Responding to bushfire risk: the need for transformative adaptation

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TitleResponding to bushfire risk: the need for transformative adaptation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsO’Neill, SJ, Handmer, J
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Date Published01/2012
AbstractThe 2009 ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires led to 172 civilian deaths, and were proclaimed as one of Australia’s worst natural disasters. The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission was set up in the wake of the fires to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of each fatality. Here, results from an analysis undertaken for the Commission to examine the household preparedness policy ‘Prepare, Stay and Defend, or Leave Early’ (‘Stay or Go’), plus an examination of the Commission’s recommendations, are explored in the broader context of adaptation to bushfire. We find Victoria ill adapted to complex bushfire risk events like Black Saturday due to changing settlement patterns and the known vulnerabilities of populations living in fire prone areas, and increasingly in the future due to the influence of climate change extending fire seasons and their severity. We suggest that uncertainty needs to be better acknowledged and managed in fire risk situations, and that the responsibility for fire preparedness should be more justly distributed. We suggest that a transformation in adaptation is required to effectively manage complex bushfire risk events like Black Saturday, and provide four key ways in which transformation in bushfire preparedness could be achieved.
Short TitleEnviron. Res. Lett.
Refereed DesignationRefereed