Sandra Whight

Sandra Whight

Sandra Whight

Lead end user

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.

Building community resilience to natural disasters is a complex challenge that spans many policy areas. This project, which has transitioned to its utilisation phase, tackled this intricate problem by delivering policy options that could help governments and emergency services to strengthen resilience in communities. The research identified barriers to community resilience and potential policy solutions that could be factored into the preparation, response and post-event phases of emergency management.
Research team:
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 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.

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