22 Jan 2015

Fire danger signs not hitting mark

5:44 am on 22 January 2015

As rural fire services are kept busy fighting grass, scrub and plantation fires in parched parts of the country, researchers have reached some sobering conclusions about the effectiveness of the fire danger signs seen on roadsides around the country.

Scion's Rural Fire Research Group interviewed locals and visitors in Canterbury and Northland to find out whether the signs influenced behaviour and encouraged safer practices.

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Photo: Supplied

The scientist leading the project, Lisa Langer, said some of the responses were surprising.

"On the positive side, most people were aware of the signs. They were quite familiar with what we call the half grapefruit that's along our roadsides, and they said that the signs raised their awareness of the fire danger."

Worrying, though, was that one person in five felt the signs did not apply to them, that they were for smokers, campers or people who were a little reckless.

"Two thirds of the people we talked to in these interviews said that the signs did not alert them to the possibility that they may need to change their behaviour, and people were also very uncertain what they should or shouldn't do at each of the fire danger levels."

Ms Langer said the National Rural Fire Authority had responded to the study findings by developing new TV advertising, YouTube clips, roadside signs and some community activities to make the fire risk message more effective.

She has also conducted a follow up study looking at the communication of wild fire messages and she will provide the results of that to the Rural Fire Authority.

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