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Public Information and Warnings Handbook

Artwork by Emma Bamblett (Wemba Wemba, Gunditjmara, Ngadjonji and Taungurung)

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The effective communication of public information and warnings is a critical element of emergency management, with the power to save lives. Timely, targeted and tailored information and warnings empower people to make informed decisions, to take protective action, and to reduce the potential impacts and consequences of a hazard.

Public Information and Warnings provides insight and guidance to people who have responsibility for communication with the public in the event of an emergency. The handbook presents nationally agreed principles for warning policy and practice and explores the essential elements and discipline of effective public information and warning delivery.

The handbook aligns national disaster resilience strategy and policy with practice, notably the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience (COAG 2011) and Strategic Directions for Fire and Emergency Services in Australia and New Zealand 2021–2026 (AFAC 2021), by guiding and supporting jurisdictions, agencies and other organisations and individuals in their implementation and adoption. It also responds to Recommendation Two of the 2014 National Review of Warnings and Information (ANZEMC 2015), to advance a national approach through improved knowledge management.

The 2021 revision of Public Information and Warnings includes research outputs from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre communications and warnings research project and to reflect the adoption of the Australian Warning System, endorsed by ANZEMC in March 2021.

Communications and warnings documentary series by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC

Effective risk and warning communication during natural hazards

Warnings are a critical component of emergency management, and the evolution of both policy and practice over recent years has highlighted the power of warnings to save lives and a need to learn more about why some warning strategies were more successful than others. With more organisations outside of traditional emergency response agencies now having greater responsibility with public information and warnings, this video follows Cathy Buck, Disaster Management Coordinator at the Sunshine Coast Council in Queensland. Cathy explores the key research findings with Prof Vivienne Tippett and A/Prof Amisha Mehta from the Queensland University of Technology, and sees firsthand how the research has improved the warnings issued by from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services with Information and Warnings Manager Kath Ryan.

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This video is part of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC documentary series Driving change: the evolution of communications and warnings in emergency preparedness, response and recovery.