Lessons from Black Summer: how people experienced the 2019/20 NSW fire season

The 2019/20 bushfire season was unprecedented in NSW, with destructive bushfires occurring across the state between August 2019 and February 2020. Tens of thousands of people were displaced by the fires, including residents, tourists and visitors to affected areas, with many fires occurring during the Christmas and New Year holiday period. Tragically, 25 people lost their lives in the fires. Many more people were affected by smoke in both metropolitan and regional areas. By season’s end, bushfires had burned a record 5.5 million hectares of NSW and destroyed 2,448 homes.

After the fires, the NSW Rural Fire Service commissioned the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre to undertake research into community attitudes and experiences of the 2019-20 bushfire season.

The research investigated how people across NSW were affected by the bushfires and what actions they took. A total of 202 in-depth interviews were conducted with people affected by the fires, and a further 1,004 others completed an online survey to provide quantitative insights. Themes covered in this research include risk communication, preparedness and how this changed due to the length of the fire season, and the experiences of tourists and visitors, especially during the Christmas and New Year period.

The NSW Rural Fire Service uses research such as this to evaluate and measure the effectiveness of its work during emergency events, and to enhance warnings and engagement approaches for future events.

Download Hazard Note 95 by clicking the HERE

In addition to the Hazard Note, the full report, Black Summer – how the NSW community responded to the 2019-20 bushfire season, is available at https://www.bnhcrc.com.au/publications/black-summer-nsw-community

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