Most ignore dangers of bushfires

Most ignore dangers of bushfires

1 August 2009

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Australia — Householders in South Australia’s high fire risk areas continue to show “blinding apathy” to the potential danger.

Nearly 90 per cent of householders admitted to a CFS survey they still haven’t drawn up personal bushfire action plans.

More than half believe the likelihood of a bushfire remains low, despite living in obvious danger zones such as the Adelaide Hills.

The results show the State Government’s annual “Bushfire Ready” advertising blitz, urging households to prepare for disasters similar to the devastating Victorian Black Saturday bushfires, is not cutting through the apathy.

The results of a telephone survey of 400 at-risk homeowners in April, obtained by the Sunday Mail, revealed nine out of 10 people were concerned about the threat of a bushfire, but:

89 PER CENT had no bushfire action plan and only 14 per cent are planning to write one,

55 PER CENT thought there was a low risk of bushfire happening,

64 PER CENT who remembered receiving an information package with a DVD about bushfire safety said they did not bother opening it or watching it.

The independent survey, by research firm Square Holes Pty Ltd, was done two months after bushfires devastated Victoria, claiming the lives of 173 people.

It concluded “apathy is blinding” among the respondents.

“Throughout the campaign tracking from 2007 to 2009, the key message “Be Bushfire Ready” has met with extensive apathy from targeted households,” the survey report said.

It added that in social media campaigns it was difficult to convert general awareness and concern into personal acceptance and behavioural change.

On a positive note, most people (85 per cent) were interested in bushfire advertising.

Three in four (75 per cent) believed bushfires were the biggest threat facing South Australians this summer, compared to 84 per cent in December, 2007.

It is understood CFS managers believe they are on track in putting out the message, but they are engaged in a long-term, sustained process to increase awareness.

CFS prevention services manager Leigh Miller described the results as “disappointing”.

“But it’s understandable, considering the limited resources we have,” Mr Miller said.

He said the mail-out DVD had been a success in changing behaviour, and said the CFS was interested in an online interactive tool in bushfire preparedness.

“We need the TV advertising to stimulate people’s interest and lead them to our community education,” Mr Miller said. Frontbench Liberal MP Iain Evans, who in April called for a series of Parliamentary reforms into the management of bushfires, said there needed to be a rethink about advertising.

“The reality is there are lots of homes that are apathetic and the government needs to do something,” Mr Evans said.

“The government leaves their messages too late in the season, they should be advertising now and telling them to clean up.”

Professor of Marketing Management at UniSA, David Corkindale, said there was naive trust in the power of government advertising generally, which he described as an expensive box-ticking exercise.

“Government needs to show that it’s doing something and advertising is an attractive thing because it’s very visible,” he said.

“The fact that nothing much happens on the ground is quietly forgotten about. You’ve got to do something more than shout messages at people. An enormous amount of money is wasted. It’s better spent going to country areas and running demonstrations.

“You don’t reach as many people but among those you do reach, you achieve something.”

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