Volume 22 Issue 1, 2007

No time to de(con)struct: the accessibility of bush fire risk management plans in New South Wales, Australia

Prue Laidlaw, Dirk HR Spennemann, Catherine Allan

Peer-reviewed Article

Archived Article


Cultural heritage assets define our culture, providing a sense of place and emotional anchorage in space and time. As such they are regarded as assets worth protecting during disasters, including bush fires. Fire can damage cultural heritage assets through flames and radiant heat and via inappropriate fire suppression activities during and immediately after a fire. Good planning can provide for the protection of cultural heritage assets during bush fires, but the information within the plans must be easily understood. This paper considers the accessibility of the information related to cultural heritage assets in all available NSW district bush fire risk management plans. Reading ease and reading age formulae were applied to each plan, and content analysis was used to explore the terminologies used, and the style in which the information was presented. The information regarding cultural assets in the plans was found to be difficult to read, replete with obscure terminology, and sometimes rambling and irrelevant; in short very inaccessible, especially in the high stress environment of a bush fire. The paper concludes with advice on improving the accessibility of bush fire risk management plans, advice which will be equally applicable to other disaster plans which consider the protection of cultural heritage assets.