Should we leave now? Behavioral factors in evacuation under wildfire threat

TitleShould we leave now? Behavioral factors in evacuation under wildfire threat
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsMcLennan, J
Secondary AuthorsRyan, B
Tertiary AuthorsBearman, C
Subsidiary AuthorsToh, K
JournalFire Technology
Start Page487
KeywordsBushfire, Delay, evacuation, Human behavior, modeling, technical reports and journal articles, wildfire

Wildfires pose a serious threat to life in many countries. For police, fire and emergency services authorities in most jurisdictions in North America and Australia evacuation is now the option that is preferred overwhelmingly. Wildfire evacuation modeling can assist authorities in planning evacuation responses to future threats. Understanding residents' behavior under wildfire threat may assist in wildfire evacuation modeling. This paper reviews North American and Australian research into wildfire evacuation behavior published between January 2005 and June 2017. Wildfire evacuation policies differ across the two regions: in North America mandatory evacuations are favored, in Australia most are advisory. Research from both regions indicates that following a wildfire evacuation warning some threatened residents will wish to remain on their property in order to protect it, many will delay evacuating, and some residents who are not on their property when an evacuation warning is issued may seek to return. Mandatory evacuation is likely to result in greater compliance, enforcement policies are also likely to be influential. Self-delayed evacuation is likely if warnings are not sufficiently informative: residents are likely to engage in information search rather than initiating evacuation actions. The wildfire warning and threat histories of a location may influence residents' decisions and actions. The complexities of behavioral factors influencing residents' actions following an evacuation warning pose challenges for wildfire evacuation modeling. Suggestions are offered for ways in which authorities might reduce the numbers of residents who delay evacuating following a wildfire warning.