Public safety messages for floods and storms will be broadcast on ABC Radio this severe weather season, backed by Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC research.
Comprising 26 different public messages, the new Community Service Announcements (CSAs) are the first-ever nationally agreed set of public flood and storm-risk messages, having been endorsed in doctrine by AFAC.
This project resulted in a final set of CSAs designed to provide communities with information and advice about protective actions they can take when threatened or impacted by floods and severe storms.
Utilising the findings from the CRC’s Flood risk communication project, the development of the 26 nationally consistent CSAs was led by Hon A/Prof Mel Taylor at Macquarie University. The project was highly collaborative and made possible by the creation of a National Flood CSA Working Group, comprised of representatives from the Bureau of Meteorology and State Emergency Services from all states and territories with responsibility for response in floods. The project was facilitated and supported by AFAC through the AFAC SES Community Safety Group.
‘Developing nationally consistent flood messaging is a significant achievement for the emergency services sector,’ said AFAC Director Risk and Resilience, Amanda Leck. ‘These messages will minimise harm and save lives by ensuring that the ABC is able to communicate key messages to impacted communities during floods. The fact that these messages are based on research and evidence has meant that emergency services agencies across Australia have been willing and able to collaborate to achieve these nationally consistent messages.’
Flood CSAs are used by the ABC before, during and after floods and severe storms for radio broadcasts that are typically around 30 seconds in duration. They contain high-level, general advice and support to communities with the aim of increasing public safety in floods and storms. They are also often linked together to form longer public-information segments to provide breaks in rolling emergency broadcasting.
Although the ABC had an existing set of CSAs for floods and storms, they could only be used in certain combinations of states or territories with the potential for confusion. An important requirement of this project was therefore to produce a comprehensive single harmonised set of CSAs that the ABC can use nationally.
‘The best way to reach audiences is by giving simple, consistent messages and delivering them regularly,’ said Patrick Hession, Emergency Broadcast Lead at the ABC. ‘For example, warning people about the dangers of driving through flood water is a goal that all agencies are working towards. It makes sense to simplify the message so that a person receives the same message no matter which side of a border they are on.’
The development of the CSAs comprised three stages: scoping, co-development and iterative review, and testing and finalising.
‘This process has given me a much greater understanding of the thought processes that people might go through when they are making potentially risky decisions,’ said Mr Hession. ‘This led to the development of messages that can be broadcast at times where people will be making these decisions. Messages were informed by research to better argue against the temptation or motivation that people might have to make risky choices. It’s been a great experience.’
At the end of the project, a final set of 26 flood CSAs was approved, including messages that can be used in all phases of floods and storms in the context of escalating and rolling emergency broadcasts on ABC local radio.
‘This project enabled me to use our CRC research findings and combine them with the expertise of a great team of emergency communications to produce messages that resonate with the public and will hopefully lead to greater public safety in floods and storms,’ said A/Prof Taylor.
‘As a researcher, it has been a great experience to work with such an engaged set of stakeholders and end users to translate research findings into outputs that will help protect communities. It was really exciting to hear our messages produced professionally and slotted into the ABC emergency intro and outro wording, ready for use!’
Six CSAs relate to different risks and contexts associated with driving in floods, and four relate to playing in floodwater – these are the behaviours most associated with flood fatalities. A further four relate to animal ownership, and four provide information about the meanings or nature of warnings and alerts. The remainder include issues around home preparation, safety considerations when cleaning up after flooding, information about what to do if you are trapped by rising floodwater or are considering staying when advised to leave, and messages about flash flooding and the implications of flooding upstream.
The full suite of CSAs has been recorded by the ABC and has now been distributed to ABC Radio teams around Australia. They are available for use by the ABC’s local on-air teams when appropriate.
‘With the early start to flooding events, these CSAs couldn’t have been completed at a better time!’ said Mr Hession.
The full set of CSAs are available in the AFAC doctrine, National Community Safety Announcements for flood risk communication.1
Although the CSAs were created in response to a request by the ABC, and with their involvement, there is the opportunity for other broadcasters to use them too. Those interested should contact Melissa Peppin at AFAC for more information: Melissa.Peppin@afac.com.au.
Read more about the development of the CSAs in the Research into practice brief, Development of a national set of Community Service Announcements for flood risk,2 and the final report.3
The Research into practice brief series provides concise summaries of the Flood risk communication research findings for end-users and practitioners. You can download the full series at www.bnhcrc.com.au/resources/practicebriefs.
For more information, go to www.bnhcrc.com.au