A Regional Environmental Management Strategy – Community Resilience to Heatwave

The Challenge

As meeting the challenge of natural disaster shifts from recovery to preparedness and mitigation, how do you get people to act like a disaster is imminent, when it just doesn’t feel like it?

Our action

Develop a 5-year communication framework and the first year’s materials for a collaborative action program for a NSW region where they are working to build community resilience to heatwave.

The outcome

When heatwaves swept across NSW in the summer of 2017, councils were prepared and activated ready-made campaigns that helped the most vulnerable survive. The successful uptake was described by the client as beyond belief and “shocking”.

How it happened

Natural disasters are a huge part of the Australian story. But reports made by the Productivity Commission and Queensland Flood Commission and Inquiry, are switching the focus from recovery to preparation. For our planning clients, it makes sense – think, plan and then act to prevent or minimise disaster impacts.

However when it comes to the behaviour of individuals, being prepared also saves lives. From a communication perspective it has its challenges. How do you get people to act like a disaster is imminent, when it just doesn’t feel like it?

The NSW Hunter regional councils have been working a broad range of disaster mitigation and preparedness strategies and decided that they needed to improve awareness about individual actions people can take to stay well when the heat hits.

Articulous learned that more Australians are hospitalised or die as a result of heatwave than any other natural disaster. The problem is, as Australians we simply don’t think about heat as major health issue, we just think it is a part of our story.

We see Heatwave health risk education as being the like sunburn/skin cancer education of 80s. Somewhere along the line Australian’s went from not understanding the risk of sun exposure, to learning what slip, slop, slap meant and why it was important.

Here’s what we came up with…

Beat the heat this summer, drink more, do less, cool down and check up!
Drink more water
Do less during the hottest part of the day
Cool down and have a plan so when it heats up you know how to stay cool
Check up on family and friends, especially the elderly

In the end, our regional client needed to completely align with the statewide messages of:

  1. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic, hot or sugary drinks
  2. Keep Cool – do less and avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day
  3. Check on elderly friends, neighbours and relatives, especially if they live alone
  4. Have a Plan for how to stay cool when it heats up

None of it is very sexy I know. But neither is slip slop slap.

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