Resilience to Hazards

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Managing animals during a hazard (Bendigo Advertiser)
Managing animals during a hazard (Bendigo Advertiser)

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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.

Managing Animals in Disasters - project overview

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.

Most research in the area has emerged from the United States following extensive and widely-reported animal-related challenges associated with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Although animal owners in the US and Australia will share many of the same characteristics and behaviours, the emergency management arrangements and typical scale of disasters are quite different, making translation of US research to Australia difficult.

The National Strategy for Disaster Resilience states that communities should be empowered to take shared responsibility for disaster resilience. Animals provide an avenue to connect communities, and to enable community members to work together in disaster preparedness and planning.

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.

Case studies were undertaken on the 2015 Sampson Flat bushfire in South Australia, as well as with the Tasmania Fire Service and its Bushfire Ready Neighbourhoods program. More recently, the team collaborated with a newly-formed community-led group in the NSW Blue Mountains called Blue Mountains Animal Ready Community (Blue ARC). The research explored a ‘community-to- community’ approach to enhancing awareness, preparedness and planning for animals in emergencies.

Key findings show that over 60% of respondents expected the emergency services would provide information or advice regarding what they could do with their animals in an emergency situation.

This expectation was higher than other groups, such as veterinarians or the RSPCA. A generally low level of planning was reflected in the experiences of those who had evacuated during the 2013 fires. Although most respondents reported taking animals with them when they evacuated, some reported leaving a person behind to look after the animals, and others had to choose which animals to leave.

This research will inform the production of a community guide to establishing an animal ready community; a resource that could be used by other communities to promote emergency preparedness and planning through a focus on animals. This will include helpful advice for the steps involved, the networks and collaborations required, how to identify the needs of local animal owners, and suggestions for community activities.

Survey for preparedness for animals in emergencies
8 March, 2017
Are you an animal owner living in the Blue Mountains, or surrounding areas of the Hawkesbury, Lithgow or Penrith? Your participation in a survey could help inform local community emergency preparedness for animals.
8 February, 2017
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
Managing animals during a hazard (Bendigo Advertiser)
28 November, 2016
Participants are needed to take part in a survey of community bushfire preparation and response in Tasmania.
NSWSES large animal rescue training at Agnes Banks. Photo by Penny Burns
23 February, 2016
The Managing Animals in Disasters project has been active throughout 2015 and 2016. Read all about the latest information in the second newsletter from the project - MAiD Aware.
CRC researcher, Dr Kirrilly Thompson receiving her award from CQUniveristy
1 December, 2015
Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC researchers Dr Kirrilly Thompson and Prof Kevin Ronan have been recognised by CQUniversity for their outstanding research efforts and commitment.
Lake Mountain landscape post Black Saturday fires
15 October, 2015
What is our research about, and how will our emergency service partners benefit? Hear direct in these short videos
Rachel Westcott with her Pride of Australia achievements.
8 October, 2015
CRC PhD student Rachel Westcott has been recognised for her work after South Australia’s Sampson Flat bushfire as part of the Pride of Australia awards.
Managing animals during a hazard (Bendigo Advertiser)
15 July, 2015
The latest podcast from Emergency Management Australia is focused squarely on animals in emergencies, and features Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC researchers.
Christchurch earthquake
14 May, 2015
CRC researchers feature strongly in the latest edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management, a special issue on animals and disasters.
Dr Kirrilly Thompson
20 March, 2015

Kirrilly Thompson has been selected as one of five young Australians to be recognised for her research, beating out almost 250 other applicants in the process.

ABC Radio National and the University of New South Wales joint project ‘Top 5 Under 40’ aimed to find and honour five of Australia’s best and brightest young scientific minds.

Flooded house Victoria
9 February, 2015
This newsletter has been put together by the Communications and warnings cluster to keep end‐users informed about key work across each of the projects.
Christchurch earthquake
24 July, 2014
News from a Project - the Managing Animals in Disasters project has been active on many front. Read all about it in the first newsletter from the project.
Year Type Citation
2017 Journal Article Westcott, R., Ronan, K., Bambrick, H. & Taylor, M. "Don’t Just Do Something .. Stand There!" Emergency Responders’ Peri-Incident Perceptions of Animal Owners in Bushfire. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 4, (2017).
2017 Journal Article Trigg, J., Smith, B. P., Bennett, P. & Thompson, K. Developing a scale to understand willingness to sacrifice personal safety for companion animals: The Pet-Owner Risk Propensity Scale (PORPS). International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 21, 205-212 (2017).
2016 Journal Article Trigg, J., Thompson, K., Smith, B. P. & Bennett, P. An Animal Just Like Me: The Importance of Preserving the Identities of Companion-Animal Owners in Disaster Contexts. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 10, 26-40 (2016).
2016 Journal Article Every, D., Due, C., Thompson, K. & Ryan, J. Conflicting perspectives on animal rescues in natural disasters. Society & Animals 24, 358-382 (2016).
2016 Report Taylor, M. Managing Animals in Disasters - improving preparedness, response and resilience through organisational collaboration: Annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2015 Conference Paper Taylor, M. et al. Experiences of responders in supporting animals and their owners in disasters Conference Paper 2014. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Wellington Conference 2014 (2015).
2015 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2015 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2015 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Conference Paper Taylor, M., McCarthy, M. & Eustace, G. The integration of informal volunteers into animal emergency management: experiences from the 2015 South Australian bushfires - non peer reviewed extended abstract. Adelaide Conference 2015 (2015).
2015 Journal Article Smith, B., Thompson, K. & Taylor, M. What’s the Big Deal? Responder Experiences of Large Animal Rescue in Australia. PLOS Currents Disasters (2015). doi:10.1371/currents.dis.71d34082943fa239dbfbf9597232c8a5
2015 Journal Article Taylor, M., Lynch, E., Burns, P. & Eustace, G. The preparedness and evacuation behaviour of pet owners in emergencies and natural disasters. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Journal Article Thompson, K., Leighton, M. & Riley, C. Helping hands, hurting hooves: towards a multidisciplinary paradigm of large animal rescue. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Journal Article Thompson, K. For pet's sake, save yourself! Motivating emergency and disaster preparedness through relations of animal guardianship. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Journal Article Smith, B. P., Taylor, M. & Thompson, K. Risk perception, preparedness and response of livestock producers to bushfires: a South Australian case study. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Journal Article Taylor, M. et al. The challenges of managing animals and their owners in disasters: perspectives of Australian response organisations and stakeholders. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Journal Article Trigg, J., Smith, B. P. & Thompson, K. Does emotional closeness to pets motivate their inclusion in bushfire survival plans? Implications for emergency communicators. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Journal Article Westcott, R. People and their animals in emergencies: snapshots from past emergency events. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Report Taylor, M. Managing animals in disasters: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report Taylor, M. Managing Animals in Disasters: Improving Preparedness, Response and Resilience Annual Report 2014. (2015).
2015 Report Taylor, M., Eustace, G. & McCarthy, M. Animal Emergency Management in Australia. (2015).
Managing animals in disasters (MAiD): Improving preparedness, response, and resilience through individual and organisational collaboration
25 Aug 2014

The Managing Animals in Disasters project (MAiD) is seeking to identify and build best practice approaches to animal welfare emergency management to enable engagement with animal owners and other stakeholders in disasters/emergencies.  

Key Topics:
Managing Animals in Disasters (MAiD): Improving Preparedness, Response, and Resilience through Individual and Organisational Collaboration
18 Aug 2015

The Managing Animals in Disasters project (MAiD) is seeking to identify and build best practice approaches to animal emergency management to enable engagement with animal owners and other stakeholders in disasters and emergencies.

Managing Animals in Disasters (MAiD): Improving preparedness, response, and resilience through individual and organisational collaboration
29 Jun 2017

This project aims to identify and build best practice approaches to animal emergency management to enable engagement with animal owners, and other stakeholders in disasters and emergencies.

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