Bushfire threat requires mental preparation

November 1, 2017

Cool heads under fire: Professor Morrison shares insights on bushfire safety

With Western Australia facing an increased threat of bushfire this summer, a Murdoch University researcher has given some timely advice for rural residents.

Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation Professor David Morrison has spent much of his research career investigating how people make decisions in emergency situations.

He led a project on the perception of and preparation for bushfire events within the then Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre in 2014.

Professor Morrison recently shared his insights with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services in preparation for bushfire season.

“Although there are large individual differences in how people react, many wait to see what happens during a fire,” Professor Morrison said.

“They’ve got a vested interest in their property and don’t want to leave, and some don’t make the decision to get out until it’s too late.

“That’s when they get themselves into scary situations because their decision making capabilities become compromised. As we know, this can have tragic consequences.”

The key, according to Professor Morrison is to prepare well in advance, not just your property but emotionally and intellectually as well.

“You’ll feel a great sense of urgency, and the heightened level of alertness often causes a narrowing in the focus of attention,” he said.

“This can reduce the options you consider while deciding what to do.”

He urges everyone to really think about what will happen during a situation with a rapidly encroaching fire.

“Early preparation and rehearsal of your strategy will maximise the chances of making the right decision,” Professor Morrison said.

“If you’re well prepared, you can be confident that whatever happens you’ll be able to cope much better.”

Visit EmergencyWA for information on how to prepare for and respond to bushfires and DFES for information about the different warning levels.

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Media contact: Pepita Smyth
Tel: (08) 9360 1289  |  Mobile: 0417 171 551  |  Email: p.smyth@murdoch.edu.au
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