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Preparing for bushfires: understanding intentions

Douglas Paton (School of Psychology, University of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia)
Gail Kelly (CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Canberra, Australia)
Petra T. Burgelt (School of Psychology, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand)
Michael Doherty (CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Canberra, Australia)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 August 2006




To examine the relationship between behavioural intentions and preparing for bushfire hazards and to test the hypothesis that intentions can inform how people reason about their relationship with environmental hazards.


Survey data were collected from 280 residents in high bushfire risk areas and analysed using multiple regression analysis. Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with a theoretical sample drawn from those who completed the survey. Data were analysed using grounded theory analysis strategies using the ATLAS.ti data analysis programme following the procedures for open, axial, and selective coding.


The analyses demonstrated that preparedness intentions reflect the outcomes of different ways of reasoning about their relationship with bushfire hazards and that “preparing” and “not preparing” represent discrete processes. Each outcome was supported by different attitudes towards preparing and by different predictor variables.

Research limitations/implications

Preparing and not preparing for natural hazards should be conceptualised as separate processes and additional research into their origins and precursors is required.

Practical implications

Separate risk communication strategies are needed to counter reasons for “not preparing” and facilitate “preparing”. Strategies should accommodate the attitudes and beliefs that underpin these outcomes. To facilitate sustained preparedness, strategies should assist people to negotiate issues required to arrive at a decision to adopt protective measures.


Provides novel insights into the relationship between people and natural hazards. It identifies a need to re‐think how risk communication strategies are developed and delivered.



Paton, D., Kelly, G., Burgelt, P.T. and Doherty, M. (2006), "Preparing for bushfires: understanding intentions", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 566-575.



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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited