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Improving an inherently stressful situation: the role of communication during wildfire evacuationsAuthor(s): Melanie Stidham; Eric Toman; Sarah M. McCaffrey; Bruce Schinder
Source: In: McCaffrey, Sarah M.; Fisher, Cherie LeBlanc, eds. 2011. Proceedings of the second conference on the human dimensions of wildland fire. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-84. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 96-103.
Publication Series: General Technical Report - Proceedings
Station: Northern Research Station
PDF: View PDF (406.81 KB)
DescriptionWildfire evacuations are inherently stressful and homeowners have reported in previous studies that uncertainty over what is happening is perhaps one of the most stressful aspects. Although many difficult elements of evacuation cannot be mitigated and lives will certainly be disrupted, fire-management agencies can significantly reduce residents' uncertainty with frequent, open, and detailed communication. We illustrate this point with two case studies. In one community, there was little communication between fire-management professionals and residents before, during, and after a wildfire evacuation while in the other there was regular communication throughout the event. Where agency communication was lacking, the media filled the information gap with conflicting and often inaccurate reports. Two years after the fire, residents from this community recalled the event in vivid detail and many still expressed fear of wildfire and lack of trust in fire-management agencies. Conversely, residents of the community that received abundant, timely information had largely positive comments about how the fire was managed and expressed trust and confidence in the fire-managing agency.
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CitationStidham, Melanie; Toman, Eric; McCaffrey, Sarah; Schinder, Bruce. 2011. Improving an inherently stressful situation: the role of communication during wildfire evacuations. In: McCaffrey, Sarah M.; Fisher, Cherie LeBlanc, eds. 2011. Proceedings of the second conference on the human dimensions of wildland fire. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-84. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 96-103.
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