Key warnings guidelines backed by latest CRC research

The latest version of a key guide for issuing warnings in Australia, the Public Information and Warnings handbook, has been revised to include the latest Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC research findings, as well as other research in the sector.

Updated in November 2021, the second edition of the Public Information and Warnings handbook includes the latest research outputs from the CRC’s communications and warnings research projects and reflects the adoption of the Australian Warning System, endorsed by the Australia-New Zealand Emergency Management Committee in March 2021.

CRC researchers at the Queensland University of Technology, Prof Amisha Mehta, A/Prof Dominique Greer and Dr Paula Dootson were also essential to the update, with the team reviewing the handbook to provide advice on new research to be included in the second edition, as well as updating the companion guide, Warning message construction: Choosing your words.

Published by the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience, the handbook provides insight and guidance to people who have responsibility for communication with the public in the event of an emergency. It presents nationally agreed principles for warning policy and practice and explores the essential elements and discipline of effective public information and warning delivery.

The companion guide provides guidance on key considerations for writing effective warning messages, a proposed structure for a warning message, specific language to use when constructing messages, and suggestions for constructing warning messages for non-English speaking audiences.

New CRC research that has been included in the revised handbook includes the community-focused research after the 2019-20 fires in NSW, as well as research on the use of visuals in warnings.

  • Black Summer – how the NSW community responded to the 2019-20 bushfire season by Dr Josh Whittaker, Dr Kat Haynes, Carrie Wilkinson, Dr Matalena Tofa, Dr Tasmin Dilworth, Jessica Collins, Lillian Tait and Stephanie Samson investigated how people across NSW were affected by the 2019-20 bushfires in NSW and what actions they took. A Hazard Note highlighting the key findings can be download here.
  • Managing problematic visual media in natural hazard emergenciesby Dr Paula Dootson, Dr TJ Thomson, Prof Daniel Angus, Dr Sophie Miller, Dr Edward Hurcombe and Adam Smith identifies four specific types of problematic visual media that are common to natural hazard emergencies in Australia and proposes strategies that can be employed by emergency services agencies to manage the extent and impact of these problematic visuals. Read a Hazard Note on this research here.

First published in 2018, the handbook is designed to support organisations and individuals with specific responsibilities for developing and disseminating public information and warnings in an emergency. It will benefit Australian leaders and practitioners in emergency management, meteorological services, policing and security, health agencies, and other hazard management organisations. Broadcasters and other organisations committed to sharing warnings effectively will also find the handbook useful. Individuals and community groups, regulators, auditors- general, the legal fraternity, international practitioners in disaster resilience and emergency management, and those working in communication and behavioural science may also value the information and research presented.

See this article on the Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC website here.