Student researcher

Ken Strahan Research Leader

AFAC’s position is that leaving early is the safest option when threatened by a bushfire so household self-evacuation decision making is important.

This project uses the Protective Action Decision Model to explore the factors influencing households’ decision-making in self evacuation from a bushfire threat. The research draws on and will contribute to the broader debates about evacuation as a response to the threat of natural hazards.

Members of households that have recently experienced a threat from a bushfire will be interviewed initially by telephone using a structured computer aided telephone interview and then in a face-to-face semi-structured interview involving all decision-makers within the household.

Data will be analysed to both identify key factors influencing behaviour and potential causal linkages between them.

Research questions:

What are the factors that are significant in households’ self- evacuation decision-making in the context of a bushfire event?

What are the key factors in influencing households to self -evacuate or to not self -evacuate when threatened by bushfire?

How do the key factors that influence households’ self -evacuation decision making relate to one another?

What are the key issue that fire authorities should take into account in designing policy to promote safe self-evacuation by households that arise from the identification of key factors influencing household self-evacuation decision making?

Key outcomes of research

While there has been considerable research conducted in North America on evacuation during hurricanes and floods, which this research draws on, there has been limited published research on self-evacuation during bushfire. There is a pressing need for fundamental research in Australia identifying key factors influencing bushfire self-evacuation decision making. It is especially important to understand the factors influencing the decisions of households who intend to wait and see and will not leave their home at a time when fire authorities would perceive it as safe to do so.

There is a need in Australia to identify and better understand what factors are most influential and how these factors influence protective action decisions, specifically the self-evacuation decision.  

This research can also provides opportunities for cross-hazard learning on self-evacuation decision making in relation to other hazards such as floods and cyclones in addition to bushfire.

How this would make a difference to fire and land management agencies

McLennan et al[i] recently suggested that “one avenue for authorities to improve the effectiveness of their community wildfire safety endeavours and reduce fatalities is to better understand the factors that drive decisions and subsequent behaviours of householders exposed to wildfire threat.”

This research can assist fire agencies in tailoring their future service mix; to facilitate greater understanding of risks and responsibilities by individuals and households; and to contribute to innovative decision-making, management of evidence and knowledge and continuous improvement.

It can also contribute to understanding of evacuation behaviour in relation to other important hazards including flood and hurricane.

[i] McLennan, Elliott and Omodei 2012: Household decision-making under imminent wildfire threat: stay and defend or leave? International Journal of Wildland Fire. 21, 915 – 925