Understanding the context: The value of community engagement in bushfire risk communication and education. Observations following the East Coast Tasmania bushfires of December 2006

Massey University
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australiasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies, 2008, 2 (1), pp. 1 - 14
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Bushfire risk communication and education are the primary mechanisms used by emergency managers to increase resilience and recovery from bushfires. Generally these agencies utilise mass communication techniques to provide targeted and standardised information to at-risk members of the community. These techniques are unable to accommodate the variability between communities, particularly the situational characteristics of the community and the resulting context in which risk communication messages are interpreted by those communities. This observational study, carried out after a severe bushfire on the east coast of Tasmania, revealed how situational characteristics of the community influence preparedness, agency trust, and sense of community. These results suggest it is necessary to couple mass communication techniques with community engagement to overcome the influence of situational characteristics, thereby encouraging collective preparedness, ensuring the correct interpretation of risk communication messages, and engendering confidence and trust in those organisations that communicate bushfire risk information.
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