Getting the message across in natural disasters

Feb 12, 2014 by Niki Widdowson

Why do we see images of people being rescued from vehicles stuck in raging floodwaters despite repeated "If it's flooded, forget it" warnings from emergency services and media?

Why do some people stay and some people go when a bushfire is bearing down on their home?

A team of QUT researchers in the newly formed Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC is set to find out how people assess the risks of an unfolding natural disaster and use that to decide on their response to events like cyclones and bushfires.

Their aim is to fine tune the design of emergency warnings and updates to ensure people understand the instructions and act appropriately to minimise injury, loss of life and enhance the recovery phase of .

A second team, led by deputy director of QUT's Centre for Emergency and Disaster Management (CEDM) Dr Paul Barnes, will focus on the capabilities local, regional and state communities and agencies need to weather and bounce back from anticipated future natural disasters.

QUT School of Clinical Science's Professor Vivienne Tippett, who is leading the Communication and Warnings cluster in the CRC, said CEDM, a cross-disciplinary research group dedicated to reducing the effects of emergencies and disasters on health, community and infrastructure, was well-placed to lead this project.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Professor Tippett will work with CEDM members Dr Amisha Mehta and Dr Dominique Greer from the QUT Business School and Professor Sharon Christensen, Professor Bill Duncan and Ms Amanda Stickley from the Faculty of Law to develop and examine how the law might influence risk communication and warnings.

"Our aim is to partner with government agencies to design effective communication that motivates people to act to protect their lives and others' during and immediately after a natural disaster," Professor Tippett said.

"Because people receive warnings from each other, news and social media and the , there can be challenges about who to trust and how to behave as the natural disaster unfolds around them.

"We want to examine how people engage with emergency warnings and how psychology and the law can influence that process to guide the development of innovative digital and communication campaigns that ultimately protect lives."

QUT's Dr Paul Barnes is co-research leader of the CRC's Emergency Management Capability theme in which he is leading a project investigating the capabilities disaster response agencies need to invest in now in order to work better individually and together in the future.

"Multiple agencies must coordinate and work together to enhance response and to help people and communities recover quickly from the effects of natural disasters," Dr Barnes said.

"In Queensland in 2010/2011, for example, when 80 per cent of the state was disaster-declared after a series of floods and cyclones, bridges were down, roads were impassable, food wasn't getting through, people couldn't get to work.

"We need to ensure the best and most efficient co-ordination possible for applying the resources and operations of agencies such as housing and families departments, members of the insurance industry, fire and emergency management and health at the local, regional and state-wide in real-time.

"My research will focus on how best we might integrate these agencies' response and recovery efforts so that communities can be back on their feet as soon as possible.

"And, because natural events are more severe and frequent than ever before, we may well have to do more with less and look at investment and planning for disaster scenarios we haven't faced yet by considering what conditions will be like in five and ten years to come and detail the coordinated capability needed to deal with them."

The new Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre draws together all of Australia's fire and service authorities with the nation's leading experts across a range of scientific fields to explore the causes, consequences and mitigation of natural disasters.

Explore further: The smart software fighting fire with #fire

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The smart software fighting fire with #fire

Nov 28, 2013

Australia's key disaster management agencies have joined forces to tackle the problem of how to access and interpret information gathered during bushfires, and other natural disasters to help emergency services ...

Technology to help weather bushfires, floods and more

Nov 21, 2012

While technology can't prevent catastrophic events, a CSIRO report released in Canberra today reveals how emerging technologies help emergency services better manage natural disasters and minimise their effects ...

Natural disasters take an emotional toll on kids

Nov 04, 2013

Children caught up in the emotional aftermath of the NSW bushfires need ongoing support to help them understand their feelings are natural and normal, according to a University of Queensland clinical psychologist.

Twitter launches emergency alerts

Sep 25, 2013

Twitter on Wednesday launched a system for emergency alerts which can help spread critical information when other lines of communication are down.

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

7 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

10 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

22 hours ago

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...