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Media Release

New research reminder to take action if bushfire occurs
Thursday 19 February 2015 – 8:00 AM

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has today urged people to have a detailed bushfire plan in place and put it into action as soon as a fire occurs.

The warning comes as new research released today found that one in five people caught up in the Parkerville fire last year did not have a bushfire plan in place and nearly one third hesitated to take action when they learnt about the fire.
 
More than 90 households in the Parkerville area were interviewed following the 12 January bushfire and the results were analysed by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.
 
DFES Director Community Engagement Suellen Flint said the findings showed the importance of preparing for bushfire, but also of acting without delay when a fire occurs.
 
"The research found that the majority of people in the area had a bushfire plan, but that many people delayed putting their bushfire plan into action, even when they saw smoke or became aware of an official warning," Ms Flint said.
 
"The next big fire may occur near you, so this weekend, take time to write down your plan, consider it thoroughly and make sure it is the best plan for you and your family's safety.
 
“Then make sure you act at the first sign of fire. Don’t wait and see because you think it’s inconvenient to leave, you may be placing yourself in danger.”
 
DFES provides bushfire survival plan checklists in the Prepare. Act. Survive booklet at www.areyouready.wa.gov.au.
 
Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) lead researcher Professor Jim McLennan said some people underestimated their bushfire risk.
 
"A substantial number of people that planned to ‘wait and see’ if a fire occurred did so because they believed that their bushfire risk was low,” Professor McLennan said.
 
“This was clearly not the case, with a major bushfire able to occur in this area and in many others across Perth and the South West.
 
"Some people also believed that waiting would not add to their risk, but many of the fatalities in the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria were believed to be ‘waiting to see’ what would happen.
 
“It is a concern that some people continue to underestimate their bushfire risk as well as the intensity, severity and physical toll of a bushfire.
 
"The findings, overall, were similar to those from research undertaken following bushfires in Tasmania and New South Wales in 2012 and 2013.”
 
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services commissioned the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC to undertake the research, which was conducted with the assistance of the Shire of Mundaring.
 
The research consisted of interviews with 91 households over three days, in or near the area burnt by the fire, representing approximately 20% of households in the threatened area.
 
The full report is available at www.dfes.wa.gov.au/publications
 
END
Media Contact: DFES Media and Corporate Communications on 9225 5955

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
The research was titled ‘Capturing Community Members’ Bushfire Experiences: Interviews with Residents Following the 12 January 2014 Parkerville (WA) Fire’.

It found:
• 81% of residents indicated they had a bushfire plan prior to the 12 January bushfire, although only 8% had a written plan.
• 49% planned to leave, while 14% planned to stay and defend, 11% planned to have some family members stay and defend while other members left ,7% planned to wait and see how bad the fire is, then decide on their preferred course of action.
• 19% said that they did not have a bushfire plan.
• Staying and defending was not seen as a bushfire survival option but rather as an asset protection choice.
• Of those that planned to leave, 76% did not have a chosen safe destination.
• People that planned to wait and see chose this option because they believed their bushfire risk was low and they believed that waiting would not add to their risk.
• Only 7% of those who planned to leave had decided on a trigger for safe evacuation.
• On the day of the bushfire, 31% of residents decided initially that they would wait and see how the threat developed before making a final decision to leave or to stay.
• At least 31% of those who planned to stay and defend did not have the recommended water supply and power source independent of mains electricity.
• The most reported early indications of the bushfire were visual and auditory cues within the environment including the sight of smoke (71%) and sounds (water-bombing aircraft and fire truck sirens) associated with the bushfire response (40%).
 

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