News from the CRC
Focus on community engagement
CRC research into communication and community engagement was front and centre in Coffs Harbour last week at the Australian Community Engagement and Fire Awareness Conference.
The conference brought together NSW Rural Fire Service community engagement practitioners with representatives from emergency services, government and private sectors from across Australia.
CRC researcher Dr Josh Whitaker (University of Wollongong) spoke about the research conducted in the aftermath of three catastrophic bushfires across NSW in 2017 and the preparedness of the community. Key findings centre around warnings, the behaviour of those under threat and public expectations of fire and emergency service agencies. The study found that people greatly value the Fires Near Me smartphone application and RFS website for warning information, believing the information to be easy to understand, useful and sufficiently localised. However, there is a need to more clearly communicate that destructive fires occur at all fire danger conditions, not just at the Catastrophic level, as well as the limitations of directly attacking a fire front when conditions are too dangerous. The research also confirms the tendency for people to wait and observe the fire directly before getting ready to defend themselves or confirm the need to leave even after receiving a warning.
Dr Mel Taylor (Macquarie University) presented findings on flood risk communication and the dangers of driving through floodwater.
The event is presented every two years by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and designed to gather key stakeholders to share and discuss knowledge, new strategies and gain valuable insights into the best practices to empower communities.
In addition to researchers speaking, the CRC participated with AFAC by hosting a display in the exhibition area.
ACEFAC was held in Coffs Harbour, the first time the event has been held in northern NSW.