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Bushfire arson prevention handbook

Research in Practice no. 11

Jessica Anderson
ISSN 1836-9111
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, May 2010

Abstract

Developed as part of a five year project by the Australian Institute of Criminology (funded by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre), this handbook is a resource for local organisations, particularly fire agencies and the police, when developing community-based bushfire and bushfire arson (BFA) prevention strategies. The handbook draws on current crime prevention knowledge about the factors that lead to BFA occurring and highlights information that is important when evaluating activities or project.

Acknowledgements

The author gratefully acknowledges the considerable time and effort of the many people who assisted in trialling and developing the resource sheets. They include:

Ken Thompson (Deputy Commissioner, Capability & Support NSW Fire Brigade)

Bob Mathieson (Superintendent Operations Officer, Fire Investigation NSW Rural Fire Service)

Richard Woods (ACT Rural Fire Service)

Matthew Box (ACT Policing)

Members of the NSW Interagency Arson Committee

Lil Hayes (ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety)

Attendees at the 8 February 2009 workshop (Canberra)

Attendees at the 8 April 2009 workshop (Canberra)

Attendees at the Lake Illawarra workshop 3 December 2009 (Lake Illawarra, NSW)

Dr Judy Putt (Former General Manager Research Services, Australian Institute of Criminology)

Warwick Jones (Manager, Australian Institute of Criminology)

This handbook was developed as part of Project C of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre and the ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety as industry partners.

Disclaimer

This handbook and related worksheets are not considered a definitive guide in developing bushfire arson prevention strategies. It has been produced to offer assistance to those developing prevention strategies who may not know when or how to start a project. The approaches included in this handbook are suggestions only and it is at the discretion of the user of this handbook as to whether the content and worksheets are applicable to their local context.

Introduction

The following handbook is for use by local organisations, particularly fire agencies and the police, when developing community-based bushfire and bushfire arson (BFA) prevention strategies. It was developed as part of a five year project by the Australian Institute of Criminology (funded by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre) which aims to reduce the impact of deliberately lit fires in Australian bushland environments.

Over the past four years, research into bushfire arson has found that, among other things:

  • bushfire arsonists are rarely caught, so it is difficult to profile bushfire arson offenders; and
  • bushfires are quite patterned in time, space etc, therefore, there is potential to map and predict where fires are most likely to occur (AIC 2008, 2007; Bryant 2008; Muller 2008).

Research shows that it is possible to prevent bushfire arson by applying what is known about bushfire arson in a more systematic way (Muller 2009).

The handbook and worksheets provided here draw on current crime prevention knowledge about the factors that lead to BFA occurring and describe what information is important when evaluating your activities or project. This handbook aims to assist you in developing BFA prevention strategies that take into consideration the local context, including issues such as stakeholder engagement, measuring success and how to structure your bushfire arson prevention activities using crime prevention theory.

This handbook does not provide a review of bushfire arson literature, nor does it suggest what types of strategies you should implement for each bushfire-related problem—there have been numerous publications and research on this topic by the Australian Institute of Criminology and other agencies (see Suggested reading and References). As bushfire arson characteristics and threats vary according to local context, you need to decide what you want to do based on your available resources and needs.

Using this handbook

  • This handbook has been designed for use in planning workshops for BFA prevention strategies, but can also be used as a general project planning tool.
  • It does not have to be followed chronologically—it is only a guide to help structure how you could think about implementing a BFA prevention project or program in your local area.
  • The handbook is divided into two sections: the first is a summary of how to develop and implement a BFA prevention project. The second is a series of resource worksheets that can be used to document and plan your project. They support the information provided in the summary.
  • Each summary element in the handbook has one or more corresponding worksheets. The name of these worksheets are found in the box:
Worksheet support
  • This handbook and the worksheets are suggestions only and if you already collect the information or have done something similar, it is not necessary for you to use the worksheets, nor should you feel compelled to re-do the work to suit this format.
  • It may be helpful for you to go through this process and the worksheets step-by-step, or you may wish to complete multiple worksheets at the same time and within the same discussion. It doesn't matter how you use this handbook, as long as you have the information available.
  • There is no need to complete the worksheets all at once, or to complete them at all. The information for one worksheet might take from five hours or two days to collect, or it could take just half an hour. It doesn't matter how long you take and there is no recommended timeframe or number of worksheets to complete.

The handbook outlines seven key elements in project development:

The order of the elements is a rough guide and does not need to be rigidly followed: Let local context guide you on when to do each one
  • Element 1: Establishing local coordination between police and fire agencies
  • Element 2: Identifying the BFA threat
  • Element 3: Getting stakeholders involved
  • Element 4: Deciding what should be done about the BFA threat
    tick choosing objectives that address the key problems
    tick deciding on projects that address the objectives
    tick choosing indicators that measure whether you have achieved the objectives
  • Element 5: Planning project implementation
  • Element 6: Developing the evaluation plan for your project
  • Element 7: Putting your project into action and revisiting the various elements when necessary
  • As the worksheets are designed for the development of a strategy in a workshop setting, there is not a lot of detail about how to conduct a final evaluation as this will be conducted at the end of the project. However, it is important to lay the foundation for evaluation before a project begins and as such, there is a section on how to prepare for this.
  • Not every aspect of project implementation is included. Developing BFA prevention projects relies heavily on local context. As such, these worksheets have been designed to give you the skeleton of what you need to consider—it is up to you to add the body.

Before a workshop

There are some things that you need to consider before convening a local BFA prevention workshop:

Key ingredients for a successful bushfire arson prevention project

tick Need access to local agency data relevant to bushfires (eg police statistics, fire statistics)

tick Use current research findings and reports to support your approach

tick Have stakeholders who have committed or promised to provide resources (eg time, skills, money and/or support for the project

tick Only propose projects that you have the capacity to sustain (ie adequate staff, time, expertise, funding and support)

tick Good communication across key stakeholders is essential

Remember these when choosing prevention projects!

When should you start thinking about developing a bushfire arson prevention strategy?

Any time is a good time to start planning a community-wide BFA prevention strategy. While the commencement of certain activities and projects may depend on factors such as the season, available resources and the weather, for example, it is never too early to start planning an overall strategy. However, before engaging with potential partners and stakeholders, consider their availability to try to maximise participation and engagement. For example:

  • Is it bushfire season? Organising information, data and attending meetings take time, which may not be practical for fire fighters in the high fire-danger season.
  • Are schools going to be involved? The very beginning and end of the school year may not be a good time to engage with schools, or during school holidays, or during the time when schools are preparing student reports. These may not be factors at all, but it could be worthwhile talking to the local school(s) about the best times, particularly if you would like the schools to become involved in a prevention strategy.
  • Are there any community events on at the same time as the proposed meeting? Does the proposed time for the first meeting clash with any other community events or activities? If so, consider whether any key stakeholders might already be committed to other activities. Conversely, the presence of an already established group of community representatives could be useful to promote the BFA prevention strategy plans and attract more community representation.

This list is not exhaustive, and some of these factors may not be relevant to you. Often, not everyone invited to attend meetings or engage in a prevention strategy will do so. In addition, it may be an inconvenient time to engage with stakeholders for many reasons, but some circumstances might prevent rescheduling activities or meetings for a different time. It is unlikely that a particular time will be suitable for everyone, so do not be discouraged if you do not get as many people as you want. The key is to make sure organisations/agencies you think will be key stakeholders in a BFA prevention strategy become engaged at some point. If they cannot attend a multi-agency meeting, consider having a separate meeting with them at another time. More suggestions on when to engage stakeholders are outlined in the following section.

Laying the ground work: Developing a bushfire arson prevention strategy

Element 1: Establishing local coordination between police and fire agencies

Good practice in BFA prevention is built on good working relationships between police and fire agencies. To get an accurate picture of the local bushfire and BFA threat, it is a good idea to compare what both sides know, as often police collect different information to fire agencies. This will involve agencies comparing statistics, local knowledge, anecdotal evidence and any other information to create a complete picture. People with expertise in using and analysing databases should be involved at this stage to assist with interpreting the data. These can be found either within fire and police agencies, or from external sources.

A good relationship can facilitate better knowledge sharing and improve response to the BFA threat

For most local areas, regular liaison between fire agencies and the police is primarily driven by operational matters.

Some communities already have an established relationship between fire agencies and police, so this step may not be needed. If you need to re-establish or initiate a more productive working relationship, the worksheet Establishing local coordination between police and fire agencies to tackle bushfire arson offers tips on how to do this.

In the first stage of a meeting between fire and police, the aim should be to:

  • compare what you know;
  • set goals and objectives for your approach;
  • start developing your strategies;
  • have an idea of who you would need to engage in the community; and
  • start developing project timelines.

Note! Templates for facilitating these aims are in this guide and are described in the following sections. These tips can also be used when engaging other stakeholder agencies and groups.

Worksheet support:

bookEstablishing local coordination between police and fire agencies to tackle bushfire arson

Element 2: Identifying the bushfire arson threat in your area

Mapping the BFA threat can help justify your actions and support your knowledge of BFA in your local area

In general, most fire fighters will have a good idea of the nature of BFA in the area. To back up this information, map and identify the characteristics of BFA in your local area. This provides a stronger evidence base for your proposed actions and be used to illustrate your approach to the community, other agencies, other jurisdictions, or funding agencies.

By mapping the information, you may find BFA threats in your community that you were not aware of. This is where mapping what you know and comparing it to information from other agencies can help. You do not need to limit it to police and fire agencies; there may be other local data sources that could assist. Collecting data over more than one session could also help as there may be sensitive data that cannot be shown to other stakeholders.

  • Other agencies and departments that may hold relevant data include:
    tick education;
    tick corrections; and
    tick land management agencies, such as parks and wildlife services.
    Before sharing information, make sure you are able to do so legally, and with permission from your agency

When mapping, it can also be useful to raise what you know or suspect informally about BFA in your area. However, you must also be mindful of privacy and other legal obligations when raising any issues. This is particularly important to remember if you are talking about juveniles in your meetings.

It is useful when looking at the available data to conduct a trend analysis (ie looking for patterns or changes in the data when mapped), so you can see if there are any changes over time and if there are any particular times that fires appear to be occurring.

Why map?

tick Obtain a complete picture of BFA threat in your area

tick Fill in any gaps in knowledge

tick Chance to compare what you officially know with what you informally suspect may be the case

Be aware of any limitations in the data you are using for mapping or other analysis. Maps and trend analyses are only as good as the data used. The data may be:

  • unreliable;
  • incomplete—information or parts of the data you want to use might not have been put into the dataset, making a proper analysis of the data difficult;
  • not updated regularly—if data are not updated regularly, you may be making decisions based on old or redundant information; or
  • not completed properly—for example, if you know that certain categories in a dataset might not be selected by the person filling out a form as a means to reduce paperwork, or that employees do not consistently enter data into the database or system used.
    Maps and trend analyses are only
    as good as the data behind them

No dataset is perfect, but, try to become familiar with the data you plan to use in your BFA strategy planning so you will be less likely to misinterpret it. It would be useful to learn how, when and who completes data entry for the information you plan to use in any mapping or analysis. A good approach would be to talk to the people who manage the datasets and find out where they can see potential problems occurring.

Note! If you do not know how to map, or do not have access to the expertise or software needed, then do not feel that you have to do it. If you cannot interpret the results or are left with results generated from very poor data, then mapping is probably not worth the time or effort. However, try to engage people with research or mapping skills in the strategy-development process so you can develop a BFA prevention strategy built on a solid evidence base, as well as good qualitative evidence and local knowledge. People with skills in mapping could come from:

  • police services;
  • fire agencies;
  • universities; or
  • partner agencies.

If your community does not have the capacity to map, do the best with what you can, including obtaining information via other methods such as conducting interviews, community surveys and talking to agencies and organisations that might have some useful anecdotal evidence.

How much does bushfire arson cost the local community?

No dataset is perfect. Become familiar with any limitations to reduce the risk of misinterpreting results

BFA could have a large drain on a community's resources. BFA not only incurs the actual financial cost of the fire damage, but can have staffing, psychological and other resource costs that can impact the community as well. The environmental costs can also have a large affect on the community that may not be obvious. These less tangible costs can be considered 'hidden costs'. For example, there are a lot of hidden costs associated with the land surrounding a water catchment area being damaged by fire. Two possible costs include:

  • New growth in bushfire-affected areas often requires more water than established vegetation which can use water that would normally flow to the dams. This can affect water levels of dams.
  • There can be quite high costs associated with treating water contaminated by the effects of the fire and the related labour costs needed for treating the water.
Examples of bushfire arson costs to the community
  • Loss of local business (eg businesses not rebuilding; people not moving to the community for fear of BFA etc)
  • Staffing and financial resources diverted from other areas of police operations (such as other criminal investigations) to investigate BFA
  • Psychological costs (eg damage to community’s sense of safety; support needed for victims of BFA)
  • Staffing and financial resources diverted from other sectors of the community (eg schools, charities) to address the damage caused by BFA
  • Investigation costs (employing specialist investigators, taskforces, police and fire agency time)
  • Insurance costs and the flow-on effects to the community (eg higher insurance premiums)
  • Replacing equipment (including its upkeep, setting up the equipment—these hours are often not costed)
  • Environmental damage
  • Replacing infrastructure (eg rebuilding houses, fences, school buildings etc)
  • Payment of fire levy to local council
  • Damage to water supplies
  • Reduction in productivity

The list above is not exhaustive, so it is important to think about what costs would be specific to your local community. Having a good estimate of how much BFA can cost a community can be used to garner community and stakeholder support.

Worksheet support:

bookWhat do we know about bushfires? Fire agencies
bookWhat do we know about bushfires? Police and other agencies: Police intelligence
bookWhat do we know about bushfires? Police and other agencies: Criminal justice intelligence
bookThe consequences of bushfire arson: How much does it cost the local community?

Element 3: Getting stakeholders involved

  • No matter what community BFA strategies you implement, you will most likely need to engage stakeholders outside of your agency for support. This support could be:
    tick financial; or
    tick other resources including:
    diamonddata;
    diamond staff;
    diamond expertise;
    diamond time; and
    diamond communication (eg spreading the word, advertising project results).
  • You may wish to involve potential stakeholders in the development of the projects from the start. For example, there may already be projects that exist in the community to deal with BFA or arson prevention, or you may like to take the advice of local agencies before you propose projects that would involve their services or support.
  • You will know what approach will work best in your community, so do what suits your community to get the best outcome for your prevention project.
  • Try to get agencies/organisations to send representatives who have the ability to make decisions and have the ability to commit resources to the BFA prevention strategy.
  • Not every agency/organisation/individual will be as enthusiastic as you to address the problem of BFA and take part in its implementation, even if you both see it as an important initiative. Therefore, it is advantageous to plan ahead before you approach possible stakeholders by identifying potential ways that may encourage them to participate; in other words, let them know 'what's in it for them' if they get involved. This could include a variety of things from access to data you hold, making them aware that the project is aligned with their agency's core goals etc.
  • It is important to update and keep a list of who these stakeholders are, in particular:
    tick You need to know exactly who your stakeholders are and what they provide.
    tick You need to be aware of any potential issues in engaging the services or support of a stakeholder.
    tick Often stakeholders change or situations evolve, so you need a list handy that you can update regularly to help keep everyone abreast of the changes.
    tick You will know where to look when you need data or information for your project, or when you conduct an evaluation of activities during or at the end of your project.

Worksheet support:

bookWho to involve in bushfire prevention strategies: Potential stakeholders contact list
bookWho to involve in bushfire prevention strategies: Detailed stakeholder list
bookBenefits, generating momentum and sustaining support: What's in it for us?

Element 4: Deciding what should be done about the bushfire arson threat in your area

Once the nature of the problem has been identified, you need to decide how to deal with the BFA threat. This involves three steps:

  • choosing objectives (ie what you want to achieve);
  • choosing activities that will help achieve them (ie your project); and
  • choosing indicators (ie making sure you have something that can be used to measure success).

Note! There is a simple example of how these three steps can help you shape your response to the BFA threat at the end of Element 4—refer to this if you need to figure out how each element fits together.

Choosing objectives

Objectives are important to have from the outset—they can help structure your response to the BFA threat based on local needs.

Objectives are statements that say what you want to achieve

It is important to have mapped the local BFA threat prior to choosing objectives. For example, there is little to gain from saying your project objective is to reduce offending by recidivist (also known as repeat) arsonist offenders when the mapping shows no evidence of recidivist offenders in the community.

The worksheet What do we want to do? Summary sheet outlines a list of generic objectives that you might consider for a BFA prevention strategy. It also provides a place to list what activities you would use to achieve those objectives and what you would use to see if the activity is achieving the desired objective (ie the indicators).

Worksheet support:

bookWhat do we want to do? Summary sheet: Benefits, generating momentum and sustaining support: What's in it for us?

Choosing activities

Once you have selected objectives, you can then focus on choosing activities to help you address them. The activities you decide to implement to prevent BFA will need to reflect not only the bushfire threat in your area, but also the local capacity to effectively implement a project.

Factors that could influence your choice of prevention activities
  • Do we have the funds to run this project?
  • Do we have stakeholders who have committed,or promised to provide, resources (eg time, skills, money) and/or support for the project?
    Base activities on your BFA needs—not just on what works well in another area
  • Do we have the necessary skills and staff to be able to implement this project effectively?
  • Do we have the time to put into the project?
  • Is this project approach supported by evidence?

If thinking of replicating a promising project from another area:

  • Do we have the same level of resources?
  • Do we have the same problems?
  • Can the project be adapted to our local area?

A good source of project ideas is to find out what other communities and fire agencies have done to tackle similar problems. You may wish to implement the concept of the project and/or only certain elements. This is fine, as long as it can be, and is, adapted to local context and you have the capacity to implement it. Just because a project worked well in another community doesn't mean it will be successful in yours.crime triangle

  • You should not try to do too much—be realistic about what your community can do. For example, there is no point deciding to run expensive intervention programs for 'at-risk' youths (ie youths who are at risk of engaging in offending behaviours) if you do not have the expertise or funding to do it, or if you do not even have a problem with at-risk youth in the first place. If you have already mapped your BFA threat, you should be able to avoid these traps.
  • When deciding how to tackle the identified BFA problem, it can be useful to structure your response within a framework, to make sure you are tackling as many possible elements of the problem as you can in a strategic way. The worksheets provide a framework for you to structure your response. This framework is based on the principles of routine activities theory—a criminological theory developed by Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson—where it is considered that crime can only occur if there is a suitable target, absence of a capable guardian (ie someone who could prevent or stop arson from occurring) and a motivated offender. This is often called the crime triangle.
  • To prevent crime (in this case, BFA), you need to remove one or more elements of the triangle, usually by proposing interventions that look at altering the physical environment, targeting the offender and/or targeting the potential victim. You do this by proposing activities that, among other things:
    tick reduce rewards of BFA;
    tick increase risks of committing BFA;
    tick increase the effort to commit BFA;
    tick remove excuses for the behaviour; and
    tick empower the community.

These are often also seen as techniques of situational crime prevention (eg see Cornish & Clarke 2003). The worksheets allow you to group your proposed activities under three categories:

  • targeting the environment;
  • targeting the community and potential victims; and
  • targeting known and potential offenders.
    One activity can often have more than one purpose. For example, it could aim to deter offenders, as well as empower the community and potential victims

For each category, you are able to list actions for the five prevention techniques above. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive, so do not worry if an activity fits in more than one category—put it into each category that applies. You also do not need to have activities for each area, it is only a structure to let you conceptualise what your project is tackling. Refer to the example at the end of Element 3 to see how it can be applied. For more information on these theories, see the UK Home Office crime reduction website at http://www.crimereduction.homeoffice.gov.uk/learningzone/rat.htm

Timing of projects

Another thing to consider when choosing activities is how they will be implemented over time. It can be useful to think of responses as being separated into three categories: strategic, tactical and operational. Some activities will be implemented prior to the bushfire season and will have long-term goals (strategic), whereas others may need to be reviewed and acted upon a daily basis depending on the weather and season (tactical responses), which could be either proactive or reactive. There could also be activities that are performed as part of everyday fire fighting/investigation duties that could play a role in the prevention process (operational). For a more comprehensive prevention project, you might consider having activities that fall into each category.

When choosing activities:

  • relate it to an objective;
  • make sure the success of the project can be measured. If you cannot measure your project then you won't know if what you have done works; and
  • do not be too ambitious. It is better to have smaller scale or fewer projects that aim to do one or two key things than to try to do everything. Smaller projects are often more manageable and easier to evaluate than ones that attempt to address every problem.
    Indicators usually show increases or decreases, but they are not limited to these

Worksheet support:

bookTargeting the environment: Possible actions
bookTargeting the community and potential victims: Possible actions
bookTargeting known and at-risk offenders: Possible actions

Selecting indicators to measure success

Indicators are used during and at the end of a project as a means of telling you if the project you chose is actually helping you achieve your objective. You need to have a good idea of how you will measure your success down the track, so they must be considered from the outset.

Tips for selecting indicators
Make sure you can access the data If you are looking at diversion rates, do you have access to diversion figures? If keeping young at-risk arsonists in schools is a priority, will the school let you see these records? Are there any privacy or legal barriers to the data?
You have the tools to measure what you want to see If you want to know if the community is more aware of reporting suspicious arson behaviour, how would you measure that awareness—by the number of reports to police? Attitude surveys?
Do your indicators actually allow you to see if your objective has been reached? For example, if your objective is to have a 20 percent increase in young arsonists successfully completing a diversion program, measuring how many abandoned vehicles are removed from bushland as an indicator does not tell you anything about achieving the objective (although it may be an indicator for another objective such as reducing fires in a known car dumping area)
Think in terms of what you would expect to see if your project is working It could be an increase in detection of arsonists, decrease in the number of bushfires, increase in community reporting of suspicious arson behaviour etc
Specify the extent of change you want to see For example, it could be a 10 percent increase, savings of $1,000, or 20 offenders counselled etc so you know what to aim for
There is no rule on the extent of the change you can specify—local knowledge will be invaluable in determining what is realistic and what is not
Specify when you might expect to see a change Some objectives will be short term and others long term. Setting a timeframe for meeting an objective can help determining whether your project is timely

Note! When selecting and analysing indicator data, remember that it is up to you to interpret whether, for example, an increase or a decrease in numbers is a good thing. In other words, if there is an increase in reporting of suspicious fires, does that mean that there are more fires (bad thing), or that the community is more willing to report them (good thing)? Use your experience and local knowledge to guide how you interpret the results.

Worksheet support:

bookWhat do we want to do? Summary sheet

An example of choosing objectives, activities and indicators

Here is a simple example of how the objectives, activities and measures are linked and help you shape your BFA response. This is a not a real example and projects may target many more factors, or target only one. They would also involve a lot more decision-making processes. It is included here to help you conceptualise the process.

A simple illustration of deciding how to address the bushfire arson threat in your area

You have decided the local objective is to decrease the amount of suspicious bushfires in a national park. Based on your mapping exercise, you find that most fires occur in summer between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Most fires are started as the result of other behaviours, for example, locals excessively consuming alcohol and then carelessly lighting fires in the grassland. There are also many abandoned vehicles in the area and these are often set alight by locals looking for fun, and sometimes by thieves who want to destroy evidence of their crime.

Based on this information, you decide to implement some activities to try to reduce the number of suspicious bushfires by trying to disrupt what you know about the crime triangle (guardian, offender and target). Your primary concerns are to deter would-be offenders and to make the community more aware of the problem.

To remove the potential offenders from the situation, you decide to start ranger and police patrols in known hotspots on Friday and Saturday nights to increase the risk of getting caught. This will be measured by counting the number of patrols done during the project; the number of arrests made; and how many people are sent away from the park at night and whether there is a decrease in suspicious fires during patrol times.

In addition to these patrols, the council has agreed to assist in removing abandoned vehicles within five days of being reported, as well as erecting signs in the park to alert people to the fines of illegally dumping cars and for lighting fires in the area. These signs will also contain information on who to call if someone sees suspicious activity in the area.

Removing vehicles has the benefit of not only targeting the environment by increasing the effort to commit the crime for offenders, it aims to makes the environment more resistant to arson. You may decide that this will be a successful activity if 95 percent of abandoned vehicles are removed from the park within five days of being reported, as well as having an 80 percent reduction in bushfires originating from abandoned cars in the national park.

The signage targets potential offenders by removing the excuses of not knowing that starting fires in the park and dumping cars are illegal activities and also the broader community by empowering their ability to act if they witness suspicious behaviour. You have decided to see if there is an increase in reporting of suspicious behaviour in the parks via a hotline to see if there is any effect.

Implementing a bushfire arson strategy

Element 5: Planning who will do what, who knows what and who has what: Project implementation

Regardless of what you decide to do, or how big or small a project is, there still needs to be a clear understanding on how the project will be implemented and everyone involved needs to know their roles and

Knowing each other’s roles and responsibilities can improve communication, cut down on confusion, and limit unnecessary duplication of tasks

responsibilities. There may also be legislative and/or organisational responsibilities that need to be fulfilled when implementing a project.

Knowing these things can be the foundation for an effective communication strategy. For example, If there is a change in staff or management and people need to be briefed, having these documents helps you show the them who is responsible for what and their new role (in particular if they are replacing someone else). It can also save time. As time is a precious resource for many project implementers, particularly when it is an additional role above your normal duties, knowing where you can go to find out information, or to access the data you need in one easy document is invaluable.

For successful communication and project implementation
Be clear onExamples (list not exhaustive)
who does what implement key project activities, alert others of developments, collect data, measure results, prepare reports, release media and communication, pay contractors, manage project activities, organise stakeholder meetings, disseminate findings, manage budgets
who needs to know what decisions, results, outputs, reports, changes in project, deadlines, budget expenditure
who has what data, knowledge, experience, funding, expertise, contacts

The worksheet provided can be used as resource to document one project, or a new sheet could be used for each activity within a project. The choice is up to you and should reflect your needs.

Worksheet support:

bookIdentifying the responsibilities/contribution of the community

Element 6: Developing an evaluation strategy

A common mistake is to only think about evaluating your project near its completion. Evaluation needs to be considered at the start of the project and depending on what you need to know and what you are trying to achieve from your project (as identified in the objectives and indicators section), results could indicate whether what you want to do is realistic in the long run.

How you evaluate has to be decided before you start a project

The Did it work? worksheets ask a series of implementation and results questions that you would need to answer at the end of your project. It is important to know the answer to these questions for a few reasons:

  • It shows you are clear on what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve it.
  • You can see if what you are planning to do can be realistically measured.
  • It provides a foundation for the project's eventual evaluation.
  • You are able to show others what you have achieved.
  • A good evaluation can help add to the knowledge base of what works/does not work in BFA prevention.

The last point is particularly crucial. So little is known about what works and the best ways to deal with BFA, the responsibility to share and document what we do know depends on those implementing projects and interventions, in other words, you.

The worksheets do not tell you how to analyse and interpret the data; that is up to you and depends on the measures you choose. See the box below for some tips if you have to evaluate your BFA project, but do not know where to start.

In summary, if you know how you can answer the questions in the resource sheets, you are in good shape and understand the needs of your project.

Evaluation tips:
  • If you do have to evaluate a project and you do not know how to go about it, use the evaluation sheet questions and answer them to create a 'story' of the project that is both useful and practical for others to understand how the project worked
    Having good documentation on what you have done and how it worked can help in BFA prevention knowledge sharing
  • Even if you do not have the resources to give in-depth quantitative analysis (eg statistics, pre-post test results etc), it is still useful to write down what you do know, particularly about the process of how you did it
  • A good rule of thumb when including information is thinking about what you would find useful to know if you wanted to implement a similar project, but had no idea how to go about it
  • Think about engaging local people who have experience in evaluation from the start of any project or strategy development

 

Worksheet support:

bookDid it work? A basic template for questions that need to be asked when evaluating your project or strategy

Elements 7 and 8: Putting your project into action and revisiting when necessary

Now you should have the basic foundation for implementing your prevention project. Not every aspect of project planning has been covered, just the basics, so you can adapt these suggestions to your suit local needs.

It is important to realise that projects and situations constantly change, so your responses and actions must also change. Sometimes the threat no longer exists (eg serial arsonist caught, no more abandoned vehicles), or you no longer have access to planned resources (eg budget cuts, a stakeholder no longer on board).

Do not rigidly follow your initial project plan if circumstances change—be flexible enough in planning to ensure you have the capacity to adapt to new circumstances.

Suggested times to revisit your bushfire arson project
Changes in
  • staff
  • environment
  • data or information access
  • roles
  • unexpected events
  • stakeholders
  • responsibilities
  • situations
  • organisational priorities
  • who conducts the analyses

Action elements

Worksheet support:

bookWhat do we want to do? Summary sheet

bookDid it work? A basic template for questions that need to be asked when evaluating your project or strategy: Implementation questions

bookDid it work? A basic template for questions that need to be asked when evaluating your project or strategy: Results questions

bookWho to involve in bushfire prevention strategies? Detailed stakeholder list

bookWho to involve in bushfire prevention strategies? Potential stakeholder contact list

Below is a diagram to help conceptualise the elements involved in developing a BFA prevention strategy. The diagram will also show where there are resource sheets to support you in that particular element.

This is a very simplified, generic step-by-step process; naturally, it can be adapted to suit your local needs. Some processes may occur at the same time, others may not be necessary as they have already occurred. Use the boxes on the left to tick off tasks, so you can keep track of what you have done.

Elements involved in developing a BFA prevention strategy

References

Suggested reading

All Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) publications can be found on the AIC website: http://www.aic.gov.au/publications.aspx

BushFIRE Arson Bulletins

To date, the AIC has released 61 BushFIRE Arson Bulletins (BFABs). BFABs are concise and topical one page sheets on a broad range of topics relating to the deliberate lighting of fires in Australian bushland environments. BFABs aim to build knowledge of all aspects of BFA—who lights fires, why they do it and what authorities can do about it. They are also a forum for sharing new information about bushfire arson—such as developments in research and legislation, or new publications. These are an initiative of the AIC, the Bushfire CRC and the ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety.

All BFABs are online at http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current series/bfab.aspx

Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council

The Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) is the peak body for public sector fire, land management and emergency service organisations in Australia and New Zealand. The AFAC website hosts a wealth of information on BFA and also runs a knowledge web. The knowledge web contains case studies, research reports and other information to assist emergency services to share knowledge, collaborate and optimise the use of resources.

AFAC home page: http://www.afac.com.au/

AFAC knowledge web: http://knowledgeweb.afac.com.au/home

Resources for risk assessment

The NSW fire prevention strategy provides a selection of risk assessment checklists for reducing the threat of fire, looking at the following areas of prevention:

  • reducing arson vulnerability;
  • removing opportunity for arson to occur;
  • increasing education on the issue; and
  • improving security.

These are available on the NSW Fire Brigade website: http://www.fire.nsw.gov.au/news.php?whats_new=929

Additional web resources

Fire agencies

www.fire.nsw.gov.au (NSW Fire Brigades)

www.rfs.nsw.gov.au (NSW Rural Fire Service)

http://www.mfb.vic.gov.au (Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board, Victoria)

http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au (Victorian Country Fire Authority)

http://www.fire.qld.gov.au (Queensland Fire and Rescue Service)

http://www.samfs.sa.gov.au (South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service)

http://www.cfs.org.au (South Australian Country Fire Service)

http://www.fesa.wa.gov.au (Western Australia Fire and Emergency Services Authority)

http://www.dec.wa.gov.au (Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation)

http://www.fire.tas.gov.au (Tasmanian Fire Service)

http://www.pfes.nt.gov.au/index.cfm?fire (Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service)

http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/natres/bushfires (Northern Territory Bushfires Council)

http://www.firebrigade.act.gov.au (ACT Fire Brigade)

http://www.rfs.act.gov.au (ACT Rural Fire Service)

Police and citizens youth clubs

www.pcycnsw.org (NSW PCYC)

http://www.pcyc.org.au/ (Qld PCYC)

www.wapcyc.com.au (WA PCYC)

http://pcyc.net.au/ (ACT PCYC)

http://www.pcyctas.org/#redirect (Tas PCYC)

http://www.stkildapcyc.org/ (a PCYC in Victoria)

http://www.nt.gov.au/pfes/PFES/index.cfm?fuseaction=page&p=115&m=19&sm=34 (NT PCYC)

Police

http://www.police.sa.gov.au (South Australia Police)

www.police.nsw.gov.au (NSW Police Force)

http://www.police.wa.gov.au (Western Australia Police)

https://www.afp.gov.au/act.html (ACT Policing)

www.police.vic.gov.au (Victoria Police)

www.police.qld.gov.au (Queensland Police Service)

www.police.tas.gov.au (Tasmania Police)

http://www.pfes.nt.gov.au (Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services)