Australian lives are being saved by Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC research – and this has been recognised in a national award for science impact and innovation.
The research is shaping warnings and public information campaigns to prepare and protect communities threatened by flood, bushfire, cyclone, storm, heatwave and other natural hazards.
The insights from researchers at the Queensland University of Technology and at Macquarie University were nationally recognised with the Cooperative Research Centres Association’s premier award, the Excellence in Innovation award, presented on 29 May 2019 at the Cooperative Research Centres Association’s annual conference in Adelaide.
Led by Prof Vivienne Tippett (Queensland University of Technology) and Dr Katharine Haynes (Macquarie University and the University of Wollongong), the collaborative research groups have combined to equip emergency service agencies around Australia with better-targeted long-term public safety campaigns, as well as evidence-based warning messages delivered to at-risk populations in the face of imminent natural hazard threats.
The QUT team actively tested the wording and structure of warning messages to better understand how, and by whom, messages are understood and translated into direct action. The findings have supported broader initiatives at the national level with the development of warning guidelines for all emergency service agencies.
The National Emergency Management Handbook Public Information and Warnings and the companion guide Warning Message Construction: Choosing Your Words, published by the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience, draw directly on the research to give guidance on the key considerations for writing effective warning messages, including structures and language styles for specific audiences, such as high-risk groups and non-English speaking communities.
The Macquarie study investigated the circumstances of all flood fatalities in Australia from 1900 to 2015. The study found distinct trends in relation to gender, age, activity and the circumstances of the death. The findings have informed community ﬂood warning campaigns, emergency services training and national policy initiatives, with emergency services able to target warning messages to high-risk groups and high-risk behaviours.
State-based emergency service agencies have drawn from both projects and have collaborated at the national level on their insights and experiences in their testing phases to determine a style and structure for their official public messages and information campaigns.
For more information, go to www.bnhcrc.com.au/news/2019/national-award-warnings-research