Session speaker announcement: Dr Danielle Every, Senior Research Fellow, CQ University, Appleton Institute on Characteristics of successful Community Fire Safe Group coordinators

dr danielle everyWe are pleased to announce session speaker Dr Danielle Every, Senior Research Fellow, CQ University, Appleton Institute who will speak at the 5th Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference; Earth, Fire and Rain 30-31 May 2016.

Dr Every will speak in the BNHCRC – Understanding and Enhancing Resilience stream on “I make it my business: Characteristics of successful Community Fire Safe Group coordinators”.
Community-level engagement groups such as Community Fire Safe (SA) are key programs for facilitating shared responsibility for bushfire readiness and response. Membership has been shown to improve bushfire awareness and knowledge, increase planning and preparation, and promote community-level collaboration.

However, not all groups are successful in achieving these outcomes. The authors’ survey and interviews with 41 Community Fire Safe coordinators and members affected by the Sampson Flat Fire of 2015 found that only two groups provided support for each other before, during and after the fire. Other groups either provided a space to learn more about fires but did not provide support during the fire, or stopped after an initial meeting.

Previous research suggests three key processes must be activated for these programs to succeed engagement and trust-building, ongoing knowledge-building and community interaction. These processes are triggered by localized, well-presented information from a trusted source, delivered in a context that generates discussion, collaboration and resource-sharing between neighbours.

It is the group coordinator who must activate these processes to achieve the desired outcomes. However, as yet there has been little research on these leaders and the skills and characteristics that are related to positive group outcomes.

Our research identified three key competencies: adaptive (responding to their community); active (in gaining new recruits and keeping old ones engaged); and positive (focusing on achievements). These proficiencies helped coordinators overcome individual (e.g. low risk perception; low self-efficacy; high anxiety) and community (e.g. not everyone is a ‘group person’) roadblocks to change.

This presentation shares the detailed findings on these group leader skills and how they achieved positive outcomes from Community Fire Safe Groups. Based on this research, we also make recommendations for future training for group facilitators.

Dr Every is a social psychologist in the areas of social change, social inclusion and social justice. She specialises in research on the language of advocacy and anti-racism, the social impacts of immigration, and work, education and health for refugees and asylum seekers.

The 5th Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference will be held at Jupiters, Gold Coast, QLD on the 30-31 May 2016.

The Conference theme ‘EARTH, FIRE and RAIN’ will continue to examine issues that impact preparedness, resilience, response and capability. To register for the conference CLICK HERE.