Any more dullards out there ...

Subject: Any more dullards out there ...
From: "Michael West" <mike -dot- west -at- bigpond -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 2009 21:39:38 +1000

...who don't think clear, targeted writing can save lives?

Let them read this.

CFA bushfire warnings on Black Saturday 'confusing'
Gary Hughes | June 16, 2009
Article from: The Australian

WARNINGS issued by Victoria's Country Fire Authority on Black Saturday were
confusing and badly constructed, the royal commission investigating
Australia's worst natural disaster was told today.

Disaster management expert Professor John Handmer said warnings described
the direction that fires were moving by using points of the compass, rather
than also referring to local geographic features such as the nearest town.

They also referred to the size of fires in hectares, which might mean little
to people living on the urban fringe, rather than using terms such as

One CFA warning for a fire that started at Kilmore early on Black Saturday
and later killed more than 100 people said the township of Wandong was
likely to be impacted and was already being impacted in the same message.

"It is more than quite confusing," said Professor Handmer, who is director
of RMIT University's Centre for Risk and Community Safety.

The layout of text warnings on the CFA website was also poor and made it
difficult for people to extract information immediately relevant to them.

Professor Handmer said a warning on the Kilmore fire issued about 2.30pm on
Black Saturday describing it as being 638 hectares was "not very helpful"
because only people living in rural areas would understand just how big that

He agreed with royal commissioner Ron McLeod that it would have been better
to simply say the Kilmore fire was large, out of control and moving quickly.

Professor Handmer said a lot of people did not understand the word
"imminently" used in CFA warnings about when fires would impact on
communities and simpler terms such as "happening now" or "immediately"
should be used.

Professor Handmer said there were a number of different ways of interpreting
the CFA's contentious "stay or go" policy, which encouraged people to either
stay and defend their homes or leave early on days of extreme fire risk.

It was known that up to 30 per cent of people intended to "wait and see' and
not make a decision about leaving until a fire was nearby.

Professor Handmer said the policy assumed that people would know a lot about
bushfires and their own physical and mental capacities to deal with one.

There could be a need for assessing the capacity of people to stay and
defend their properties.

The policy also did not take into account that on any given day a number of
people facing a bushfire would be suffering an illnesses or would be
impaired by alcohol or drugs.

He agreed with counsel assisting the commission Rachel Ward that alcohol had
been a factor in a number of deaths during the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983.

The hearing into the Black Saturday fires, which killed 173 people and
destroyed more than 2000 homes, is continuing.


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