Human Dimensions of Fire Management
Evacuation of residents during wildfire is a highly time-sensitive process. Available time may be limited. Previous research on other types of incident demonstrate that individuals delay their evacuation by first undertaking actions in response to the threat. However, currently there is little evidence of what actions individuals undertake (‘behavioural itineraries’), how many, which are prioritised, and how much time is committed to them in a wildfire. Additionally, where some understanding exists concerning human behaviour in wildfire evacuations, data has mostly been acquired from Australia; European regions, which are increasingly threatened by wildfires, lack attention. This study presents the first cross-cultural investigation of its kind: survey data (N = 293) from the South of France and Australia were compared. Participants with actual experience of wildfires and those inexperienced yet residing in at-risk areas answered questions about what they did or would hypothetically do, respectively, and for how long, prior to commencing evacuation. Results revealed that, across the two regions, the discrete actions comprising behavioural itineraries were similar overall, albeit their priority sometimes differed. However, when analysed by category, the prioritisation of actions was uniform across samples. Of significance is the finding that regional differences were also observed in relation to: mean number of actions, time committed to actions and the influence of socio-demographic factors, indicating geographical and cultural determinants. Implications for future research, evacuation modelling and wildfire management, education and training are discussed.