Thompson, K. R., Haigh, L., & Smith, B. P. (2017). Planned and ultimate actions of horse owners facing a bushfire threat: Implications for natural disaster preparedness and survivability. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.
During disasters, the presence of companion animals is an identified risk for household relocation failure as well as premature return. In Australia, where bushfires are a regular summer threat, householders are encouraged to develop a written bushfire action plan that includes pets and animals. As part of this plan, householders are recommended to relocate themselves and their animals at least the day before a forecast catastrophic fire day. This advice is particularly relevant for horse owners, as the challenges and risks associated with evacuating horses are arguably much more complex than those for smaller companion animals. However, there is little empirical research on the plans and responses of horse owners to bushfire threat. In this paper, we present qualitative findings of semi-structured interviews with 21 households threatened by one of three significant fire events in South Australia in January 2014, all of which were responsible for a horse or pony. We describe and discuss nine different scenarios organised around intended and ultimate action. We found no apparent patterns between intentions and actions for pre-emptive relocation of horses. The extended explanations presented for each scenario provide important insight into equestrian cultures, especially in relation to plans, pre-emptive relocation, behaviour change, and ‘the horse community’ in Australia. We question whether the pre-emptive relocation of horses is over-emphasised for bushfires, and ask if scenario-based planning with contingencies might be more useful and realistic.