Australia & World

How the census can help recover from wildfires

The darkened branches of the 2019-2020 wildfire are thriving with new growth, and the smoke that swallowed the country is just a memory, but recovery is not yet over in many affected communities.

Census data is helping recovery work in more than 110 Australian municipalities affected by the disaster called Black Summer. This ranges from initial cleanup to identifying the most vulnerable communities and making policy decisions regarding future risk mitigation.

media_cameraAerial view of fire-ravaged shrublands and burnt houses in Torrington Village, New South Wales, after a wildfire in 2019-2020.Photo: Brooke Mitchell / Getty Images

“The disaster was so large that we needed a reliable central source to obtain consistent data across states and territories,” said the National Bushfire Recovery Agency (NBRA), director of data analysis. ) Christine Atyeo said. “Without the census, we couldn’t do much of the work. Everyone has a set of different conditions in their lives. If you don’t know you’re there , We can’t help you. “

Cleanup

Early in the restoration process, NBRA used demographic data to provide first responders with briefing packs. “Army and other first responders have been dispatched to various locations, including Kangaroo Island, Clarence Valley, Shoalhaven, and East Gippsland, a region that has been hit hard,” Atyeo said. say. “It gave them an understanding of the environment, age profile, unemployment profile, socio-economic status, and possible vulnerabilities they face. A detailed analysis of non-English speaking people and people with disabilities. The we.”

The actual impacts ranged from knowing which type of dwelling was damaged to knowing which medium was best for communicating information. “For example, older communities use the radio instead of Facebook and Twitter to reach out,” says Atyeo.

Demographic data help determine whether wildfire recovery groups reach out to affected communities through social media platforms or through more traditional means such as radio.
media_cameraDemographic data help determine whether wildfire recovery groups reach out to affected communities through social media platforms or through more traditional means such as radio.

Pandemic hit

Recovery efforts faced even more difficult layers when the wildfire headlines turned to Covid-19 pandemic news. Pandemic contributions to the supply chain problems of building materials, labor shortages and economic struggles have been another blow to communities suffering from droughts, floods and, more recently, the murine plague in New South Wales in recent years.

“Covid threw them six times,” says Atyeo. “Many of the areas affected by wildfires are also touristy areas. The fires had a major impact on the tourism industry, followed immediately by Covid.”

Resilience building

Understanding the communities most vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters is another important piece of information from the census. It was one of the leading data sources used to inform the Disaster Resilience Index, a national tool developed by the Bushfire & Natural Disaster Collaborative Research Center.

According to the index, 16% of Australians, or about 3.8 million, are less resilient to disasters. “It’s not about individual resilience, it’s about the social, economic, and institutional factors that exist around the community and influence disaster resilience,” said Dr. Melissa Parsons, who led the development of the index. I will explain.

Areas that appear to be highly resilient (mainly metropolitan areas) are concentrated in less than half of Australia’s land area. “This is not the place where we have wildfires and floods,” says Dr. Parsons.

“Recovery times can be much longer in areas with barriers such as economic capital, lack of access to services, instability in leasing and employment, and lack of access to savings and insurance.”

The pitch-black sky of Sydney CBD during the 2019-2020 wildfire. The Disaster Resilience Index shows that people in metropolitan areas are most resilient to disasters, but areas are rarely affected. Photo: Saeed Khan / AFP
media_cameraThe pitch-black sky of Sydney CBD during the 2019-2020 wildfire. The Disaster Resilience Index shows that people in metropolitan areas are most resilient to disasters, but areas are rarely affected. Photo: Saeed Khan / AFP

Looking to the future

Data that identifies the most risky communities can also help policy makers prepare for future disasters. “For every $ 1 you invest in risk reduction, you can save up to $ 15 in the aftermath,” says Dr. Parsons. “Indexes can help with that plan. An example is access to telecommunications. Improving access to mobile and the Internet can have a huge impact on disaster resilience. . “

Recovery is a complex process that goes far beyond physical rebuilding. In a recent Beyond Bushfires report on Black Saturday Bushfires in 2009, only 44% of respondents felt that the community had fully or almost recovered. “Recovery ranges from providing better shelters in the event of another disaster to supporting new industries such as cycling trails and sculpture walks, beekeeping, oyster farming and forestry to promote tourism to one area. Is evolving, “says Atyeo. “You can never draw a line in the sand and say,’This community has recovered.'”

The next census will be held on August 10.You can complete the census here..

Originally released How the census can help recover from wildfires

How the census can help recover from wildfires

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