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Community wildfire preparedness: a global state-of-the-knowledge summary of social science research

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Year Published

2015

Publication

Current Forestry Reports. 1(2): 81-90.

Abstract

This article builds on findings from a synthesis of fire social science research that was published from 2000 to 2010 to understand what has been learned more recently about public response to wildfires. Two notable changes were immediately noted in the fairly substantial number of articles published between 2011 and 2014. First, while over 90% of the articles found in the initial synthesis were US-based studies, roughly half of the articles published since 2010 have been conducted outside the USA, the majority from Australia. Second, while the primary focus of earlier studies was on pre-fire mitigation efforts on both public and private lands, roughly half of the recent articles focused on dynamics during and after a fire. Overall, findings from the current review re-enforce key themes identified in the previous synthesis work and provide a deeper and more nuanced understanding of how certain variables, such as risk perception, may influence public response to wildfires. In addition, several important dynamics emerged across studies: the similarity of findings across countries, increased work across the temporal gradient, the importance of social interactions and of place attachment in shaping response, the need to take local knowledge and context into account, and the importance of financial support. These patterns suggest that while no single outreach approach or policy is likely to be effective everywhere or for everyone, efforts that facilitate development of relationships, within communities and between community members and fire personnel, can contribute to increased preparedness at the individual and community level by facilitating information exchange and helping to build a sense of community.

Keywords

Communication; Mitigation; Preparedness; Evacuation; Risk perception; Social interactions

Citation

McCaffrey, Sarah. 2015. Community wildfire preparedness: a global state-of-the-knowledge summary of social science research. Current Forestry Reports. 1(2): 81-90. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40725-015-0015-7.

Last updated on: September 2, 2015