Research leader

Dr Josh Whittaker
Dr Josh Whittaker Research Leader

Research team

Dr Mel Taylor Research Team

End User representatives

This project was commissioned and funded entirely by the NSW Rural Fire Service.

In January and February 2017 parts of NSW experienced the worst fire conditions ever experienced with several regions experiencing ‘catastrophic’ fire danger ratings for the first time. During this time, bushfires swept through several parts of NSW, including the Warrumbungle and Queanbeyan-Palerang areas, leaving a trail of destruction and loss with dozens of homes lost, significant livestock losses and many hundreds of kilometres of fencing destroyed. Numerous other communities were threatened by bushfire, but escaped direct impact.

The NSW Rural Fire Service commissioned the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC to coordinate a field research task force to conduct community-focused research in three of the locations hit hard by these events, specifically those affected by the Currandooley, Sir Ivan and Carwoola bushfires. The research team was led by Dr Josh Whittaker of the University of Wollongong and included experienced researchers in Dr Christine Eriksen, also of the University of Wollongong, and Dr Mel Taylor of Macquarie University.

The research focussed on community planning and preparedness and the effectiveness and responses to information and public warning messages. Interviews and surveys were conducted with community members over the June and July 2017 period.

The research built on similar research conducted by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC after major bushfires in recent years and helps the NSW RFS understand how communities react to a bushfire, and informs the RFS’ engagement with communities, before, during and after bushfire. Find out more about the research conducted after the 2013 fires in the Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands and Port Stephens in October 2013.

Read the final report here.

Year Type Citation
2020 Journal Article Whittaker, J., Taylor, M. & Bearman, C. Why don't bushfire warnings work as intended? Responses to official warnings during bushfires in New South Wales, Australia. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 45, (2020).
2018 Conference Paper Whittaker, J. Community preparedness and responses to the 2017 NSW bushfires. AFAC18 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2018 Conference Paper Bates, J. Research proceedings from the 2018 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2017 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2018 Report Whittaker, J. & Taylor, M. Community preparedness and responses to the 2017 New South Wales bushfires. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).