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Managing values in disaster planning: Current strategies, challenges and opportunities for incorporating values of the public

Ford, Rebecca M., Rawluk, Andrea, Williams, Kathryn J.H.
Land use policy 2019 v.81 pp. 131-142
accountability, decision making, disaster preparedness, issues and policy, planning, risk, risk analysis, social benefit, Victoria (Australia)
Incorporating values of the public in decisions is a way to approach accountability, transparency and inclusiveness in disaster management, but may not be an easy fit with existing systems. In this study, we analysed a bushfire risk planning system in Victoria, Australia, to identify where and how values, and value conflicts, are managed in decision-making. Using a modified institutional approach, we found a diverse set of seven strategies by which values are managed in different parts and levels of the planning system. At the policy level, cycling through time and multiple objective setting established priorities and frameworks for staff at lower levels. At the strategic planning level, a bias to measurable values and institutional norms for relying on science limited consideration of some social values. In a previously undescribed strategy for managing values, ‘risk prioritisation’, technical risk analysis was used to prioritise places for protection, overshadowing difficult questions of value. Finally, in moving to decisions, both team deliberation and weighting strategies were used to balance values. Staff recognised a need for new tools and processes for managing some social values. An obvious opportunity for incorporating values of the public in this system is to include them in the sets of multiple objectives that guide planning. Staff also saw opportunities to expand community engagement and develop qualitative ways to justify decisions, but these faced some challenges within longstanding institutional norms for basing decisions on ecological and bushfire sciences.