News & Media

Warning fatigue is not a myth

By: Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC

Category: Community Safety, Planning & Research

  12.39 PM 31 March, 2014

Location: General

Views: 3863

Why do some people respond to bushfire warnings, and others not? Completed PhD research by Bushfire CRC scholarship recipient Brenda Mackie examined the role that warning fatigue plays in the risk perceptions, warning response and decision-making processes of people living in bushfire-prone areas. The study is summarised in Fire Note 122.

The study showed that warning fatigue reduced attention to bushfire warnings, changing the way those surveyed thought about their bushfire risk and affecting their response to warnings. Unexpectedly, it was found that warning fatigue was highest at the beginning of the fire season, and decreased during the season. This was connected to ‘unofficial’ warnings, such as media reports during winter of the upcoming bushfire season – when official warnings were issued at the beginning of the fire season, the public were already tired of the message.

It is proposed that if emergency and disaster agencies differentiate between rapid-onset and prolonged lead-time disasters, understand the complexities of warning fatigue and design their warnings accordingly, then disaster risk communication will become more effective, thereby increasing public engagement and improving disaster response.

This new understanding of warning fatigue can help disaster-response agencies to improve their risk communications to communities, thereby better protecting lives and property.

View Fire Note 122, Warning fatigue is not a myth, here. You can also listen to Brenda talk about her study in this short video.

View all previous Fire Notes at

Fire Notes are research summaries in easy to understand language from the Bushfire CRC, which is conducting research into the social, environmental and economic impacts of bushfires. Fire Notes are a great way to access Bushfire CRC research and to gain an understanding of how you can benefit from the science, as well as apply the findings. Fire Notes now have new features, including topics covered by the research, the ability to share straight to social media and activities to help you get the most out of each Fire NoteRead more about these new additions.

Last Updated: 31 March 2014