Mike Wouters

Mike Wouters

Mike Wouters

Lead end user

The 2015 Productivity Commission’s report on natural disaster funding arrangements in Australia found that governments overinvest in post-disaster reconstruction and underinvest in mitigation activities that would limit the impact of natural disasters. Given the multitude of natural hazards that require mitigation and response from government agencies and the tighter budgets at both state and national levels, natural hazards managers are increasingly under pressure to justify the use and allocation of resources for mitigation efforts.
Research team:

What if an earthquake hit central Adelaide? A major flood on the Yarra River through Melbourne? A bushfire on the slopes of Mount Wellington over Hobart?

‘What if?’ scenario modelling through this project is helping government, planning authorities and emergency service agencies think through the costs and consequences of various options on preparing for major disasters on their infrastructure and natural environments and how these might change into the future.

The research is based on the premise that to reduce both the risk and cost of natural disasters, an integrated approach is needed to consider multiple hazards and a range of mitigation options.

Emergencies are increasing in complexity, duration, and the number of agencies involved. This is likely to lead to an increasing number of errors being made, breakdowns in teams and degraded operational situations. These problems will play out within the context of a decreasing tolerance in the community and their political representatives. Rather than distributing the blame to individuals we need to acknowledge that errors and breakdowns in emergency management teams will occur, and that it is important to seek and manage them in a mature and systematic way. The current project has three main research streams that are examining team monitoring, decision making and organisational learning.
Research team:
This project is applying physics-based approaches to fire scenarios. It attempts to simulate fire with unprecedented detail and in the process obtain useful application tools for end-users.
This study is identifying the thresholds beyond which dynamic fire behaviour becomes a dominant factor, the effects that these dynamic effects have on the overall power output of a fire, and the impacts that such dynamic effects have on fire severity. This will necessarily include consideration of other factors such as how fine fuel moisture varies across a landscape. The research team is investigating the conditions and processes under which bushfire behaviour undergoes major transitions, including fire convection and plume dynamics, evaluating the consequences of eruptive fire behaviour (spotting, convection driven wind damage, rapid fire spread) and determining the combination of conditions for such behaviours to occur (unstable atmosphere, fuel properties and weather conditions).
Research team:
This research into interactions with topography, potential for pyro-convection, potential for three dimensional interactions, potential for winds to change substantially around a fire, water vapour dry slots, plume development and spotting process will be integrated into a formal, quantitative system for use with the current fire forecasting system.

This project aims to deliver:

1. A Prescribed Burning Atlas to guide implementation of tailor-made prescribed burning strategies to suit the biophysical, climatic and human context of all bioregions across southern Australia. The Atlas will define the quantitative trajectory of risk reduction (including resultant residual risk) for multiple values (such as property, water, carbon, vegetation structure) in response to differing prescribed burning strategies (including spatial configurations and rates of treatment), across different Australian environments based on their unique climatic, biophysical and human characteristics.

2. Continental-scale, biophysically-based models of ignition and fuel accumulation for Australian ecosystems, for use in dynamic risk management planning and operational decision-making about prescribed burning at seasonal and inter-annual time scales, accessible via the Atlas.

3. Detailed scenarios of future change in risk mitigation effectiveness of prescribed burning strategies in response to integrated scenarios of changes to climate, fuel (including elevated CO2 effects) and ignitions. These will also be accessible through the Atlas.

This new project commenced in July 2017, and aims to produce new and innovative ways of integrating urban planning and natural hazard risk management. It will increase the understanding of what planning and emergency management can and cannot do, separately and in synergy, and develop new approaches to applying tools and methods available to planning systems to the design and management of communities as they change.
This project commenced in July 2017. Within the context of reducing natural hazard risk and increasing resilience in southern Australia, it focuses explicitly on the risk and resilience priorities of Indigenous communities in southern Australia, the emergency management sector’s priorities for these communities, and how these interests interact. Its intention is to identify where improvements might be made to reduce natural hazard risk and increase social and ecological resilience. This research complements existing and completed CRC projects.

Resources credited

Type Released Title Download Key Topics
Presentation-Slideshow 07 Jul 2017 Understanding the value and challenges of risk mitigation PDF icon Save (4.17 MB) economics, mitigation, resilience

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