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Preparation the key to saving lives this bushfire season: International Day for Disaster Reduction

Summer is still six weeks away, but bushfires have already wreaked havoc across Eastern Australia.
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Summer is still six weeks away, but bushfires have already wreaked havoc across Eastern Australia.

On International Day for Disaster Reduction (October 13), University of Southern Queensland’s Dr Barbara Ryan says it is more important than ever to prepare.

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“Preparation by individuals and communities is central to reducing risk to Australians,” Dr Ryan said.

The Disaster Behaviour researcher is part of a multi-institutional project looking at bushfire preparedness to provide emergency agencies and councils with a way of enabling communities to save lives and properties.

“These organisations are really interested in community-led preparation, which is often more effective than agencies trying to motivate people to get ready,” she said.

Dr Ryan said even people in communities experienced with floods and bushfires tend not to prepare.

“The first step towards working out how to get people motivated was to map what works, and then what agencies were doing and how they were doing it,” she said.

“From this we were able to develop a model and a process of community engagement that agencies can use.”

“Ultimately, connected communities, where people talk to and support each other and have strong social networks, are the ones that tend to prepare for a natural hazard.

“They also recover better and faster if they are hit with one - it's this connectedness that agencies are aiming for and which we hope our research can support and guide.”

International Day for Disaster Reduction encourages every individual, community and government to take part in building more disaster resilient communities and nations.

This project was led by Associate Professor Kim Johnston (QUT) with Dr Barbara Ryan and Professor Maureen Taylor (University of Technology Sydney).

It was funded by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, NSW SES, the Inspector General of Emergency Management Queensland, Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, Cairns Regional Council, Ipswich City Council and Tablelands Regional Council.

woman smiling with glasses on and pearls around her neck
Dr Barbara Ryan said there is still an absence of preparedness in those within critical disaster zones.