Our People

Suellen Flint
End User Rep

About

Lead end user

The 2015 Productivity Commission’s report on natural disaster funding arrangements in Australia found that governments overinvest in post-disaster reconstruction and underinvest in mitigation activities that would limit the impact of natural disasters. Given the multitude of natural hazards that require mitigation and response from government agencies and the tighter budgets at both state and national levels, natural hazards managers are increasingly under pressure to justify the use and allocation of resources for mitigation efforts.

During a disaster responsibility for animals lies with the owner. However, owners are often ill-prepared for themselves and their animals, which can lead to people risking their lives by failing to evacuate or evacuating too late, which endangers both human and animal lives. This recognition that animals need to be considered and integrated into emergency management and disaster preparedness, response, and recovery poses additional challenges for traditional responding. Extra preparation, knowledge and skills are required to ensure the safety of animals, their owners, and responders.

In this context, animal emergency management has emerged as a relatively new area, with a more complex and often less experienced set of stakeholders requiring integration and coordination.

This study, now in its utilisation phase, sought to address the lack of Australian research by identifying challenges for end-users and studying the disaster experiences of animal owners and responders. Subsequent publications have led to an extended knowledge base, and identification of best practice approaches.

The increasing frequency and complexity of natural hazards poses a challenge for community resilience. Communication and education of risk mitigation strategies play an essential role in building and maintaining resilience through preparation and planning by residents.

This project, now in its utilisation phase, has combined expertise in communication, social and consumer psychology, and disaster and emergency management. It identified barriers and enablers in residents’ decision making, preparing, and planning by examining residents’ intended use of different types of triggers for action during hazards. This included when to start evacuating and what information source to use, with the aim of trying to understand why some residents form a better-quality household plan with safer intended triggers than other residents.

With the multitude of warnings issued when an emergency hits, how can emergency services ensure their critical safety advice is heard and acted upon, rather than dismissed as noise? This project is helping emergency services warn communities by actively testing the wording and structure of warning messages to better understand how messages are understood and translated into direct action. The team is supporting broader initiatives in the communications and warnings space, not just for individual organisations, but also at the national level by providing reviews and assisting with the development of evidence-based warning doctrine.

Current government spending on natural disaster response is more than 20 times the spending on preparedness. Many climate-related natural hazards are increasing, along with the number of people living in hazard-prone areas. Large natural disasters also cross domains, moving from the private to the public realm, and shifting from a local, to a state or national concern. This raises the potential of future, unmanaged risks.

This project, now in its utilisation phase, mapped a broad range of economic, social and environmental values and related them to natural hazards across several case studies. It explored who owns these values and what happens when they cross domains, as well as how a range of alternative strategies may contribute to improved resilience by sustaining economic, social and environmental values in a changing environment.

Research team:

This project is developing an index of the current state of disaster resilience in Australian communities – the Australian Natural Disaster Resilience Index. The Index is a tool for assessing the resilience of communities to natural hazards at a large scale and is designed to provide input into macro-level policy, strategic planning and community engagement activities at national, state and local government levels.

Deliverables will include development of disaster resilience indicators, maps of disaster resilience at multiples scales, a State of Disaster Resilience Report, and examples that use the Index in a natural hazard resilience planning context.

Remote north Australian communities are susceptible to cyclones, floods and bushfires. Cultural and socio-economic factors combine with the challenges of remote service delivery – including cost, low levels of infrastructure and distance from the urban centres that host key service delivery organisations - to create situations where communities can be highly vulnerable to natural hazards. In this context, it is important to understand how these variables can be navigated to enhance community resilience. This task requires a detailed understanding of current capacities, preparation and response strategies, communication pathways and local governance structures.

This project, now in its utilisation phase, has developed a training program that builds on the current assets in place, such as the ranger programs, and leads to increasing levels of competence and confidence and in its turn, resilience. The project is a response to north Australian stakeholder concerns that existing training is inadequate for their needs.
This project was commissioned and funded entirely by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, WA. Resident experiences from the January 2014 Parkerville bushfire in Western Australia have been analysed in two reports for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, WA.
This new project will develop an understanding of the motivations, beliefs, decision making processes and information needs of at-risk groups for flood fatalities. It will cover both age and gender, including an understanding of what a Plan B would look like, how to motivate proactive decision making ahead of the journey, what the current challenges and barriers are to this and what further support and information is needed.

Resources credited

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