CFA Bushfire Program: Community Capability Theme Outcome Evaluation

Rebecca O'Hara, Carlyn Pauline Muir, Chebiwot Kipsaina, Lesley Margaret Day

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned ReportResearch


This project was a retrospective evaluation of the Community Capability theme of CFAs Bushfire Program. The projects in the community capability theme seek to ‘enhance community capability to prepare for potential bushfires and promote bushfire safety’, through the enhancement of existing community programs and the use of new approaches. This evaluation aimed to investigate whether the following key intermediate outcome measures were met for the Community Capability theme, with the intent that they contribute to CFA’s overall mission of saving life and property:
- Local communities are aware of the level of bushfire and grassfire risk;
- Local communities are prepared in line with the level of bushfire and grassfire risk;
- Local communities respond appropriately to bushfire and grassfire risk;
- Local communities and households are confident in CFA and its ability to deliver bushfire preparedness services, and;
- Arson related incidents caused by young people are reducing.

Broadly, this evaluation highlighted a number of opportunities for CFA in terms of improvements to programs and the measurement of outcomes, and future research opportunities:

Improvements to programs:
- Bushfire risk – opportunity to improve risk awareness among community members and tourism operators.
- Residents’ preparatory activities – perceived preparedness was higher than actual preparedness. In addition, a low proportion of residents indicated they would leave early, consequently there is a need to ensure that ‘appropriate’ preparatory activities are being undertaken. This may necessitate the broadening of programs as it is increasingly recognised in disaster and hazard research that education alone is insufficient to enhance household preparedness.
- The proportion of residents that reported using the HBAS and HBSAT was low representing an opportunity to increase the use of this service should these specific projects be shown to be useful to enhance community capability in relation to bushfires.
- Tourism operators - opportunity to expand program for tourism operators and move away from passive information to more practical, hands-on advice and training to assist operators to become fire ready. Additionally, operators reported the need for tourist information to be timely, simple and multi-lingual and provided prior to tourists reaching high risk areas, and to ensure emergency warning signage is present in high risk areas.
- Future programs should focus on increasing preparedness and on developing appropriate responses to bushfire and grassfire risk.
- Program development may benefit from a foundation in an applicable behaviour change model such as the social-cognitive model of disaster preparedness.
- New or modified programs should be pilot tested to determine their effectiveness in changing intentions and the adoption of preparatory behaviour, before widespread delivery.

Improvements to the measurement of outcomes
The measures specified in the RFQ for this evaluation do not align well with the outcomes. It is important to ensure an evidence-based process is used to map out the links between goals, objectives, key measures, outcomes and overall targets. This would require the development of comprehensive theme level documentation and logic maps at inception of the projects. An alternative approach for CFA is to undertake smaller project level evaluations rather than theme level evaluations. Additionally, the following should be considered in relation to the outcome measures specified for this evaluation:
- Arson data - There is a substantial difference in the numbers of incidents in the CFA FIRS database and the Victoria Police database which should be further investigated.
- PSCS - While it is recognised that the surveys used for the present evaluation were not designed for the specific purpose used here, changes to the wording of questions should always be considered carefully for the impact on assessing trends over time. Additionally, in future community surveys it may be useful to introduce some selected key questions in relation to an appropriate theoretical model of disaster preparedness.
Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyCountry Fire Authority (CFA) (Victoria)
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • Preparedness
  • Bushfire

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