University of Newcastle research prepares ‘at risk’ communities for natural disasters

Preparing communities for natural disasters

06 May 2014

University of Newcastle research prepares 'at risk' communities for natural disasters

Two University of Newcastle researchers have won a $35,000 award from Hunter and Central Coast Councils to investigate ways to build community preparedness for natural disasters.

Dr Amanda Howard and Dr Tamara Blakemore, both part of the Social Work Research Group in the School of Humanities and Social Science, are leading the Natural Disaster Resilience Project in partnership with the Hunter and Central Coast Regional Environmental Management Strategy (HCCREMS).

Through the project the researchers will identify and implement ways to build the preparedness of communities considered most 'at risk' from natural disasters across Lake Macquarie, Wyong and Gosford Council areas.

"We already know the elderly, children, people with a disability, low income earners and culturally and linguistically diverse communities are more vulnerable when it comes to natural disasters due to their unique needs."

"This project is about supporting people who are socially marginalised and who typically miss out on receiving mainstream natural disaster communication."

"It's really important that we learn how to effectively connect with these people so that they are not additionally disadvantaged should they need to respond to a natural disaster," Dr Howard said.

Through this project the researchers will look at what difficulties these people need to overcome in order to be more prepared should a disaster occur.

"Using available spatial and demographic data to identify key groups, we will then invite people to talk with us in order to understand their risk perceptions and current levels of preparedness. We want to know how they receive their information and what barriers they have to getting information about natural disasters."

"The outcomes of our research will be used to inform the communication and planning strategies of emergency management authorities, council and front line community service organisations involved in emergency preparedness planning," Dr Howard said.

The third stage of the project involves the development of a plan to reduce community exposure and build resilience and preparedness for heat waves.

Contact: Dr Amanda Howard
Contact Phone: +61 2 4921 6302