- Antimicrobial Resistance
- Building Community Resilience to Bushfires
- Community Resilience
- Cultural Burning for Resilience
- Cultural Revitalisation
- Disability inclusion and capacity building for emergencies
- Microfinance and Women's Empowerment
- Olivier Ferrer Fund
- Ready for Anything
- Sense Spaces
- Smart Cities for understanding living in Liverpool
- Stories affording pathways to healing
- Stronger Culture, Healthier Lifestyles
- Sustainability in STEM
- Weed management in post-fire landscapes
Building Community Resilience to Bushfires
The aim of this project was to study the complex, multi-level, multi-disciplinary issues that have influenced the bushfire resilience of a particular community affected by the 2019/2020 Black Summer Bushfires in NSW, Australia. This was a study of community disaster resilience at multiple levels ranging from households and local communities, to local government and industry.
The project focussed on the particular community of Kangaroo Valley and how members of that community prepared for, responded to and recovered from the impact of the Currowan Bushfire that impacted the Valley on 4th of January 2020.
The researchers set out to document and activities and perspectives of members of that community and of other organisations regarding enhancement of community resilience bushfires. The long-term aim was then to develop guidance and resources to help KV, and other communities prepare for, and recover from, possible future bushfires, or other emergencies.
The project set out to address the Global Challenge of ‘Building Resilient Communities’ by providing a significant and unique multi-disciplinary contribution to our understanding of the ways communities, and the industries and agencies that support them, can build greater bushfire resilience through short- and long-term coping capacity. This project for the first time brought together expertise in social science, engineering, residential construction systems, supply chain and logistics research.
- Scott McKinnon is a PERL Research Fellow at the UOW Australian Centre for Culture, Environment, Society and Space (ACCESS).
- Alan Green is a Research Fellow at the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) with expertise in bushfire resilience of buildings and building physics.
- Matthew Daly is an Associate Research Fellow at the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) with expertise in sustainability and resilience of buildings and communities.
- Paul Cooper is a Senior Professor with the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC).
- Christine Eriksen is an Honorary Senior Lecturer with the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities and a Senior Research at the Center for Security Studies at ETH University in Zürich, Switzerland.
- Tillmann Boehme is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Management, Operations and Marketing with expertise in Supply Chain and Logistics.
Major funding provided by:
Webinar presented to the Kangaroo Valley community in October 2021 outlining some of the research findings to date.View more resources
Speaker 1: Welcome everybody to this webinar, which we are holding to share some of the results of a research project entitled Building Community Resilience to Bushfires: A Case Study of Kangaroo Valley. This case study was centred around the community preparations for and responses to the Currowan bushfire, which impacted Kangaroo Valley on the 4th of January 2020 and was one of many Black Summer bushfires that caused enormous damage across New South Wales and other Australian states. My name is Paul Cooper. I'm a professor at the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre at the University of Wollongong, and I'm a member of the research team. But I'm also a resident of Kangaroo Valley, so I'm going to join you as an audience member very shortly; watching and listening to the research team present some of their work, and I apologise if my video and audio are a little fragmented as my internet is not the best here in the Valley. But I would like to first start our proceedings with some important acknowledgements. Next slide, please.
Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which each of us is situated. The University of Wollongong and its staff are located on lands including those of the Dharawal, Wadi Wadi and Elouri peoples. We pay our respects to the elders past, present and future. As we share our own knowledge teaching, learning and research practices, may we also pay respect to the knowledge embedded forever within the Aboriginal custodianship of country.
I would like to say a very sincere, sincere ‘thank you’ to all the volunteers and members of the emergency services and other organisations that supported the Kangaroo Valley community before, during and after the Currowan Fire and a particular thank you goes to all the frontline responders to the fires, including the Kangaroo Valley Volunteer Rural Fire brigade members, many of whom worked tirelessly over several months, and previous years, fighting fires not only in Kangaroo Valley, but elsewhere in Australia and even overseas.
And thank you to all our Kangaroo Valley residents and other people who participated in our study. Next slide.
We are deeply grateful for the generous financial support without which this study would not have been possible, and this was provided by Shark Island Institute and the University of Wollongong's Global Challenges Program.
And I should also say that the research team were planning to hold a face to face meeting with the community at the Village Hall in Kangaroo Valley, but unfortunately COVID restrictions meant that was not to be. So we decided to go ahead with its online seminar and particularly chose this time to assist the local brigade and other stakeholders to raise community awareness of the need to prepare for the next fire season. So we hope this webinar goes some way to meeting everyone's expectations.
I would now like to introduce Dr Christine Eriksen, who will act as our master of ceremonies. We are very fortunate to have Christine with us online today, from Switzerland as it happens, where she joined the Centre for Security Studies at ETH in Zurich as a senior researcher in August 2020 last year. Prior to that, Christine worked for 13 years as a social scientist at the University of Wollongong with a particular interest in social dimensions of bushfires. Christine's widely published an award winning research, is focused on case studies in multiple countries and continents, including Australia, North America, Europe and Africa. She first started working in the Kangaroo Valley community as part of a PhD research in bushfire knowledge and everyday life back in the late 2000s. Over to you, Christine.
Speaker 2: Thank you very much Paul, and also a very warm welcome for me. I'm really delighted that you could join us today. And today I’m excited to be sharing our research findings with you and as the MC, I am very quickly going to run through the agenda for the webinar, which will be a brief introduction, which Paul has just provided, then I will just very briefly cover mental health and wellbeing issues. I'll go through the objectives and the scope of the study, and then we will have three presentations from Scott McKinnon, Alan Green and Matt Daly, respectively, which will focus on Community Connections and how the Kangaroo Valley Community planned for, responded to and is recovering from the Currowan Fire. Alan will be looking at the preparing of homes to be more bushfire resilient and Matt will be looking at post bushfire reconstruction, supply chains and planning, and that will then be followed by a Q&A session. Next slide, please.
Now we acknowledge that the community in Kangaroo Valley and many other places in Australia has been impacted by bushfires and not just the current fire, but many of the fires and how this impacts both in the short and the long term. Having worked with bushfire survivors and bushfire protection for many years, I know this is not just something that comes and goes, but it can stay with communities for a long time, and so we really encourage you to acknowledge that this is something that might crop up as you hear us today. We will do our very best to present this webinar in a way that is sensitive to the wellbeing of the community members. But should you feel the need for support, please, we encourage you to contact Lifeline Australia who are always there 24 hours a day to provide support.
And the format of webinar has also been designed to respect audience members and to uphold privacy, so residents and others in the Valley have shared very generously their personal experiences and emotions and shared that under the assumption of confidentiality and we will endeavour to uphold that. And for that reason, you will only be able to see the presenters videos and audio, and you will not be able to see the actual audience members. But audience members can send in questions and comments throughout the presentation, and you do that by the Q&A function at the bottom of your screen. These questions will then be filtered and will be put to me as the MC and I will present them to the presenters during the Q&A sessions towards the end, and also just to emphasise that we will not be mentioning individuals’ names in order to uphold privacy.
The objective of our study was very specifically focused on the community and about building bushfire resilience within the community, so we acknowledge there’s many other parts to bushfire studies that we didn't specifically look at in our study, So we aim to document the Kangaroo Valley community's activities and perspectives regarding enhancing their own resilience and also to develop guidelines and resources to help Kangaroo Valley and other communities to prepare for and recover from possible future bushfires or other emergencies. And so this webinar is our very first sharing of our results, and we will be releasing further documents with further results soon. So there is a series of nine Bushfire Research Briefs that will soon be made available, and there will also be a comprehensive final report. All of that will go on to suit the Global Challenges website at the University of Wollongong and will also be shared proactively with the community.
Also just to show the three broad layers that we looked at in our study. So we looked at the households and everything from bushfire survival plans and retrofits of property preparations that were made to the actual response when the fire came into the valley, as well as the communities and looking at neighbourhood groups and how they stepped up, how the village and local brigades and local businesses all played a really important part. And then also looking at government and industry, looking at reconstruction, supply chains and the challenges that inevitably came up after these bushfires. And all of those will be covered in more detail during the presentations by Scott, Alan and Matt.
There's a lot of details on this slide, I won't go into all of it. It's more to acknowledge that the timeline that we're working within started before the actual bushfire. So our starting point in many ways was the public meeting that was held back in September of 2018, which was initially initiated by the local Kangaroo Valley Rural Fire Brigade. And what we would really like to point out regarding this, and which you will see in the presentations as well, is that we are working within the diagram that is in the lower left corner here, which shows the cycle of the mitigation, the preparation, response to recovery and then how that cycle continues. And really, where our research project came in, was in the preparation phase, and then we have been focussing on preparation, response and recovery. And, of course, then we acknowledge, that is an ongoing process and the cycle will continue as well.
And with that, while we just change over to the next set of slides, I would like to present my colleague, Dr Scott McKinnon. Scott is a research fellow in the Australian Centre for Culture, Environment, Society and Space at the University of Wollongong. He's a human geographer and the historian whose research has investigated the social impacts of disasters in Australia. And he's also one of the co-editors of a fabulous book that was published last year titled ‘Disasters in Australia and New Zealand Historical - Approaches to Understanding Catastrophes’. Over to you Scott.
Speaker 3: Thank you, Christine, and thank you, everyone for tuning in this evening. First off, I just like to start off by giving some numbers around the work that we did. So Christine mentioned that we had these three levels that we were investigating. So within the households cohort, we did thirty six interviews and those interviews were between about four months after the disaster, up until just about a month ago. And within that households cohort Alan also did 19 site assessments on people's properties, and he'll talk about the data from that in his presentation a little later. And then within our community cohort, we talked to some business operators, all in the Valley, service providers, emergency services volunteers, members of the bushfire committee and community workers and volunteers. So eleven interviews within that community cohort and obviously a lot of overlap between those two cohorts, the community people, also residents of the valley in most cases, and then we had our reconstruction cohort that Matt worked on and that he'll talk about in his presentation a little later. I just want to quickly say a big thank you to everyone that I had the opportunity to speak with. It was just a great privilege to get to talk to so many of you, so many great conversations. I really appreciated the generosity of your time and sharing your experiences with us in those conversations, and I'm just sorry that I didn't get to meet more of you in person and spend some time in beautiful Kangaroo Valley.
But in this quick presentation this evening, and this is just kind of a slice of our findings from the project, I wanted to explore a couple of questions around the idea of community connections, community networks that exist within Kangaroo Valley and how they played out through the Currowan fire. So looking at the question of how did community networks enhance resilience in Kangaroo Valley and then what challenges impacted the effectiveness of community with building bushfire resilience.
One of the reasons I became really interested in this question of community as it applies to Kangaroo Valley is because one of the first questions we asked in our interview was some variation of the question ‘Why do you live in Kangaroo Valley? What's kept you in the area? What attracted you to the area?’ And pretty much everyone gave two responses that it was the community and that it was the nature or the environment or the bush. And one person wrapped those up together in a pretty indicative way by saying ‘Being able to live somewhere like Kangaroo Valley, we feel blessed, especially with the community. You come for the beauty of the place, but you stay for the community”.
So as researchers that's really interesting to us. It's wonderful to hear positive stories about community from people, but also we know from past research by other researchers that cohesive communities, strong community networks, are a key indicator of a community that will prepare well for bushfire and a community that will successfully come through that challenging recovery process. So I wanted to delve further into how those community networks and those community connections that people were talking about so strongly in our interviews, how that played out through the Currowan fire. And as Christine mentioned, we're working through the disaster cycle. So I'll talk about Community Connections and each of these four phases of the disaster cycle, which are distinct phases. They overlap, they merge together, but it's a useful framework for thinking about how a disaster happens.
So thinking about how Community Connections played a role in the mitigation phase or how people built bushfire resilience in the mitigation phase through developing community networks. And one thing to think about is how just getting to know your neighbours is kind of useful step in bushfire mitigation because those relationships that you build with neighbours and with other people in the community come into play in valuable ways in the disaster itself. And I'll talk a little bit more about that in a moment. But then there were the more formal structures of building community resilience in this phase through community led responses to bushfire risk. And in Kangaroo Valley an interesting example of that is the work of the Kangaroo Valley Community Bushfire Committee, which as Christine said was established in 2018. So we don't have time in this presentation to go through the work of the committee in any detail, but just to acknowledge that this was a community led response to bushfire risk that was drawing on local knowledge and that was reflecting the specific geography and the specific population of Kangaroo Valley. So thinking about some of the challenges that might happen and might occur around community led responses to bushfire risk during this phase, we can think about the outlining of responsibilities between stakeholders in what's referred to as the shared responsibility model of emergency management. So this is the model that's applied in Australia, and what it basically says is that it's not only up to government to protect us during a disaster, it's not only up to emergency services organisations, but we all have a role to play - individuals, households, communities and one of the criticisms that's often leveled at that model, as it's applied in Australia is yes, it's useful to say that we can all share responsibility here, but who is responsible for which aspects specifically of emergency management? And without outlining those responsibilities, sometimes that can lead to miscommunication, to disagreement, to conflict between the different stakeholders who are playing a role, including those who are who are playing this community led response. So in developing that community led response, it can be really useful to clearly outline those responsibilities from the beginning so everybody knows what they're working on and where they stand.
And there's also, of course, the challenge with any volunteer run organisation that's very time consuming. How do you maintain the effectiveness of that organisation over time? And maintaining that effectiveness is a good way of building credibility as a community organisation, with government, with emergency management, that you are still going to be their next fire season. So it's worth developing these relationships with you. But obviously, for any community or any volunteer-run organisation as key players step down or move away from the area. How do you develop succession plans to make sure that that that work can continue?
Moving into the preparation phase, and as I'm sure everyone on this webinar is all too aware, there were several very stressful weeks for people in Kangaroo Valley. They knew that Currowan was burning further south of the Valley and it was spreading towards Kangaroo Valley in the nearby areas. And what people told us, what many of the household has told us is that during this time period, they were anxiously looking for information. They had that message being prepared. But what did it mean to be prepared? What did that actually look like? What was the fire going to do? What was? When was the fire going to hit? What was it going to look like? And so people are anxiously looking for information, and we tried to map using this graph, some of the pathways for how that information was being shared or how it was being shared or how equipment was being shared. So we have our emergency management organisations there must be marked in red. So the rural fire brigade playing an important role here in sharing information. Some members of the Kangaroo Valley Community Bushfire Committee shared examples of bushfire survival plans to show people what a detailed survival plan might look like and that they could then adapt to suit their own purposes. The Kangaroo Valley Committee had also set up bushfire ready neighbourhood groups, so using a multi-tiered way of organising the community in its bushfire response. And some of those groups had been set up back in 2018. Some were just set up in the weeks before the disaster. So that was clusters of ten or so neighbours who, through WhatsApp or some other communication means, understood themselves as a group, as a cluster within that response that could share information and advice.
And then local businesses and service providers often finding themselves playing a kind of ad-hoc role as an information hub for the community, maybe for visitors to the Valley so there were still visitors coming into the valley in those weeks, giving them advice about what was happening, what was going on, what do they need to do? Anxious clients or customers asking for advice and to share information? And then of course, getting to know your neighbours facilitates that sharing of information amongst neighbourhood groups as well.
So some of the challenges that I think came up in that period, firstly, is that the search for information that people were so anxiously searching for information in that heightened stressful and anxious time period suggests the need for access to more information in the mitigation phase earlier in the process so that people aren't looking for information and setting up bushfire plans and making these decisions in that very anxious time that it can be done beforehand. So you got all that set up and ready to go in case the fire should happen. And then looking at those local service providers and businesses acting as operation hubs, I think there's something interesting to think about how emergency management could work with could identify shops or other businesses in a region that do end up playing this role and thinking of them as conduits for information or thinking about ways that you can support people who are taking on this responsibility for the community in what can be a very stressful moment. So these community led preparation processes thinking about how a lot of that work can happen earlier in the process and outside that very stressful and anxious time.
Jumping into the response phase. And for members of the brigade the response phase went for many weeks before January 4th, out in the field fighting fires further South. But I wanted to specifically talk about some of the householders who were in the Valley. So the majority of our house, the people we talk to, the households we spoke with left the valley, I think about seventy three per cent of the people we spoke with the valley and others stayed and defended their properties. And across those two groups, people talked to us about how those bushfire-ready neighbourhood groups may have been using WhatsApp, were really valuable to them through this process because it was an opportunity to share information, to get some advice about what was going on or to find out what was going on besides Fires Near Me [and App] and all of the other sources people were using. But it was also a form of emotional support. People knew that they were taking part in this as a community, that they weren't going through this alone. So there's an interesting mix of ways in which this was both a valuable source of information, but also a sense of taking part in this or dealing with this as a community rather than an isolated bubble is really valuable.
Going into the Recovery Phase, and I'm sure I don't need to tell people on this webinar that the recovery process can be complex and a challenging process, sometimes a long period of time. But I just wanted to highlight one example of a community-led recovery response that so many of the people we spoke to talked about and really cherished what happened with the Drop In Centre that was set out in the main street of the Valley within days after the disaster. So I'm sure many of you on this webinar are already familiar with the work that the Drop In Centre did. One example of what someone said about the Centre was that “It was providing emotional support, financial support, legal support, community support, fundraising, everything. I just did the whole lot, and that was a massive time for them and they did it with only volunteers and it was amazing”. And we had a lot of very similar comments about the Drop In Centre and how it was really valued in that immediate recovery phase after the disaster.
So thinking about that community led recovery response and thinking about some of the challenges might come up in terms of that recovery response, and a lot of the challenges revolved around the fact that it had to be set up so quickly. And a lot of people talked about how remarkable it was that it was set up so quickly, it was running within days after the day after the fire. But what that meant was that maybe some of the volunteers weren't trained up in skills that might have been useful. IT skills, for example, that they could have contributed with or maybe weren't trained up in providing trauma informed care or trained in looking after themselves in dealing with a community that's been through a potentially traumatic experience. There were questions around finding secure premises for a Centre like this, and now, in the longer term, maintaining the skills and knowledge developed in 2020.
So a lot of these challenges for this project, which people praised so highly, revolved around that fact that it needed to be set up so quickly; and now we can be thinking about the value of not only planning, for disaster, planning, for the fire itself, back in the mitigation or the preparation phase. But how do we also plan for recovery? And some communities in southern New South Wales who used similar models after the Black Summer fires are thinking about how to establish a recovery centre that can have people trained up and ready to go should happen so that it doesn't need to be set up so quickly directly after a disaster. And then I just want to quickly because I am running out of time, acknowledge that that recovery phase and the mitigation phase are now overlapping and that's been acknowledged by people in the valley with community and responses again. So the work of the committee looking at assessing the preparation and response, making submissions to government enquiries, neighbourhood coordinators getting together and assessing their role, how it worked, what didn't work, what could be done differently in the future. So those community led responses starting that cycle again. And I'll leave it there. Thank you.
Speaker 2: Thank you very much, Scott for those insightful reflections from the interviews with the community. And while Alan gets ready, I will present and introduce you to Alan. So Dr Alan Green is a research fellow with the UOW Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, where he applies his background in mechanical engineering to research the physics of building sustainability, energy efficiency and bushfire resilience; and that's particularly in the context of fluid dynamics, thermodynamics and heat transfer, where he applies a range of really practical problems, such as how to design effective bushfire sprinkler systems. With that, I will hand over to you Alan.
Speaker 4: Thanks, Christine. So in this part of the presentation, I'll be describing the engineering component of our study in Kangaroo Valley. And we were looking at houses and other buildings on people's properties in terms of vulnerability to bushfire, as well as the severity of the bushfire that each building faced. And also through interviews with the residents, we we're looking at the actions that they'd taken to prepare their properties for the bushfire, to retrofit the buildings on their properties, to be more resistant to bushfire and in planning to either stay and defend their properties or to leave early before it arrived. The image on this slide is taken from a 1985 publication, and it's outlining some of the features that buildings can have that make them more vulnerable to bushfire attack. And so we've known for quite a long time what can make buildings vulnerable to bushfires. And I suppose the value of our study in Kangaroo Valley has been to document the standard of buildings in Australia, to document what people are doing to increase their bushfire resilience, which hasn't been documented in much detail in the past, and ultimately also to highlight what can be done more and better in the future to better enable people to prepare more effectively for bushfires.
This slide is giving a bit of a detailed summary of the kind of data that we were collecting as part of that study. So there's no need to understand all of it during this presentation. I'll be highlighting the key results in following slides, but just to give a flavour of the kinds of work that we were doing. Each of these columns represents data from one building that we assessed, with on site assessments where possible. The top block of data shows some general information that we were collecting about each building down below that is below a Bushfire Attack Level, and that's a ranking of the severity of bushfire hazard that each building faces. And it's based on the proximity to vegetation, the type of vegetation and the slope of the terrain, and its ranking categorises buildings on a scale from ‘low’ up to ‘flame zone’. So you can see by the number of dark brown squares, for example, in that row of data, the number of buildings that we assessed that were in that highest category of hazard that was flame zone. In the next block of data, there's information on the vulnerability of different features of the buildings that were assessed. So here we are using the same ranking system from low up to flame zone. And here the lighter colours represent vulnerable buildings that are only sort of capable of withstanding a lower level of hazard. So, for example, the lighter squares next to windows and glass doors indicate that for a lot of the buildings that we assessed, the windows and glass doors were a weak point. And then the lowest block of data in this slide is just showing the kind of information they were collecting through interviews with residents where we were talking to them about the actions they undertook to prepare for the bushfire.
So this image is again showing us that bushfire attack level or the BAL, which is our ranking of the hazard that each building was exposed to, from low up to flame zone on the horizontal axis, and then on the vertical axis we have the vulnerability of each building, so that's ranking them from relatively bushfire resistant up to more vulnerable buildings based on the features and materials that they have. So it's fairly clear in that figure that the vast majority of the buildings that we assessed had some vulnerabilities to bushfire. In some cases, it was only a matter of a few weak points where embers might enter to ignite them from within or having unprotected windows, for example. But in other cases, we did ass some buildings that had a lot of different vulnerabilities. And some of the vulnerabilities that were most typical in the buildings that we looked at were unprotected windows, timber decks and veranda posts, combustible fascia and barge boards around the eaves of a building. Combustible cladding materials, as well as gaps larger than three millimetres, which can allow airborne embers to enter during a bushfire and ignite buildings from inside.
This graph is showing a summary of the different actions that we documented, people having been taken leading up to the bush fire to prepare for it. And it's showing the proportion of the buildings that we or the properties that we assessed and which those actions were undertaken. So from zero up to 100 percent of the properties in our sample. So you can see in the top part of the figure some general property preparation activities were really common and were undertaken by most homeowners, and we spoke to. They included things like clearing vegetation from around the property, moving outdoor furniture away from buildings and watering gardens and lawns. And then moving down the graph we saw in a lower number of houses, people were installing bushfire sprinkler systems and establishing bushfire shelters or places of refuge. And then on an even smaller number of properties, we saw people were protecting their windows by installing metallic screens in some cases or reflective foil sarking temporary protection in other cases. And in some cases, people were installing improvised bushfire shutters made of corrugated iron or fibro material. And we also saw is that some people had been trying to make their buildings more ember proof by filling gaps and cracks that might allow embers to enter with glass wool insulation and other sealing. And by installing metallic screens over vents and other openings.
So it's pretty obvious in this figure that the types of actions that we would classify as building retrofits, where the buildings themselves are being modified rather than just around the properties, were undertaken by a relatively small number of people who we spoke to. And there are a number of reasons for this. So one fairly consistent finding was that the properties of the households that undertook these types of home retrofits had people who had a technical background and had hands on experience in working on their own houses and in building. And so they were able to apply those skills and those tools that they already had to deal with the problem of bushfire preparation. Whereas households that didn't have such a technical background, faced a much more significant challenge when they were faced with the task of identifying what could be done and then doing the work itself.
We also found that it took a lot of personal initiative for the people who did undertake these extensive retrofits. They had to put in a lot of work to research what could be done and then to apply the generic advice that's available to their specific context. So there's definitely an opportunity there for advice on how to retrofit for bushfires to be more detailed, more customizable, and more easily available to a larger number of people. And we also found that the households that did undertake home retrofits did so over several years, they saw it more as a long term plan where they made incremental improvements over the years. And so anything that can be done to motivate this kind of long term planning and early action is definitely beneficial and would definitely help to stimulate more retrofitting of buildings for bushfires.
And interestingly, we also found that tradespeople had only assisted the homeowners in undertaking these two of their actions, so installing bushfire sprinklers and installing shelters, in some buildings. So all of the other home retrofits that we recorded were undertaken by the homeowners themselves. And this highlights what could be an opportunity for tradespeople to take a more active role in facilitating these kinds of bushfire preparations that could make home retrofits, for example, more accessible to a larger proportion of the community, especially those who don't have the technical background to do it themselves.
And then finally, this figure is summarising the original plans that people who we interviewed had in terms of whether they would leave early before bushfires, stay and defend their properties, or were leaving both options open in their planning and how that mapped on to their actions during the Currowan fire. So the majority of households that we spoke to plans to leave early before bush fires and did so before the Currowan fire days before the fire. There were a number of households who had a general plan to stay and defend their properties. But in the face of the extreme risks that they perceived in the lead up to the Currowan fire, they recognised the extremely dangerous conditions and through the conversations that they had with experts who came to their properties to talk to them, as well as the community meetings that were held, they decided early to change their plan and they left early rather than defending. They also did so in the days before the fire arrived.
But there were also households that chose to stay and defend and had planned to and did so successfully. And there were a handful of households in our cohort which left both options open; and invariably in the case of the caravan fire, we found that they ended up deciding to evacuate late within the hours leading up to the fire's arrival. And we have fairly good evidence from previous bushfires that this approach to planning for bushfires can be very risky.
And we can also compare our data from our sample to the data from Kangaroo Valley more broadly, so we can see that while we might have captured a greater proportion of people who were planning to stay and defend their properties than is seen in the Valley more broadly, the general trends are there as well. So the majority of households were planning to leave early. A smaller number of households planned to stay and defend. And there were also a handful of properties around the valley where people were leaving both options open in their planning.
And so moving forward from our study, there are a few key takeaways that can be taken from the engineering part of our research. The first of which is that early planning and preparation are really key in dealing with bushfires. Even when there's no smoke on the horizon, it is important to be thinking forward so that you can put the steps in place so that you feel comfortable with your level of risk when bushfires do arrive. And in doing that preparation, which bushfire retrofits are an option which are sometimes overlooked by households. So in addition to your preparations of the property, we can also make modifications of the buildings themselves to make them more resistant to bushfire. And when you do that, permanent solutions are generally preferable to temporary solutions, especially given that some bushfires may arrive with a lot less forewarning than Currowan fire did in Kangaroo Valley. It's important to plan for unexpected fires as well.
And finally, as Scott outlined really well in his presentation, the sharing of information is really important in preparing for bushfires, so to enable a greater proportion of the community to prepare effectively, sharing information with your neighbours and through community groups can be very effective. Taking guidance from agencies is also very important. And there's opportunities there for that guidance, as I said earlier, to be more detailed and customizable, to allow like a greater proportion of people to retrofit. And there is also a potential possibility for tradespeople to play a more active role if they were to upskill so that they could prescribe and undertake effective bushfire retrofits. So I'll leave it there, thanks very much, and I'll hand back to Christine.
Speaker 2: Thank you very much Alan for unpacking these incredibly insightful technical and practical information that you have gathered during your interviews, I was so engrossed in what you were saying. So without further ado, I will introduce Matt Daly. Mark Daly is an associate research fellow at the UOW Sustainable Buildings Research Centre. And in his research, he explores sustainability and resilience in the built environment from both a systematic and at the household level. And so he's bringing that together in this study. And over to you Matt.
Speaker 5: Thanks, Christine. Just check that you can see the right screen. Fantastic. So good evening, everyone. Tonight, I'm going to give you an overview of the work I did on understanding the reconstruction supply chain and looking at the role of industry and government in the rebuilding of homes and community infrastructure. And I'd also like to thank everyone who gave their time to participate in the research. It was it was really valuable and really interesting to hear the stories that we were told. And likewise, it was unfortunate that we couldn't make it down to Kangaroo Valley more often. For one thing, my daughter would have liked more fudge deliveries back to Wollongong. So through my presentation, I'm going to talk about the context as to what we focussed on when considering the Kangaroo Valley reconstruction supply chain, why this was important to consider and then discuss some of the findings of the research. Considering the immediate cleanup and recovery and then moving to the stages of the rebuilding process.
So in any bushfire recovery effort, the construction industry plays an important role, and the construction and supply chain is known to be a complex, often fragmented network of interrelated stakeholders and activities. And often they have little prior connection or knowledge of the circumstances of bushfire survivors. And we know from previous research on bushfires and other natural disasters that resourcing problems, including shortage of building materials, lack of builders and cost escalation can be issues. So we wanted to understand looking, at Kangaroo Valley [Sorry. Something's going on there] from a Kangaroo Valley perspective, how the reconstruction supply chain were, along with government were responding to the requirements that impacted communities and Kangaroo Valley and to a certain extent across the South Coast. What was the effect on communities and households and how can this response be potentially improved?
So our understanding of the key activities and stakeholders in the reconstruction supply chain was guided by the framework shown on this slide, the coloured section, which shows that there's a technical and policy context in which the construction industry operates, and within this context, a typical rebuilding project would involve a number of stages, from planning to sourcing of materials and on to the delivery of the building of the structure for the end-user. And there's multiple stakeholders involved at each stage - and we attempted to interview a number of them as we went through, talking to over 25 different stakeholders across industry and government in doing so.
So we started by trying to get a better understanding of the existing supply at construction supply chain around Kangaroo Valley, focussing on suppliers, builders and tradespeople within a 30km radius of the valley. And you already know this, but Kangaroo Valley has a small population. It's geographically separate from surrounding large towns. And what we could say is that there is actually plenty of construction industry supplies and project based firms in proximity to Kangaroo Valley, which provides a good level of access to these services compared to more regional and remote regions, particularly further down the south coast. However, because most are based outside of the valley, travel can become a factor in time and price, especially when demand for work is high in other regions as well. [So moving now. Excuse me, a ghost in my computer.]
Moving now to look at the short term recovery and cleanup, what we saw was that immediately following the fire as a priority for affected households was restoring their water supply, arranging housing and, if relevant, securing feed for animals and there was actually such a surge in demand for irrigation related materials that it affected the supplies both at a local and regional level. And this became a bit of an issue as key items ran out locally and further up the supply chain; taking a number of weeks to restock, and there was also a strong demand at the same time for trades to help connect water and electricity equipment.
At a government level some of the key activities in the recovery stage was setting up a process to assess and provide an official determination of the extent of damage to all impacted properties. And this is key because for registering properties for assisted clean up and also for accessing insurance and various assistances, and to streamline this the local authority established what was called a multi-agency building impact assessment process to make sure only one visit was required before a property was determined to be impacted at some level, which involved a lot of coordination of agencies.
But the feedback on that from our discussions was that this was quite a successful, streamlined process. In contrast to stories from other regions where households could be waiting for a number of people to visit before they got their determination. And Scott mentioned this about the Kangaroo Valley Drop In Centre, but both community and government agencies worked to establish centralised assistance centres immediately in the immediate aftermath.
So following the initial recovery, so you can start the reconstruction phase when people are ready to start thinking about if/when to start rebuilding, and this timing varies significantly from our interviews, builders started getting their first enquiries by February  and DAs [Development Applications] were being submitted by April, at the start, but then are still happening now. So the first stage here is the planning, and this often relies on processing of insurance as well. Now, the experience with insurance in Kangaroo Valley and also across the south coast varied in terms of level insurance, speed and quality of the response, which is a common story post disaster and it was no different this time.
Insurance levels ranged from fully covered for rebuilding costs, under insured due to changes to building codes and bushfire attack level ratings since insurance started, and to those who didn't have any insurance at all. And this, I guess, highlights the value of having insurance that factors in the impact of updates to codes in bushfire and bushfire codes to construction costs, as well as having well documented records to streamline the process.
For households and communities impacted by bushfires navigating the planning and approvals process is a critical step for rebuilding. And the local council undertook a suite of actions to aid householders, which included things like extending the timeframe for temporary accommodation to be set up on properties, as well as waiving planning and approval fees and creating dedicated teams for working with impacted residents on their on their rebuild. And in particular, having this dedicated and skilled staff as key points of contact was seen as an important response initiative. One thing that was noted was that there was a tendency for offers of assistance to come shortly after the bushfires and be in the form of short term staffing help when - given the lag between a bushfire event and the planning, approving approval and building cycle - longer duration assistance and appropriately timed assistance can be more useful.
So the next consideration was the supply of materials for rebuilding and in the whole investigation, the reconstruction supply chain, it was very difficult to untangle bushfire rebuilds from the ongoing effects of COVID 19. The building industry has been largely booming in the last year, with record demand for new housing 20 per cent higher than the previous record. So the industry has been experiencing material shortages in a range of areas, mostly COVID related rather than bushfire related, but in particular, the timber supply chain was heavily impacted by Black Summer bushfires, ….. demand has increased due to a variety of factors, such as interest rates being very low, the homebuilder stimulus package, migration of people from cities to the regional areas even temporarily or permanently, and for those who weren't income wasn't affected and for savings, while at the same time, the international supply chain has been disrupted severely by trade restrictions, which has slowed up things moving through ports and kind of following on from this, the price of shipping has increased, which means that less profitable materials are less likely to take up container space, and things such as, even down to power plants have been talked of as items that maybe don't make the cut in terms of international shipping when there's a limited supply of shipping containers. At the same time, there's been construction booms in other parts of the world for similar reasons, which is diverted supply.
What this does highlight is the importance of considering multiple overlapping disasters in resilience, planning at a policy and industry level, particularly as the risk of extreme weather events continues to rise. And one factor that could be considered in addressing this is to look at local production capacities and the shortening and onshoring of critical supply chains even temporarily as their resilience response to disaster recovery.
So as I said, the bushfires had a significant impact on timber plantations and mills, with a number of mills temporarily closing and being burnt and significant amounts of native forests and commercial plantations being burnt by the fires across southern New South Wales and southern Australia. This has been a particular impact on commercial plantation timber, which has affected the supply of softwood framing, timber for building, as well as hardwood cladding and decking. And actually, supplies of the recently burnt timber comes through in the first year or so, so this is going to be something that continues to have an impact over a longer term with, you know, expecting to be taking years to recover. So as a result of both the bushfires and Covid as well, we had reports of hoarding of materials, increases in material lead times, price increases as well, and an increased risk and uncertainty for builders and suppliers in quoting for jobs, because where previously they could lock in a price for the next year, now might be three months or even less that they can get a firm price from their suppliers.
Finally, looking at the delivery side of things, the scale of the rebuild due to the bushfires in the Kangaroo Valley region didn't represent a significant change from business as usual, especially when compared to the change in demand due to COVID. So it's hard to kind of pick apart the impact from the bushfires, but estimates were that somewhere between five and 25 per cent of workload was made up of bushfire rebuild, said the builders we talked to. And also because houses come online at different times for the construction sites, it's kind of spaced out over the past 18 months. There has been huge demand for skilled trades across the south coast - again often COVID related rather than bushfire rebuild related - and in Kangaroo Valley, carpentry was one that was particularly highlighted. One issue arising further down the south coast was that trades people coming from other regions to work on construction jobs were competing for rental and temporary accommodation, potentially with people displaced by the bushfires, which is an issue to consider in planning at a local government and policy level. For Kangaroo Valley, though, it's close enough to major cities for people to commute to work even from southern Sydney, which surprised me. But it's apparently reasonably common, so this was less of an issue. But there are definitely cost and time implications for construction.
And just finally, some final thoughts about what we found from the supply chain side of this investigation was that the construction industry, with its fragmented supply chain, is actually quite resilient, able to draw widely on resources, both materials and labour to adapt to constraints that it faces. But as we saw, there were issues with material supply, particularly with Covid and looking at shortening of supply chains, a resilient supply chain response is something to consider kind of policy and industry level. And finally, insurance is a recurring issue that comes up in a lot of disaster research. And given the role they have both of the policy with policy and technical expertise, a discussion we've been having is whether the insurance industry could play a bigger role in encouraging household preparedness for future events. That's it - I'll leave it there for now, but thanks again for joining us.
Speaker 2: Thank you very much, Matt. So we've now reached the stage where things open up to questions and answers, and we have already a range of questions that have been written in. But please, if you have any questions put them in the Q&A tab at the bottom of your screen. And I'll also just say to begin here, because one of the first questions is about the presentation recording and whether that will be made available for review later. And the answer is yes, it will. We had a number of residents who couldn't make it tonight and asked whether we can record it so they could view it, that we will be making it available to the community to view and also because there is so much information that has been shared that I'm sure people would like to digest it in a bit more detail. And so the recording will be made available together with the Fire Research Briefs and the final report that we'll be publishing. So please keep an eye out for any communication or go to the UOW website on the Global Challenges part, and it will be available there shortly or in the near future at least. Moving on to the the questions relating to the presentations and one of the first question, with regards to programmes that are already available. So the question is, are there programs, for example, run by the fire service or others that provide frameworks and standards for tradespeople to upskill, to provide assurance to those engaging their services and for local community members to be trained and staffing crisis resource centre? If so, what are they? And if not, what are some of the suggestions that you would like? I can see you unmuted. You want to start by saying, you know, if anything, that's available to trace people or Elon.
Speaker 5: It's not something that that I've come across, but it's. Yeah, I'll leave it for the other speakers to say anything.
Speaker 4: Yeah, I'm not aware of any programs available to tradespeople. There is the Bushfire Consultants accreditation scheme, which has recently been brought over from Western Australia to New South Wales the BPAD accreditations as they are called. But I think it is probably a space where more could be done to upskill a greater proportion of the supply chain, not just the bushfire specific consultants, but also tradespeople, I think there is an opportunity there.
Speaker 2: Right, thank you. In terms of community - building community resources, Scott, is there anything that you come across that you find particularly useful?
Speaker 3: There's no programmes that come specifically to mind at the moment, although I will say and Alan spoke about this, knowing what to do is such a hurdle for people preparing. Again that question …. people have heard the message to be prepared - but what does that actually look like? And it can be so overwhelming that it prevents action on even the kind of small details. So I don't know of any programs for that. But supplying people with not only the information on what they need to do, but the actual instruction on how to do it, or here is a person who will do it for you. Here is a person who will show you how to do it is an important step to overcome that hurdle of all the action being so overwhelming that it doesn't happen.
Speaker 2: Thank you, and I think one of the things that comes out from all three of the responses is that it's one thing creating the resources - for example, AIDR, the Australian Institute for Disaster Research, they have different disaster preparedness and recovery handbooks, and I do recommend having a look at those - one of the issues is that they're very detailed, and when you are faced with a disaster with the covering of the disaster, that much detail is often too much. And so breaking it down into very tangible, practical information that can be shared and used by people, that's I think the key that we're really looking for to build more resilience in terms of both the preparedness, but also response and the recovery. I have a question for Alan. Does the research show a priority order for retrofitting work? Where can you get the best bang for your buck?
Speaker 4: It's an excellent question, not so much from our study in Kangaroo valuable, definitely from previous study by others around Australia. Well, I guess I should first say that it is very context specific, so it's difficult to give generic advice that will be exactly accurate for everyone. But as general rules of thumb, protecting the buildings against ember attack is probably a first priority because we know that ember attack destroys most buildings that are destroyed by bushfires. So that involves closing up any openings in the outside envelope of the building, which could allow airborne embers to enter inside during a bushfire. So around doorways and windows and gaps in cladding and that kind of thing, and also looking for areas on the outside of the building where there's a small gap where an airborne ember, which might be only be a few millimetres in diameter, could get lodged between materials. So trying to close up all of those gaps. And as a second priority, as a rule of thumb, windows can be very, very vulnerable. So protecting windows with metallic screens or bushfire shutters and more severe hazards can be important. And then as a third priority, probably building features that can catch fire on the outside of the building and then allow flames to spread on to the rest of the building. Retrofitting, for example, timber decks and timber of veranda posts that can easily catch fire and then allow the rest of the building to catch fire from that initial fire.
Speaker 2: Thank you for that, there’s really lessons to be learnt in terms of where you can focus more directly your energy. And we have a question here asking for a little more detail and in the context of where residents got information from on how to undertake retrofitting. Was there any particular sources that they find useful?
Speaker 4: Yeah. And again, that's a good question. And in our research briefs, which we will be releasing soon, we will include some references to the key documents that people did find useful. So they'll be made available there. Many residents we spoke to said that the books of Joan Webster were very helpful. She's put out a few guidebooks on how to prepare for bushfires. There's also been a few pamphlets and fact sheets that have been released by the bushfire agencies around Australia, and several of those are very helpful. The RFS website has some tools that you can use online to go through and assess your property, and some people said that was helpful as well. So there's a number of resources. I think one lesson from our study is that strengthening those resources is a real opportunity for the future. But we'll give references to the existing resources that were helpful in our Briefs.
Speaker 2: Thank you for that answer. I got a question here for Scott, did the interviews conducted reveal people's thoughts and feelings about the role of the neighbourhood groups going forward in terms of preparedness, future possible disasters and in the everyday functioning of their community.
Speaker 3: Yes, or we did talk to some people about that and particularly in the more recent interviews, so we've got a sense of how the groups have kept operating over time. And it's interesting that some kind of differing views, so some people wanting these communication methods to just speak specifically to bushfires and bushfire information and other people using this to communicate other information sharing of information amongst the neighbourhood. And so a little bit of disagreement there about how the group continues over time and what it should continue to do. People had used it quite effectively to share information about hazard reduction burning that was happening or if people were doing a burn on their property so that they can let people know, particularly in an area where the smell of smoke and seeing smoke on the horizon is going to trigger some pretty anxious feelings amongst people.
So using it for that was a valuable method. But there are, I think, still conversations to be had within groups about how it continues to operate over time. Is it purely something that works for bushfires or is it something that we use to share information and develop kind of cohesion or conversations within the neighbourhood more generally? And there are questions about, I think, again, that question of how do you keep these things operating over time? Is it only left to one coordinator to keep this happening, and is that too much responsibility on one person? Can we share it amongst the community? So those kind of questions, I think, are ongoing. So I think it kind of from the conversations we had, it established itself, people thought it was a really valuable model. But again, how does it keep going through years to come, where we'll hopefully not have bushfires to deal with, but it will still be used to communicate information about the community. And just quickly to add as far as new people coming into the neighbourhood, as people move away and as new people come into the neighbourhood, this could be a valuable way of encouraging people who aren't familiar with the conditions in Kangaroo Valley and the Currowan fire to let them know, or to knock on doors and make introductions and get them signed up to these groups, so that you can have those conversations and keep that advice flowing.
Speaker 2: And that's a really good segway to the next question, because there was a question about how do you approach and make sure that new people in the Valley are made aware of the knowledge that's contained within the community, but also the experience the community has and the risks and threats that are inherent to the environment? And maybe just adding on to the value of neighbourhood groups there, one thing that is a long standing conversation in Australia is what the role real estate agents could play in disseminating some of this information as well. So particularly for local [communities] like Kangaroo Valley, as an opportunity to share information with people who are either buying property or renting properties in the valley. So these are some of the ongoing suggestions that could be picked up moving forward. Just building on your response, Scott. There's a follow on question to ensure that new residents are informed, is there a consolidated list of resources or references apart from referring people to the RFS website, is there broader information available to people on how to think about bushfire preparation and how to make informed decisions?
Speaker 3: It's a good question, and there's a lot of information out there in a lot of different places. So as Christine mentioned, the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience has put together some useful information. They also have a YouTube channel where they have their own webinars, which contain some really informative information. The ABC has recently put up a podcast about recovering from disaster that I encourage people to listen to. It's a really interesting resource. Yeah, so it's a difficult question to answer in some ways because there's a lot of information out there and it's difficult to direct people to anything specific. But yeah, it's a significant challenge in a community as time moves on that memory of the disaster fades as new people move into the area. And it's a really interesting question about how you keep that memory alive, particularly when it's a difficult memory. It's a challenging and distressing memory for a lot of people, so people quite understandably want to move on from that memory of that very difficult event. But using things like the local media, local publications, Facebook groups, things like that, maybe on anniversary events or things like that to remind people or to introduce this topic to people who are new to the area is a really important step to keep those conversations going.
Speaker 2: Thank you, and maybe just a quick follow up. I really do encourage you to listen to the new podcast that Scott just mentioned. It's called After the Disaster, and it's put together by Dr Kate Brady from the Australian Red Cross. And it really speaks to people who have experienced a range of disasters, everything from the Black Saturday bushfires to flooding in different parts of the country. And she also talks to experts, and that includes experts on the psychosocial and the psychological resilience of people. And that is one place where the Australian Red Cross has lots of resources that do encourage you to do their bushfire recovery resources. They focus a lot on mental health and wellbeing, and they do have psychological first aid resources available on their website. So go to the ABC Listen app if you have it and listen to the After the Disaster podcast, which is now being rolled out and the resources through the Australian Red Cross, they are very valuable. Moving on, I have a question for Matt. So this is something we have also spoken about in the group, but in the Valley, telecommunications and internet access is a huge problem. Given the findings of the communications was this progressed with service providers and the government in the broader context of kind of supply chains and how to get the Valley back on its feet.
Speaker 5: Yeah, it's a very important question, particularly for communities like the Valley. And it wasn't something that we got a lot of information about in our discussions, I think. We did hear that I believe the internet or telecommunication services was one of the early things that was hit by the fires, which caused significant disruptions to a lot of people in the community or at least a section of the community. So it kind of goes back to the general concepts of resilience planning, and ….. aimed at those kind of vulnerabilities and considering how you can create more redundancy in a system in the valley. So as I said, it wasn't something that came up strongly through our research in terms of knowing what discussions are being had about what could be done in the future other than the efforts that the Shoalhaven Council is doing in terms of the sort of decentralised telecommunication hubs with standalone power and internet services as an information location in central communities around the Shire. But I think you're talking about different questions around providing telecommunications access to different parts of the valley. So, yeah, I think there's no simple answer that came up from our research and it's an ongoing thing to discuss.
Speaker 2: Thank you. I might also just hand over to Scott here because I know internet access and computer access was one of the things that the Recovery Centre was used for. Did it come up more broadly in the interviews with residents, how they got around the issue of communication in the immediate aftermath in the weeks leading on from the fires?
Speaker 3: It did come up, yeah, so particularly around telephone and internet. A lot of people didn't have great internet access to begin with before the fires, of course, in a rural community - it is problem that needs to be addressed more broadly. But in the immediate aftermath of the past from the people I spoke to, you won't [excuse me] you won't hear very many kind things said about Telstra in the Valley. And it was a real problem, and it kind of escalates the challenge. If you are getting in your car and driving away from your home until you find internet, find a couple of bars of phone reception on your mobile so that you can ring the telephone provider to set up a time for them to come to your property. And you get put on hold for a long time and you continually have to explain the story over and over again. And there's no specific communication point for bushfire survivors. It escalates the challenge of recovery, and more broadly makes difficult impacts on people's wellbeing. It just escalates the challenges of recovery. So the Drop in Centre … people talked about it as invaluable for that, and as for navigating it more broadly, people found ways of going to friends’ houses to make phone calls, and that's very difficult. If someone tells you they're going to call you back and they can't call you back because you don't have access to your property.
Speaker 2: Thank you, Scott. I was I have a practical question for Alan about any findings on the effectiveness of rooftop sprinklers and the best type of sprinklers. It's a very particular question.
Speaker 4: And very particular to me as well, because my PhD research was actually looking at bushfire sprinklers. It's a great question and it's one that we get a lot when we talk to people in bushfire prone areas. And the unfortunate answer is that the science behind bushfire fire sprinklers, the science that we would need to have in place to be able to say confidently what works and what doesn't work, isn't quite there yet. But we can say that the best evidence that we have is to, if you're going to install sprinklers, to target the water as directly as possible onto the target surfaces that you want the water to hit on, to try to minimise the amount of evaporation and wind drifts where the airborne droplets are blown away by the wind. And to think carefully about having an independent water supply because mains water obviously can be unreliable during bushfire events and a means to pump that water, whether it's gravity, or a petrol or a diesel driven pump. So thinking through how the system is going to work, how it's going to be activated and then designing it so that the water is sprayed as directly as possible onto the surfaces that you want to get wet is the best way.
Speaker 2: Thank you, Alan. This next question is it kind of to all three of you. You've all three touched on it in various ways doing your presentations. But the question is, did the research indicate any difference in the level of preparedness in Kangaroo Valley for the Currowan fire, as opposed to either previous fires or the Currowan fire in other communities, in particular for household bushfire plans?
Speaker 4: I'll jump in. I think while we our study focussed mostly on Kangaroo Valley, so we don't have that direct comparison within our study. We definitely identified a lot of things that Kangaroo Valley did, which definitely benefited them in preparing for the Currowan fire. So a lot of the things that Scott was talking about around the community organisation, the information sharing about retrofitting and about what the disaster was likely to be like so that people were prepared for the disaster was definitely very beneficial. And to be able to compare Kangaroo Valley to other communities, we couldn't do that directly, but we could say that those measures that were put in place were steps in the right direction, and that's definitely beneficial.
Speaker 2: Do you want to add anything to that, Scott?
Speaker 3: No, I think Alan's dealt with that quite well. We don't have the data to make kind of good comparisons. It is interesting to think about, from some of the people I spoke to at that past fires in the valley and knowledge of past fires. Some people had kind of good knowledge about that and the results of that kind of longer people in the valley. Others, not at all. So it's interesting to again to think about how the memory of the fire continues in a community. But, as Allan says, we don't have the data to make those direct comparisons to other communities.
Speaker 2: Thank you. The next question might be challenging in the short amount of time, but I will just bring it up in case you have any reflections. What practical information came out of the New South Wales bushfire review that we could take on any kind of quick insights from that broad findings compared to what this study has found?
Speaker 4: I don't think I have a really clear answer to that. We've read through a lot of the information from the reviews, and it's really an ocean of points of view and really important information in amongst all of the text that's been put together. I think some of the recommendations were definitely aligned with our findings in Kangaroo Valley around the importance of certain types of infrastructure, the importance of early preparation and the need for more research and development of technologies like bushfire sprinklers were highlighted in the reviews. But I don't think I could give a very accurate overview of all of the information that was put forward because there is so much.
Speaker 2: Matt or Scott, do you want to add any reflections on that?
Speaker 5: Not from my end. It's a fair point. So there's a lot of information there. From the supply chain perspective, we're much more looking at the recovery and response instead - looking at a different problem, I guess.
Speaker 3: And I'll just add that it was interesting to come across through the research, talking to people in the valley, people making submissions to the enquiries ongoing. So people, again, this kind of community led response with people actively telling their stories and contributing in valuable ways came out quite a few times and was a valuable contribution.
Speaker 2: Thank you. It's kind of related - it's a technical question. So there's this comment saying, ‘I have heard that in Victoria, building a compliant bushfire shelter can reduce the BAL rating. If so, would this be suitable for New South Wales regulations?’
Speaker 4: I haven't heard that that's the case. It may be, but I haven't heard that's happening in Victoria. I know that Victoria does have guidelines on how to design a bushfire shelter, which isn't in place in some other states. And I wouldn't comment on whether it would be a good move to have it offset the BAL rating. I think fire shelters have to be considered very carefully and integrated very carefully into bushfire survival plans. They’re certainly not a silver bullet, but that's not to say that they're not useful, and there were people in Kangaroo Valley during the Currowan fire who used them to seemingly great effect. So I think they need to be approached carefully and I'm not sure how they should fit into regulations.
Speaker 2: And another very quick follow up question about something technical. Do you have any views on the effectiveness of flame zone rated windows and doors versus bushfire shutters?
Speaker 4: So they would be tested to the same standards when you purchased bushfire shutters or bushfire rated doors or windows, they come with the BAL rating that they've been tested to. So, from a scientific point of view, that's the only information that we would have on how resilient each element would be. So I would go by the BAL rating. And obviously, cost can come into those decisions a lot as well - they can be quite expensive.
Speaker 2: Thank you. Now I have the unfortunate task of saying that we're running out of time. And I'd like to acknowledge that there are many more comments and information that have been shared with us in the Q&A tab. We have recorded that thank you very much. We won't be able to cover any more questions today. What I would like to do before anybody else, though, is to once again emphasise there is more information coming from our side. And we are very happy to hear from you as well, should you have any follow up details that you would like to share? And I would like again to thank those participants in our research, without you we could not have done this work.
I would like to acknowledge the enormous impact these fires have had, not just on the Kangaroo Valley community, but the broader NSW and Australian community, and how this is an ongoing process and that we are all learning through it together. And of course, that's a long journey. So I really hope that our research can be part of that process of recovery.
I would like to thank Scott Alan, Scott and Matt for sharing findings today so eloquently and insightfully, it was very interesting. I would also like to thank Paul Cooper and Tillman Boehme who are both part of this research project, and are both listening in. And I would also thank last but not least, Robyn Dawson, who has taken care of all the technical set up for this webinar to be able to take place. That has taken considerable effort, and we are very grateful for your work. On that note, once again, thank you and you will hear more from us in due time. So I wish you all a very pleasant evening.
The research team are progressively developing a range of resources to share with stakeholders and the general community. The following resources are currently available.
The final report for this project can be accessed at the link below.
Building Community Resilience to Bushfires: A Case Study of Kangaroo Valley, Australia - Final Report (PDF)
Further details about particular aspects of the project can be found in our series of nine Bushfire Research Briefs.
The research team have developed a series of Bushfire Research Briefs that summarise key findings from the project in an accessible format. These documents can be accessed below.
A summary of the important steps that the Kangaroo Valley community and other organisations took to support the enhancement of community-wide resilience to bushfires.
Access Bushfire Research Brief – Community Connections (PDF)
Recovery After Bushfire
A description of the response and ongoing recovery journeys of Kangaroo Valley residents in respect of the Currowan Bushfire.
Access Bushfire Research Brief – Recovery After Bushfire (PDF)
Preparation and Recovery in a Changing Environment
A discussion of the perceptions of Kangaroo Valley residents in relation to potential impacts that Climate Change, and a warming/drying environment have on preparation and recovery from bushfire.
Access Bushfire Research Brief – Preparation and Recovery in a Changing Environment (PDF)
Home Retrofits and Preparation
A summary of how many Kangaroo Valley householders upgraded their homes through retrofitting and prepared for the potential impact of the Currowan Bushfire and future bushfire emergencies.
Access Bushfire Research Brief – Home Retrofits and Preparation (PDF)
Preparing for Bushfire: Motivations and Information Sources
This is a brief outline of how and why Kangaroo Valley residents sourced information on retrofitting and preparing their homes for bushfire.
Access Bushfire Research Brief – Preparing for Bushfire: Motivations and Information Sources (PDF)
Leave or Stay Decision Making
This summarises our research findings on how members of the Kangaroo Valley community approached the important decision on whether to evacuate early, well before a bushfire arrives, or to stay with the intention of defending the property.
Access Bushfire Research Brief – Leave or Stay Decision Making (PDF)
Reconstruction: Planning, Insurance and Design
There are four key stages in a building project with respect to the construction supply chain ecosystem. Here we detail how the reconstruction supply industry responded to the rebuilding requirements of Kangaroo Valley and consider wider impacts across the NSW South Coast region, which was also heavily impacted by bushfires.
Access Bushfire Research Brief – Reconstruction: Planning, Insurance and Design (PDF)
Reconstruction: Sourcing and Supply of Materials
The Black Summer Bushfires and the Covid-19 pandemic both had significant impacts on the bushfire reconstruction industry as outlined in this Bushfire Research Brief.
Access Bushfire Research Brief – Reconstruction: Sourcing and Supply of Materials (PDF)
Reconstruction: Delivery of Rebuilding and Repairs
Here the experiences of members of the construction industry and the community during the delivery phase of rebuilding are explored together with issues including demand for builders and tradespeople, and the capacity of the supply chain to cope with changing demand following disasters.
Access Bushfire Research Brief – Reconstruction: Delivery of Rebuilding and Repairs (PDF)
- Bushfire best practice guide, CSIRO
- Essential bushfire safety tips, by Joan Webster 3rd edition (Melliodora Publishing, 2021).
- NSW Rural Fire Service advice on how to prepare your home.
- The RFS Household Assessment on-line tool
- The Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) YouTube page has a range of informative videos, e.g. What is Disaster Recovery and Mental Health Recovery After Disaster.
- After The Disaster: ABC Radio Podcast
- Fraser, Peg (2018) Black Saturday: Not the End of the Story, Monash University Publishing
- Gibbs L, et al. (2020) 10 Years Beyond Bushfires Report, University of Melbourne, Melbourne.
- Eriksen, C., McKinnon, S., & de Vet, E. (2020). Why insurance matters: insights from research post-disaster. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 35(4), 42-47.
- Retrofitting for wildfire resilience: what is the cost? By Penman et al. (Int. Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 2017).