Research leader

Andrew Gissing Research Leader

End User representatives

Steve Yorke End-Users
Stephen Glassock End-Users
Nicole Hogan End-Users
Heather Stuart
Heather Stuart End-Users
Andrew Andreou End-Users
Greg Nettleton End-Users
Ed Pikusa End-Users
Michael Shepherd End-Users
Roger Mentha End-Users
Liz Connell
Liz Connell End-Users
Brenton Keen End-Users
Jillian Edwards End-Users
Bob Flett End-Users
John Rolfe End-Users
Barry Gray End-Users
Geoff Kaandorp End-Users
Richard Pieper End-Users
Matthew Thompson End-Users
James Henry End-Users
Melanie Mills End-Users
David Baker End-Users

Research team

Michael Eburn
A/Prof Michael Eburn Research Team
Dr Katharine Haynes Research Team
Gavin Smith Research Team
Matalena Tofa Research Team

This study commenced in July 2017, and aims to better understand the nature of catastrophe and identify ways to improve management approaches in the Australian context.

Catastrophic events are cascading in nature, escalating in their impacts as interconnected essential services fail, causing further impacts and making the recovery more complex and prolonged. Events may not respect borders or boundaries, resulting in unclear accountabilities amongst responding agencies, and conflicting strategies and public messaging as different jurisdictions respond.

The recovery of communities may take many years, with many of the impacted population choosing to re-locate to other areas permanently. Economic losses can be severe as industry is disrupted, businesses close and yet further demands for capital injections from government to support recovery costs.

When managed poorly, a loss of public trust in officials may emerge with resulting political challenges. Official commissions of inquiry are held, which provide opportunities for improving systems, reducing risks and enhancing plans to better manage future events. Often, however, such learnings are forgotten as memory of the disaster fades only for many of the same issues to emerge as problems in the next event. The performance of leaders will be judged through the expectations of others with the obvious advantage of hindsight.

Catastrophic disasters are different from every day disasters. Response strategies that routinely work in smaller events will be quickly overwhelmed and ineffective. The role of emergency management agencies becomes focused on providing leadership, facilitation, subject matter expertise, public information and warnings, and specialist resources. In the United States a government-centric approach has been recognised as being insufficient to meet the challenges posed by large disasters. Government is only one part of the overall team; and that arrangements must leverage all of the resources available.

Watch Andrew talk about the frameworks which are being developed to assist emergency managers to better deal with catastrophic disasters.

Year Type Citation
2018 Conference Paper Van Leeuwen, J., Gissing, A. & Avci, A. Responses to the Lombok earthquake, 2018 – Rapid assessment study. AFAC18 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2018 Conference Paper Gissing, A. & Avci, A. The Hawaii nuclear alert: how did people respond?. AFAC18 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2018 Conference Paper Gissing, A., Eburn, M. & McAneney, J. Planning and capability requirements for catastrophic and cascading events. AFAC18 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2018 Conference Paper Bates, J. Research proceedings from the 2018 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2017 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2018 Journal Article Gissing, A., Van Leeuwen, J., Tofa, M. & Haynes, K. Flood levee influences on community preparedness: a paradox?. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 33, 5 (2018).
Increasing Emergency Management Capacity Through Business Sector Involvement
19 Sep 2018

The resource capacities of emergency management organisations are geared around managing relatively frequent disaster scenarios. It is not cost effective to have significant investments of resources that might be only employed in the most extreme or catastrophic events. However, the inevitability of more extreme events that can overwhelm local and regional, and even national, resources means that it is worth considering where additional surge capacity might be sourced if and when needed.

Influence of Road Characteristics on Flood Rescues in Australia
19 Sep 2018

Vehicle-related flood fatalities and rescues are a significant emergency management and road safety problem. Motorists may enter floodwater that is too deep or too fast, or may attempt to drive along roads that have been
washed away. Gissing et al. (2017) investigated the influence of road characteristics on flood fatalities based on a site analysis of 21 road sections where fatalities had occurred.

19 Sep 2018

It is important to consider how future catastrophic disasters might be shaped by choices we make as a society to various political, economic and environmental alternatives along with technological advances. We have explored these influences through a series of short interviews with emergency management leaders and a review of relevant literature. The research seeks to provide some strategic foresight that may assist in the
development of strategic plans to minimize the consequences of future risks.