Increasing Preparedness for Bushfires and Floods by Informing Residents of their Community's Social Norms

The School of Psychological Sciences is delighted to announce that A/Prof Piers Howe, A/Prof Jennifer Boldero, Dr Ilona McNeil and Prof John Handmer (RMIT) have won a competitive renewal of their Emergency Management Victoria grant for $105,000 for the 2017-2018 period. Despite being informed about the risks of bushfires and floods and what can be done to reduce these risks, many residents still do not adequately prepare for these events. This occurs because people often fail to act rationally to reduce risk. The research project  will develop an alternative public awareness campaign strategy to encourage residents to become better prepared.

It is well established that individuals are more likely to perform an action (e.g. use sun protection or engage in recycling) when they believe that most other people around them perform the same action or when they believe most other people would approve of the action being performed. As a result, informing people of what other people do and believe should be done has been shown to be an effective behaviour modification strategy in a range of domains such as alcohol consumption, drug use, eating disorders, energy consumption, gambling, littering, paying taxes on time, sun protection and recycling. Building on proven successes in these areas, the researchers will apply this strategy to encouraging people to become better prepared for bushfires and floods. Specifically, the researchers will determine which social norm messages are the most effective at increasing the preparedness of residents to bushfires and floods and how these messages should best be presented. The end-users (e.g. the CFA Victoria and Victorian SES) will be able to use these findings to refine their public awareness campaigns.