Focus groups with people affected by wildfires and first responders in Australia, Indonesia and Mexico

Volunteers from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service silhouetted in front of flames from an Australian bushfire

A US technology company was investigating how it might be able to assist people living in areas that are prone to wildfires, and first responders from the emergency services that protect them, by providing accurate and up-to-date information about the location of the fires and their speed and direction of travel, as well as official information about evacuation etc. The end client wanted to speak face-to-face with residents who had been directly affected by wildfires in recent years (e.g. had been warned to evacuate or to standy by for a possible evacuation) and first responders who had been involved in tackling the fires. We arranged focus groups in Australia, Indonesia and Mexico. A particular challenge with this project was the fact that wildfires are more common in rural areas with relatively low population densities, making it more challenging to recruit sufficient participants. After careful research, we chose three locations: Terrigal, in the Central Coast area of New South Wales, Australia; Pekanburu, the capital of Riau province in Sumatra, Indonesia; and Mexico City. We successfully recruited around 30 residents and 20 first responders across these three locations and the groups proved to be very informative.

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