Volume 23 Issue 1, 2008

Fire, families and decisions

Mae Proudley

Peer-reviewed Article

Archived Article


“As I was getting the kids in the car embers were coming over the fence.” Scant attention is paid to women and their roles in the emergency management landscape. This is particularly relevant in the field of community bushfire preparedness and mitigation. The culture of emergency management remains a very masculine field with the command and control system continuing to dominate and influence the roles and processes of emergency events. Within this context, research into gaining a deeper understanding of families and the role of women in bushfire has been neglected. Acknowledging and understanding how families and women make decisions in critical times must help shape future bushfire education programs. This includes the modification, application and implementation of the ‘prepare, stay and defend or leave early’ policy. The family and a woman’s role within the family are where crucial decisions are made in advance of and during a bushfire. The family unit, in its various forms, is an important and frequently overlooked field of bushfire research. This paper explores how family dynamics inform critical decisions and suggests that there is significant value in listening to the narratives of families and couples who have experienced a major bushfire. A people-centred focus, not a pre-determined system or a theory, is needed. In order to reduce, or eliminate, last minute decisions to evacuate at the height of a bushfire, there must be recognition and understanding of how family dynamics and women’s role within the family influence behaviour during a crisis.