Our People

Prof John Handmer
Project Leader

About

John Handmer leads RMIT’s Risk and Community Safety research group and holds adjunct professorial positions at ANU and at the Flood Hazard Research Centre in London. He has been a member of the National Flood Risk Advisory Group, and the national committee revising the Australian Emergency Risk Assessment Guide, and was Convener of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Network for Emergency Management, and Principle Scientific Advisor for the Bushfire CRC. He was a Coordinating Lead Author for the IPCC’s special report on extremes. His research group has won a number of research awards, and was commended in the recent report Excellence in Innovation in Australia. His most recent book is J Handmer and S Dovers (2013) Handbook of disaster policies and institutions: improving emergency management and climate change adaptation. He works on the human dimensions of emergency management and disasters.

More info:

Project leadership

The public is usually first on the scene in an emergency or disaster and remain long after official services have ceased. Citizen participation is a key principle of disaster risk reduction and resilience building. However, emergency management relies on volunteers affiliated with official agencies and a comparatively smaller workforce of paid staff. Individuals and groups working outside of this system have often been seen as a nuisance or liability, and their efforts are largely undervalued.

here is a significant and largely untapped opportunity for emergency management agencies to contribute to community resilience by supporting non-traditional emergency volunteers. It is likely that ‘informal’ volunteers will provide much of the surge capacity required to respond to more frequent emergencies and disasters in the future.

This project was commissioned and funded entirely by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Victoria.
Year Type Citation
2016 Journal Article McLennan, B. J., Molloy, J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. Centralised coordination of spontaneous emergency volunteers: the EV CREW model. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 31, (2016).
2016 Report Ronan, K. et al. Building best practice in child-centred disaster risk reduction: Annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Conference Paper McLennan, B. J., Molloy, J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. Harnessing the capacities of spontaneous volunteers: application and adaptation of the Queensland model. AFAC16 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Journal Article Handmer, J. & O’Neill, S. J. Examining bushfire policy in action: Preparedness and behaviour in the 2009 Black Saturday fires. Environmental Science & Policy 63, (2016).
2016 Journal Article McLennan, B. J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. The changing landscape of disaster volunteering: opportunities, responses and gaps in Australia. Journal of the International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards 84, (2016).
2016 Report McLennan, B. J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. Briefing paper: A proposed framework to assess strategies for engaging non-traditional emergency volunteers. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Report Handmer, J., McLennan, B. J. & Whittaker, J. Out of uniform: building community resilience through non-traditional volunteering: Annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2015 Conference Paper Whittaker, J., Handmer, J. & McLennan, B. J. Building Community Resilience Through Informal Emergency Volunteering Conference Paper 2014. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Wellington Conference 2014 (2015).
2015 Journal Article Whittaker, J., McLennan, B. J. & Handmer, J. A review of informal volunteerism in emergencies and disasters: Definition, opportunities and challenges. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 13, 358-368 (2015).
2015 Report Handmer, J., Whittaker, J. & McLennan, B. J. Out of uniform: building community resilience through non-traditional emergency volunteering: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Journal Article Bosomworth, K., Handmer, J. & Thornton, R. P. The role of social science in the governance and management of wildland fire. international Journal of Wildland Fire 24, 151-152 (2015).
2015 Report Ronan, K. et al. Building best practice in child-centred disaster risk reduction: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report McLennan, B. J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. Emergency volunteering in Australia: transforming, not declining. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report McLennan, B. J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. Community-led bushfire preparedness in action: The case of Be Ready Warrandyte. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Conference Paper Ronan, K. et al. Promoting Child Resilience to Disasters: Policy, Practice, Research Conference Paper 2014. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Wellington Conference 2014 (2015).
2015 Conference Paper McLennan, B. J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. The future of 'non-traditional' emergency volunteering: what will it look like and how can it work? - Peer reviewed. Adelaide Conference 2015 (2015).
2015 Journal Article Handmer, J. & Towers, B. Progress made with public awareness-raising activities aimed at building both rural and urban disaster resilience. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Report Whittaker, J., Handmer, J. & McLennan, B. J. Informal Volunteerism in Emergencies and Disasters: A Literature Review. (2015).
2015 Conference Paper Choy, S. et al. How will the new satellite navigation systems help with the provision of information and warnings? - peer viewed. Adelaide Conference 2015 (2015).
2014 Report McLennan, B. J. & Handmer, J. Sharing Responsibility in Australian Disaster Management - Final Report for the Sharing Responsibility Project. (2014).
2014 Journal Article McLennan, B. J. et al. Negotiating risk and responsibility through law, policy and planning. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 29, (2014).
2013 Journal Article Whittaker, J., Haynes, K., Handmer, J. & McLennan, J. Community safety during the 2009 Australian ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires: an analysis of household preparedness and response. International Journal of Wildland Fire (2013). doi:10.1071/WF12010
2012 Conference Proceedings Bosomworth, K., Handmer, J. & Dovers, S. Exploring the capacity to adapt to climate change in the fire management sector of Victoria, Australia. IAWF 3rd Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference, Seattle, WA, 17-19 April 2012 138 (2012). at <http://www.iawfonline.org/pdf/3rd%20Human%20Dimensions%20Conference%20Proceedings%20-%20FINAL.pdf>
2012 Journal Article O’Neill, S. J. & Handmer, J. Responding to bushfire risk: the need for transformative adaptation. Environmental Research Letters 7, 014018 (2012).
2012 Journal Article Whittaker, J., Handmer, J. & Mercer, D. Vulnerability to bushfires in rural Australia: A case study from East Gippsland, Victoria. Journal of Rural Studies (2012). doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2011.11.002
2012 Journal Article McLennan, B. J. & Handmer, J. Changing the rules of the game: mechanisms that shape responsibility-sharing from beyond Australian fire and emergency management. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management 27, (2012).
2012 Journal Article McLennan, B. J. & Handmer, J. Reframing responsibility-sharing for bushfire risk management in Australia after Black Saturday. Environmental Hazards 1 - 15 (2012). doi:10.1080/17477891.2011.608835
2012 Journal Article Stephenson, C., Handmer, J. & Betts, R. Estimating the economic, social and environmental impacts of wildfires in Australia. Environmental Hazards 1 - 19 (2012). doi:10.1080/17477891.2012.703490
2012 Conference Proceedings McLennan, B. J. & Handmer, J. From risk to resilience? Reframing shared responsibility in Australian disaster policy . IAWF 3rd Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference, Seattle, WA, 17-19 April 2012 71-74 (2012). at <http://www.iawfonline.org/pdf/3rd%20Human%20Dimensions%20Conference%20Proceedings%20-%20FINAL.pdf>
2011 Journal Article Minas, J. P., Hearne, J. W. & Handmer, J. A review of operations research methods applicable to wildfire management. International Journal of Wildland Fire (2011). doi:10.1071/WF10129
2011 Report McLennan, B. J. & Handmer, J. Concept review Framing challenges for sharing responsibility. (2011).
2011 Report McLennan, B. J. & Handmer, J. Policy review Mechanisms for sharing responsibility A report of the Sharing Responsibility project. (2011).
2010 Journal Article Haynes, K., Handmer, J., McAneney, J., Tibbits, A. & Coates, L. Australian bushfire fatalities 1900-2008: exploring trends in relation to the `Prepare, stay and defend or leave early' policy. 13, 185 - 194 (2010).
2010 Journal Article Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. Community Bushfire Safety: A Review of Post-black Saturday Research. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 25, 7-13 (2010).
2008 Book Chapter Paton, D. & Wright, L. Community bushfire safety (Handmer, J. & Haynes, K.) (CSIRO Publishing, 2008).
2008 Book Chapter Leonard, J. E. Community bushfire safety (Handmer, J. & Haynes, K.) (2008). at <http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/18/pid/5819.htm >
2007 Book Chapter Ganewatta, G., Choong, W. & Handmer, J. A Book on Managing Extreme Events in Environment (Munasinghe, P. Mohan) (2007).
2007 Journal Article Ganewatta, G. & Handmer, J. Bushfire Management: Why, Where and How Economics Matter?. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland. (2007).
2007 Book Chapter Ganewatta, G. & Handmer, J. Community Bushfire Safety (Handmer, J. & Haynes, K.) (CSIRO Publishing/ Bushfire CRC, 2007). at <http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/18/pid/5819.htm>
2007 Journal Article Handmer, J. & Proudley, B. Communicating uncertainty via probabilities: The case of weather forecasts. Environmental Hazards 7, 79 - 87 (2007).
2006 Journal Article Handmer, J. Recognising Reality: Questioning the automatic evacuation reflex in wildfires. (2006).
2005 Report Gunasekera, D., Gonzalez-Caban, A., Handmer, J., Mills, G. A. & Bannister, T. Framework for measuring the value of Australian Bureau of Meteorology fire weather services.Economic Value of Fire Weather Services. 37-66 (BMRC , 2005). at <http://www.bom.gov.au/bmrc/pubs/researchreports/RR112.pdf plus on FKN>
2005 Journal Article Handmer, J. & Tibbits, A. Is staying at home the safest option during bushfires? Historical evidence for an Australian approach☆. Global Environmental Change Part B: Environmental Hazards 6, 81 - 91 (2005).

Posters credited

Child-centred disaster risk reduction: A longitudinal investigation of bushfire education


The aims of this research project are to establish an evidence-base for a effective, school-based bushfire education programs with children.

The role of children in disasters: A program of research


Children represent the most vulnerable demographic group in disasters.  

Improving the role of hazard communications in increasing residents' preparedness and response planning


Communication and education of risk mitigation strategies play an essential role in building and maintaining resilience through preparation and planning by residents. However, little is known about the relative effectiveness of existing hazard communications and education strategies. 

Out of uniform: Building community resilience through non-traditional emergency volunteering


Citizens may play vital roles in helping those affected to respond and recover, and can provide invaluable assistance to official agencies.

Children and Youth in Disasters: A Co-Produced Program of Research


Children represent the most vulnerable demographic group in disasters.  The world health organisation estimates that 30-50% of disaster fatalities are children.  They are also most vulnerable to psychosocial impacts.  However, preliminary research and the new Sendai Framework also identifies them as community “drivers” of change for reducing current and future disaster risks and increasing community resilience.

Community-Led Bushfire Preparedness in Action: The Case of Be Ready Warrandyte


Be Ready Warrandyte (BRW) was an award-winning, community-led bushfire preparedness project instigated by community members and coordinated by the Warrandyte Community Association from May 2012 to June 2015. Its goal was “to have more Warrandyte households with effective bushfire plans”. It involved close collaboration between community volunteers, local governments and the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

Key Topics:
An Evidence-Based Practice Framework for Children's Disaster Education


Disaster education for children has been identified as a key stragety for increasing disaster resilience. In Australia, comprehensive, evidence-based guidance for the development and implementation of quality education programmes is lacking. This framework, underpinned by current research in the field, aims to provide emergency service agencies and other stakeholders with a good practice approach to developing education programmes that foster children's capacities for building resilience.

Out of Uniform: Building Community Resilience Through Non-Traditional Emergency Volunteering


The public is usually first on the scene in an emergency or disaster and remain long after official services have ceased. Citizen participation is a key principle of disaster risk reduction and resilience building. However, emergency management relies largely on volunteers affiliated with official agencies and a comparatively smaller workforce of paid staff. Individuals and groups working outside of this system have often been seen as a nuisance or liability, and their efforts are largely undervalued.

Joshua Whittaker Conference Poster 2016


Citizen participation is a key principle of disaster risk reduction and resilience building.

Key Topics:

Resources credited

Type Released Title Download Key Topics
Presentation-Slideshow 27 Mar 2014 Out of uniform Save (877.64 KB) capability, non-traditional recruitment, volunteering
Presentation-Slideshow 07 Aug 2014 Sharing Responsibility and Non-Traditional Volunteering Save (1.63 MB) non-traditional recruitment, volunteering
Presentation-Slideshow 08 Sep 2014 Building community resilience through informal emergency volunteering Save (1.12 MB) non-traditional recruitment, volunteering
Presentation-Slideshow 10 Apr 2015 Out of Uniform 2015 NSW RAF Presentation Save (2.48 MB) non-traditional recruitment, resilience, volunteering
HazardNoteEdition 10 Jul 2015 Ensuring volunteering is sustainable Save (150.91 KB) non-traditional recruitment, resilience, volunteering
Presentation-Slideshow 11 Sep 2015 The future of 'non-traditional' emergency volunteering Save (1.85 MB) volunteering
HazardNoteEdition 21 Oct 2015 Turning warnings into action Save (236.32 KB) animals, communication, tsunami
HazardNoteEdition 11 Jan 2016 Raising the bar on risk reduction policy and planning Save (144.04 KB) governance, planning, policy
Presentation-Slideshow 17 May 2016 Out of uniform Save (2.54 MB) communities, non-traditional recruitment, volunteering
Presentation-Slideshow 30 Aug 2016 Harnessing the capacities of spontaneous volunteers: application and adaptation of the Queensland model - Blythe McLennan Save (1.61 MB) communities, non-traditional recruitment, volunteering
Presentation-Slideshow 30 Aug 2016 Opportunities and challenges of citizen-led recovery in post-disaster settings - Josh Whittaker Save (2.29 MB) communities, non-traditional recruitment, volunteering
HazardNoteEdition 18 Apr 2017 The changing landscape of emergency volunteering in Australia Save (411.5 KB) non-traditional recruitment, resilience, volunteering

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