- Documents and publications
Lessons from Black Summer: how people experienced the 2019/20 NSW fire season
The 2019/20 bushfire season was unprecedented in NSW, with destructive bushfires occurring across the state between August 2019 and February 2020. Tens of thousands of people were displaced by the fires, including residents, tourists and visitors to affected areas, with many fires occurring during the Christmas and New Year holiday period. By season’s end, bushfires had burned a record 5.5 million hectares of NSW and destroyed 2,448 homes.The research investigated how people across NSW were affected by the bushfires and what actions they took. Themes covered in this research include risk communication, preparedness and how this changed due to the length of the fire season, and the experiences of tourists and visitors, especially during the Christmas and New Year period.
The research found that previous experience of bushfire motivated many people to plan and prepare. The extent of the 2019/20 fires and the sheer number of people affected presents opportunities to reach new audiences with bushfire safety information and promote planning and preparation. However, the research shows the challenges around community expectations of warnings, with many people expecting to receive highly detailed and localised information in near real-time. New initiatives, including fire spread prediction maps and Tourist Leave Zone messages, were found to be effective in communicating risk and motivating people to take protective action during the worst of the conditions.