Monday, June 04, 2007

Canberra Firestorm Report

"Recovering from the 2003 Canberra Bushfire: a Work in Progress" report on research on the effectiveness of recovery services after the 2003 firestorm in Canberra. The work was funded by Emergency Management Australia, and carried out by the Australian Catholic University, the University of Canberra and the ACT Department of Health. The report is available from EMA, but as a difficult to download is a 109 page, 963 KB PDF document. I have extracted the summary and recommendations and appended them below. Also the ACT Coroner delivered a two volume report entitled "The Canberra Firestorm". The Coroner's report is available as two large PDF files (Volume 1 2.4MB and Volume 2 15.4 MB) and as separate chapters. On 18 January 2003, during the fires, I provided some photos of the firefighting operations. Later I prepared: Also I supervised research by a student and provided some other disaster related materials at ANU: Also of relevance is "In stressful times what can we as teachers do?", by Dr John Worthington.

Recovering from the 2003 Canberra Bushfire: a Work in Progress

Executive summary


It is more than three and a half years since Canberra experienced the devastating 'firestorm' on January 18 2003 in which 4 people died, 3 people were treated for serious burns at the Royal North Shore Hospital, 49 people admitted to ACT hospitals and 440 people received outpatient care. 488 houses were destroyed in both urban and rural ACT. Nearly 160,000 hectares were burnt in the ACT including over 16,000 hectares of plantation forests and 31,000 hectares of rural leases. More than 5,000 people were evacuated to the emergency centres and many more went to family and friends for safety.

A State of Emergency existed from the onset of the firestorm on the 18th January until it was lifted on the 28th January 2003. Over 50,000 residents lost their utility services (electricity, gas and water) during the early post-fire stage. 1600 households registered with the ACT Bushfire Recovery Centre for assistance.

This report details a research project that looked at aspects of the recovery process following the January 2003 bushfire. The research was funded by Emergency Management Australia and undertaken by a multidisciplinary research team drawn from the Australian Catholic University, the University of Canberra and the ACT Government. Additional funding was provided by Mental Health ACT ...

Communication and Media

Overall, information and communication provided by the ACT Government to assist in recovery was praised by respondents. In particular, the newsletter Community Update

was singled out by a large majority of respondents as meeting their needs. With very few exceptions, the mass media served the affected community very well. Recommendations emerging from the research include:

  • Timeliness and consistency of information provision should be improved
  • New ways of telling people where to get information and resources should be explored
  • Newsletters designed for the affected community should avoid 'over-cheeriness'; reflect people's actual experiences across a range of good and bad, and address all affected stakeholder groups; community input should be strongly encouraged
  • Overtly political presence and content in newsletters should be minimised
  • Ensure that media briefings and releases involve all media available to the post-disaster community (including internet and community media) and cover all recovery-related issues as soon as they emerge. ...

From: "Recovering from the 2003 Canberra Bushfire: a Work in Progress", Peter Camilleri, Chris Healy, Elspeth Macdonald, Susan Nicholls, Jolyon Sykes, Gail Winkworth, Merrilyn Woodward, Australian Catholic University, the University of Canberra and the ACT Department of Health, EMA, 2007

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