information they need to genuinely participate is really important,” she says.

“There might be some training workshops specifically for children where they have the opportunity to ask questions and see how the detector works.”

Find out more about the Lumkani project at worldvision.com.au/GIC

Learn more about Dr Towers’ research.

More news from the CRC

New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
Prescribed burning underway. Photo Veronique Florec
Not everything that is important can be assigned a dollar value, with research helping natural hazards managers justify the use and allocation of resources for mitigation efforts.
Photo: Rex Boggs (CC By-ND 2.0)
CRC research is informing community flood warning campaigns, emergency services training and national policy initiatives.
Photo: Nathan Maddock, Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC
Sophisticated fire mapping and modelling of fire severity is helping fire and land managers assess greenhouse gas emissions and develop carbon abatement plans.
NSW RFS Schools Program, photo by Ben Shepherd NSW RFS
Educating children and youth about disaster risk reduction and resilience is now front and centre around Australia, based on research that has identified the valuable role that children play in the safety of their...
Mud Army and SES volunteers working together at the 2011 Queensland floods. Photo: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services
Research has influenced key national initiatives, with findings used extensively for the development of the National Spontaneous Volunteer Strategy, handbook development by AIDR and the new NSW SES Volunteering Reimagined...
Black Saturday 2009 Kinglake
Research is helping government and emergency management agencies identify and allocate ownership of risks, how risk owners are responsible, and what they can do to manage them.
Planning for animals during an emergency adds another layer of complexity.
Australians love their pets – and this influences how people behave during an emergency, with emergency services incorporating findings from research to influence their plans and policies during disasters.
A flood wipes out a bridge in southern WA, February 2017. Photo: Dana Fairhead
Changing the focus of warning messages based on research has been the key to ensure critical safety advice is heard and acted upon.
Photo: Sascha Grant CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Using the latest satellite-based earth observation systems and the Himawari satellite, research will allow fire managers to hone in on bushfires before they become too large to handle.

News archives

AFAC17 logo

AFAC17 logo

All the resources from our 2017 conference

National research priorities for natural hazards

National research priorities for natural hazards

National priorities for research

November update: Southern Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook 2017-18

Bushfire outlook 2017-18

Four years of highlights

Bushfire planning with kids ebook

Explore by keyword

Index of Editions

Issue Four 2017 of Fire Australia includes research on including animals in emergency planning, details from AFAC17, new priorities in natural hazards research, and a Black Saturday case study to develop guidelines for improved community messaging in bushfires.
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.