The CASPR Group has secured funding for vital research into the efficacy of bushfire action plans of older people (70+) living independently in high danger bushfire areas.
CASPR Research Lead Beverley Clarke, CASPR Associate Kirstin Ross, group Director Cassandra Star and Research Fellow Zoei Sutton have been awarded a $196k Bushfire Recovery Grant from the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources to fund the project Facilitating bushfire action planning for older people. The project will be carried out across three LGAs considered to be of high bushfire risk: Adelaide Hills Council, Coorong District Council and Yorke Peninsula Council.
Not all citizens have the same capacity to activate a bushfire evacuation plan and information about evacuating the vulnerable in South Australia remains an unresolved and under-researched challenge. For the older people, ‘leave early’ bushfire action plans are likely to be more complex than for other members of the community for reasons of limited mobility and access to transport, and re-scheduling visits from aged-care services. It is not yet well understood how vulnerable residents interpret ‘leave early’ messaging, the quality of self-prepared bushfire action plans, and the capacity and commitment to activate these plans.

“This is a much-needed study. It’s going to help fill in some big knowledge gaps and kick-start some deep thinking about what can and should be done to reduce the vulnerability of older people during bushfire events. The findings should signal to community leaders, government and aged-care service providers the targeted messaging and support needed to help reduce risk.” – Beverley Clarke

This project will collect input from various sources, including older people, representatives from aged care facilities, service providers, and emergency responders, to explore:

  • Interpretations of ‘early evacuation’,
  • Commitments to evacuating early,
  • The scope of bushfire action plans, and
  • The capability of participants to enact plans.

“Evidence from overseas indicates that older people are significantly more vulnerable during disaster events  - by understanding these vulnerabilities we can prepare better, and ultimately save lives.” – Kirstin Ross

This Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grant will enable researchers to assist councils and emergency services to design messaging specific to this group; and to develop targeted strategies and enhanced integration with aged care services, both empowering and improving the resilience of this vulnerable group. It is part of CASPR’s ongoing commitment to increasing resilience to the impacts of climate change and the associated catastrophic disasters.

Photo credits: Catherine Leo.