Australia — The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission has heard 20 per cent of all the people who died on Black Saturday were “well prepared” to stay and defend their homes.
The inquiry is examining the stay or go policy for a final time before hearings end.
The commission heard an analysis of the intentions and activities of the 173 people who died on Black Saturday also showed a further 14 per cent of people had made “some preparations” to stay and defend.
But 58 per cent of people had made no prior preparations to either stay or leave.
Senior counsel assisting the commission, Jack Rush QC, suggested the data amounted to a failure of the stay or go policy.
The inquiry heard a lack of community preparedness had been known, and a feature of the research on stay or go, since the nineties.
RMIT researcher John Handmer, who studied the data, agreed the stay or go policy, despite years of promotion, had failed to see people adequately prepared.
He agreed the policy relied on ordinary citizens being mentally and physically equipped to handle situations that you would not send experienced firefighters into.
Mr Rush said the fundamental principle underpinning the stay or go policy, that houses save people, should be scrapped.
The commission has been told the founding principles of the policy were contradicted by the Black Saturday experience.
Many people survived sheltering in cars, in contravention of CFA advice that houses were the safest place to be.
Mr Rush suggested the notion that houses save people should be “buried”.
Professor Handmer did not agree but said it was certainly in serious question.
The hearings will continue for another five weeks.