Predicting delay in residents’ decisions on defending v. evacuating through antecedents of decision avoidance
McNeill, I.M., Dunlop, P.D., Skinner, T.C. and Morrison, D.L. (2015) Predicting delay in residents’ decisions on defending v. evacuating through antecedents of decision avoidance. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 24 (2). pp. 153-161.
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In the event of a wildfire, Australian residents of wildfire-prone areas have a choice to defend their home or evacuate early. However, rather than deciding on and preparing for one of these fire-responses ahead of time, most residents delay deciding on defending v. evacuating (e.g. they wait and see instead). Recent research has shown that delaying this decision is associated with reduced levels of preparedness for both responses and on the day of a fire, an increased risk to life and property. The current study empirically examined what predicts this decision delay regarding one’s fire-response by measuring two personality traits and several decision-related factors. A longitudinal survey study of residents of multiple wildfire-prone areas in Western Australia showed that the strongest predictor of delaying their decision to defend v. evacuate was a lack of difference in perceived values of defending v. evacuating. These findings have important implications for the design of interventions to reduce the risks associated with such delay. For one, agencies could utilise residents’ value base to reduce decision delay. Alternatively, they could focus on the formation of proper contingency plans and stress the necessity to prepare well for both defending and evacuating.
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