Why are people so unkind? Unravelling community responses to floodplain and emergency management

Neil Dufty, Mel Taylor, Garry Stevens

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution


An increasingly important part of floodplain management and flood emergency management involves community consultation and education. In NSW, the floodplain risk management planning process requires community consultation. Community awareness and community readiness are response modification measures that should be considered in floodplain risk management according to the NSW Floodplain Development Manual. Emergency managers such as the NSW State Emergency Service are engaging with communities to attempt to raise flood preparedness levels and encourage appropriate responses to flood warnings including evacuation. However, research and experience shows that community responses to these initiatives are varied. For example, community interest in floodplain risk management plans can range from non-existent to overwhelming particularly when property values appear affected. Community preparedness levels can remain low even after a flood education campaign. People can remain at home even after evacuation orders are given. This paper draws on disaster-related psychological research and theory to provide an insight into why communities react in the way they do to floodplain and emergency management initiatives. The research includes that conducted by the Disaster Response and Resilience Research Group from the University of Western Sydney into a broad range of hazards. Based on learnings from this research, the paper examines threat perception, perceived coping and other psychological factors particularly relating to community flood preparedness. Using the psychological research presented, the paper reflects on current community flood related consultation and education processes used by emergency managers, consultants, State government agencies and local councils. It then offers several ways to improve the effectiveness of these processes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 52nd Floodplain Management Association (FMA) Annual Conference
Place of PublicationCoffs Harbour, NSW
PublisherFloodplain Management Association
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
EventAnnual NSW Floodplain Management Association Conference (52nd : 2012) - Batemans Bay, New South Wales
Duration: 21 Feb 201224 Feb 2012


ConferenceAnnual NSW Floodplain Management Association Conference (52nd : 2012)
CityBatemans Bay, New South Wales


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