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McLennan J.,La Trobe University | Evans L.,La Trobe University | Cowlishaw S.,University of Bristol | Pamment L.,La Trobe University | Wright L.,Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Center
Journal of Traumatic Stress | Year: 2016

Numerous studies show that those involved in disaster response may develop posttraumatic stress disorder or experience secondary traumatic stress (STS). There are few reports about the experiences of postdisaster field research interviewers. We report findings from a follow-up study of researchers who conducted postwildfire field research interviews with residents affected by 5 severe wildfire events in Australia over the period 2009-2014. There were 33 postwildfire research interviewers who reported their experiences, and 18 of them (54.5%) described distressing interviews involving deaths, surviving severe threats to life, and destruction of houses. There were 27 (81.6%) who reported having experienced 1 or more STS symptoms on a 20-item measure. Those who conducted interviews following a multifatality wildfire event reported higher levels of STS symptoms compared with researchers whose interviews followed nonfatal wildfires. There were 21 (63.6%) researchers who reported that their interviewing experiences had positive effects on their lives. This indicates that the researcher role of gathering information so that future wildfire risk could be mitigated may have served a protective function. © 2016 International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Wahalathantri B.L.,Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Center | Lokuge W.,University of Southern Queensland | Karunasena W.,University of Southern Queensland | Setunge S.,RMIT University
Natural Hazards Review | Year: 2016

Floodways are commonly used in rural road networks due to the economic and environmental benefits offered as a low-cost and practical road crossing in flood-prone areas. They are designed with provision for submergence so that water flows over with minimum impediment to flow, at a probability given design flood. The floodway design process is traditionally governed by hydraulic aspects rather than structural aspects. Hydrological condition, availability of material, and familiarity of construction techniques are significant when selecting the floodway type. Nevertheless, extreme conditions can cause significant damage to floodways, as was evident from the 2011 and 2013 Queensland flood events, during which 58% of floodways in the Lockyer Valley Regional Council (LVRC) area in Queensland, Australia, which is the case study area of this paper, were damaged, causing huge economic lost at council and national level. This created a new track in research and development activities to assess vulnerability and to find methods for improving the resilience of floodways during extreme flood events. In line with this, the present study evaluates local design guidelines and damaged floodways to assess failure modes and severity of damage using a damage index (DI) method. © 2015 American Society of Civil Engineers.

Haworth B.,University of Sydney | Haworth B.,Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Center | Bruce E.,University of Sydney
Geography Compass | Year: 2015

The immediacy of locational information requirements and importance of data currency for natural disaster events highlights the value of volunteered geographic information (VGI) in all stages of disaster management, including prevention, preparation, response, and recovery. The practice of private citizens generating online geospatial data presents new opportunities for the creation and dissemination of disaster-related geographic data from a dense network of intelligent observers. VGI technologies enable rapid sharing of diverse geographic information for disaster management at a fraction of the resource costs associated with traditional data collection and dissemination, but they also present new challenges. These include a lack of data quality assurance and issues surrounding data management, liability, security, and the digital divide. There is a growing need for researchers to explore and understand the implications of these data and data practices for disaster management. In this article, we review the current state of knowledge in this emerging field and present recommendations for future research. Significantly, we note further research is warranted in the pre-event phases of disaster management, where VGI may present an opportunity to connect and engage individuals in disaster preparation and strengthen community resilience to potential disaster events. Our investigation of VGI for disaster management provides broader insight into key challenges and impacts of VGI on geospatial data practices and the wider field of geographical science. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Haworth B.,University of Sydney | Haworth B.,Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Center
Computers, Environment and Urban Systems | Year: 2016

Volunteered geographic information (VGI) refers to the widespread creation and sharing of geographic information by private citizens, often through platforms such as online mapping tools, social media, and smartphone applications. VGI has shifted the ways information is created, shared, used and experienced, with important implications for applications of geospatial data, including emergency management. Detailed interviews with 13 emergency management professionals from eight organisations across five Australian states provided insights into the impacts of VGI on official emergency management. Perceived opportunities presented by VGI included improved communication, acquisition of diverse local information, and increased community engagement in disaster management. Identified challenges included the digital divide, data management, misinformation, and liability concerns. Significantly, VGI disrupts the traditional top-down structure of emergency management and reflects a culture shift away from authoritative control of information. To capitalise on the opportunities of VGI, agencies need to share responsibility and be willing to remain flexible in supporting positive community practises, including VGI. Given the high accountability and inherently responsive nature of decision making in disaster management, it provides a useful lens through which to examine the impacts of VGI on official authoritative systems more broadly. This analysis of the perceptions of emergency management professionals suggests changes to traditional systems that involve decentralisation of power and increased empowerment of citizens, where value is increasingly recognised in both expert and citizen-produced information, initiatives and practises. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.

McLennan J.,La Trobe University | Paton D.,Charles Darwin University | Wright L.,Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Center
International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction | Year: 2015

Many populated areas of Australia are at high risk of bushfire. All state and territory rural fire services have community bushfire safety education programs providing information and advice to residents about bushfire danger, household risk assessment, and planning and preparing to leave safely or to defend a property assessed as being defensible. Following disastrous bushfires in Victoria in February 2009 resulting in the deaths of 172 civilians and destruction of more than 2000 homes, a programme of interviews with affected residents was conducted. This first study revealed generally low levels of both pre-bushfire perceptions of risk, and planning and preparation by householders. Between 2011 and 2014, six further post-bushfire householder interview studies were conducted. Despite fire agencies' community education endeavours subsequent to the 2009 fires: (a) appreciable percentages of residents interviewed in these six post-2010 studies did not believe that they were at-risk prior to the fire and had no plan for what to do if threatened; (b) of those with a plan, a minority were well-prepared to implement their plan - especially if that plan was to leave; (c) very few householders self-evacuated before the fire on the basis of fire danger weather warnings. The findings and implications are discussed. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

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