Centre progress and utilisation highlighted in report | Natural Hazards Research Australia

Centre progress and utilisation highlighted in report

Photo: AFAC
Release date

20 February 2024

Natural Hazards Research Australia’s delivery and use of research is showcased in the January 2024 Progress Report.

This is our half yearly report that is a requirement of the Australian Government and complements our full year report that is submitted at the close of the financial year. 

The Progress Report covers the six-month period 1 July 2023 to 31 December 2023 for the Centre as it moved into its third year with a focus on delivery and use of the research.

The Centre is making great progress in line with our Strategic Plan, with further expansion of the research program, engagement and utilisation planned throughout 2024. The report highlights Centre achievements in building upon our strategic direction with a growing network of Participants and a targeted national research program.

Through close collaboration with the Commonwealth Government to maintain alignment with our strategic direction, the Centre aims to provide a national natural hazards research capability that addresses the complexities and challenges surrounding natural hazards.

The Progress Report also highlights Centre research in action, with 13 case studies of research utilisation across flood, fire, cyclone, emergency management and community-led recovery. The two case studies below are specific highlights our research in action, read more in the Progress Report.

SES Fitness for Role

The national SES Fitness for Role program was launched by AFAC and SES agencies at the August AFAC23 conference in Brisbane. It provides a single approach to ensure SES staff and volunteers have and maintain the physical fitness to operate safely as first responders.

The program is based on Centre research findings from our SES fit for task project and jointly funded by the Australian Council of State Emergency Services and undertaken by Human Performance Science and in partnership with SES agencies and AFAC.

The Fitness for Role program contributes to the safety, health and wellbeing of SES members across Australia, reduces the risk of injury while performing required tasks, and contributes to building a culture of wellbeing. The Fitness for Role program benefits the safety and wellbeing of individual SES members. It also ensures that when SES members are deployed to support other states and territories during major emergencies, they are safe enough to assist.

Nine activities mimicking the most relevant operational tasks SES members undertake were assessed, as well as the level of effort required to meet these minimum physical fitness levels, and the environments SES members operate in. The program is backed by more than a decade of research measuring the minimum physical fitness SES members require to do their job safely and effectively.

The program is the first time emergency services from all Australian states and territories have collectively developed and implemented a national approach to ensure SES members have the appropriate level of physical fitness to safely undertake their role.

Our Hazard Note 4: A national evidence-based SES program to reduce injury provides a great overview of the program.

Predictive maps

Predictions in public is defining the role of fire predictions in agency communications with the public during an emergency. With a team of researchers from RMIT University, Queensland University of Technology, Deakin University and Swinburne University of Technology, the project is overseen by a Steering Committee comprising representatives from the AFAC Predictive Services Group, the AFAC Warnings Group from all Australian states and territories, and the Bureau of Meteorology.

The first research phase, now complete, focused on understanding current levels of comprehension and use of maps for public information and warnings. Researchers surveyed fire-affected residents nationally about how they use, comprehend, perceive and act upon maps, including fire spread prediction maps. 3,007 people took part. In addition, 95 research interviews for more specific details were undertaken in West Gippsland, Victoria; the Huon Valley, Tasmania; the southern ACT; and the Snowy Monaro; New South Wales.

Steering Committee workshops resulted in the development of the Current Practice Atlas that shows the different approaches used by Australian emergency service agencies in the production, design and use of incident warning maps. This provides important context for the project to ensure that fire prediction maps complement the existing map-based products used to communicate with communities during an emergency.

Phase Two is now developing a series of fire prediction maps for testing with communities across Australia to provide evidence-based guidance for the six key decision points around the design and dissemination of the maps identified by the Steering Committee. By involving the project Steering Committee in the development of fire prediction maps, receiving their support in defining the scope of the research studies and interpreting the results, this project has ensured that the results of the research are useful, usable and used. The research will support a nationally consistent and evidence-based approach to the future use of fire prediction maps during an emergency.

Watch researcher A/Prof Paula Dootson from the Queensland University of Technology explain what the project is about, why it is needed and how it will improve bushfire safety below.