Policy and Economics of Hazards

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House loss Black Saturday_1
House loss Black Saturday

Project Status:

This study has informed community flood warning campaigns, emergency services training and national policy initiatives by investigating the circumstances of all flood fatalities in Australia from 1900 to 2015. It has also compare the impacts of disasters from more than 100 years ago with more recent events.

By exploring the socio-demographic and environmental factors surrounding the 1,859 flood fatalities over 115 years, the research found distinct trends in relation to gender, age, activity and the circumstances of the death. These trends were analysed in the context of changes to emergency management policy and practice over time.

Analysis of building losses and human fatalities from natural disasters - project overview

Overview of flood research findings

This study has informed community flood warning campaigns, emergency services training and national policy initiatives by investigating the circumstances of all flood fatalities in Australia from 1900 to 2015. It has also compare the impacts of disasters from more than 100 years ago with more recent events.

By exploring the socio-demographic and environmental factors surrounding the 1,859 flood fatalities over 115 years, the research found distinct trends in relation to gender, age, activity and the circumstances of the death. These trends were analysed in the context of changes to emergency management policy and practice over time.

The NSW State Emergency Service has used the findings of the research for its ‘FloodSafe’ community campaign and training, while the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services has used it to inform its ‘If It’s Flooded, Forget it’ campaign.

The results of this research have significantly contributed to investigations into preventing flood fatalities by the Prevention of Flood Related Fatalities Working Group of the Community Engagement Sub-committee of the Australia–New Zealand Emergency Management Committee. This working group comprised policy makers, practitioners and researchers involved in flood risk management from Australia and New Zealand.

Similar analysis has recently been completed for fatalities due to cyclones, earthquakes and severe storms across the same time period (1900 to 2015). At least 406 fatalities occurred, with three quarters due to severe storms. The majority of these fatalities have been males.

As well as fatalities, the project has also explored building damage, by hazard, across time and by state or territory. Historical losses have been adjusted for known societal changes (i.e. numbers of homes, the value of these homes and improvements in building codes and construction). While there is substantial variability across time, there is no statistically significant upward trend in the cost of natural hazards. This result implies that no signal has yet been detected to indicate that insured losses from causes other than societal changes (such as population changes and wealth growth) are increasing.

No single hazard dominates or is responsible for most insured building losses— hailstorms, cyclones, floods, earthquakes and bushfires all feature as the most damaging events in Australia.

Flooding in Lismore after Cyclone Debbie. Photo: NSW SES
21 July, 2017
If you were impacted by the northern NSW floods earlier this year, your experience is valuable for new research.
Roadway flooding
13 July, 2017
People continue to enter floodwater in vehicles and on foot, despite many knowing the risks.
Hurricane Matthew impacted communities in the South Eastern United States including North Carolina in October, 2016
8 June, 2017
Recently I visited the United States to attend the annual Association of State Floodplain Managers Conference, American Planning Conference and to meet with representatives of FEMA, North Carolina Emergency Management and the University of North Carolina.
Fire Australia Issue Two 2017
2 June, 2017
There is plenty of CRC science in the latest edition of Fire Australia.
Research shows that the most common way people are killed during a flood is when they attempt to cross a bridge or flooded road. Photo: Dana Fairhead
30 May, 2017
CRC research into where, why and how Australians are dying in floods is helping to increase flood safety and awareness.
Adelaide floods
26 April, 2017
CRC research is informing community flood warning campaigns, emergency services training and national policy initiatives.
The SES getting ready to rescue a driver stuck on a flooded bridge. Photo: Davina Pearson
30 January, 2017
The NSW State Emergency Service have used CRC flood research to back their latest flood safety campaign, launched on social media.
Flood hazard
16 November, 2016
The latest videos featuring CRC researchers, PhD students and end-users explaining our science and the benefits it will bring are now online.
14 September, 2016
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
25 July, 2016
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
Holger Maier presents at the 2016 Hobart RAF
24 June, 2016
A number of insights around who dies in floods, mitigation benefits, estimating resilience and economics were key takeways for me from the Research Advisory Forum in Hobart.
Post fire field work
16 June, 2016
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
House flooded in Victoria
8 June, 2016
CRC researchers, Andrew Gissing, Katharine Haynes and Lucinda Coates have received a highly commended award for their presentation at the 2016 Floodplain Management Australia (FMA) conference.
Flooding in the Sydney CBD, 5 June 2016. Photo: Brian Dewey, Flickr
7 June, 2016
The flooding rains that have drenched eastern Australia have tragically left several people dead and several more missing in New South Wales and Tasmania. This is an all-too-common story – flooding rains are a major cause of deaths around the globe. Our research suggests many of these deaths are avoidable.
Lake Mountain landscape post Black Saturday fires
15 October, 2015
What is our research about, and how will our emergency service partners benefit? Hear direct in these short videos
Caroline Wenger giving her three minute thesis presentation in September. Photo by ANU.
14 October, 2015
Three CRC PhD students have shown off their communications skills by making it to their three minute thesis university finals.
Researchers Becc D'Arcy and Lucinda Coates recording data from coronial inquest files.
15 July, 2015
Researching fatalities is a challenging task. First, you have to contend with the often tragic circumstances of deaths.
Kat Haynes ASPIRE award
25 May, 2015
Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC researcher Dr Katharine Haynes has been selected as the Australian nomination for the prestigious APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education Award for 2015.
Photo by NSW RFS Media Service
11 March, 2015
This is the third newsletter from the Fatalities and Building Losses project, and the first for 2015, with updates for the project end-users and associates.
Flooded house Victoria
13 February, 2015
The key issues facing emergency managers and the public were highlighted by researchers in a media briefing on 12 February.
Fire Australia cover, summer 2015
9 February, 2015
Four CRC research projects have been profiled in the latest edition of Fire Australia.
This research will allow accurate comparisons of the fatalities or economic impact of emergencies, even if they occurred decades apart
23 January, 2015
Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC research helps to accurately compare the impacts of disasters from more than 100 years ago with more recent events.
Christchurch earthquake
29 October, 2014
This is the second newsletter for 2014 from the Fatalities and Building Losses project, with updates for the project end-users and associates.
Christchurch earthquake
13 June, 2014
News from the Project - An analysis of building losses and human fatalities from natural disasters.
Year Type Citation
2017 Report Coates, L. et al. An analysis of human fatalities from cyclones, earthquakes and severe storms in Australia. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2016 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2016 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2016 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Conference Paper Rae, E., Campbell, P., Haynes, K., Gissing, A. & Coates, L. Preventing flood related fatalities: a focus on people driving through floodwater. AFAC16 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Journal Article Gissing, A., Haynes, K., Coates, L. & Keys, C. Motorist behaviour during the 2015 Shoalhaven floods. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 31, (2016).
2016 Report Haynes, K. et al. An analysis of human fatalities from floods in Australia 1900-2015. (2016).
2016 Report Haynes, K., Coates, L. & van den Honert, R. An analysis of human fatalities and building losses from natural disasters: Annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2015 Conference Paper van den Honert, R., Coates, L., Haynes, K. & Crompton, R. Estimating the Impacts of Natural Hazards on Fatalities and Building Losses Conference Paper 2014. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Wellington Conference 2014 (2015).
2015 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2015 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2015 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Conference Paper Gissing, A., Haynes, K., Coates, L. & Keys, C. How do we reduce vehicle related deaths: exploring Australian flood fatalities 1900-2015 - non peer reviewed extended abstract. Adelaide Conference 2015 (2015).
2015 Journal Article Gissing, A., Haynes, K., Coates, L. & Keys, C. Reducing deaths from driving into floodwaters. Crisis Response Journal 11, 66-67 (2015).
2015 Report van den Honert, R. An Analysis of Human Fatalities and Building Losses from Natural Disasters Annual Report 2014. (2015).
2015 Report Haynes, K. & Coates, L. An analysis of building losses and human fatalities from natural disasters: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2014 Journal Article Okada, T., Haynes, K., Bird, D., van den Honert, R. & King, D. Recovery and Resettlement following the 2011 flash flooding in Lockyer Valley. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 8, (2014).
2014 Journal Article Coates, L., Haynes, K., O'Brien, J., McAneney, J. & de Oliveira, F. Dimer. Exploring 167 years of vulnerability: An examination of extreme heat events in Australia 1844–2010. Environmental Science and Policy 42, 33-44 (2014).
The heat is on... and has been for a while, new research shows
25 Aug 2014

A paper analysing the historical impacts of extreme heatwaves in Australia has been one of the first outputs of a project to measure and understand the impacts of natural hazards in terms of human health and building damage. 

Key Topics:
Estimating the Impacts of Natural Hazards on Property and Building Losses
08 Sep 2014

To measure and understand the impacts of natural hazards in terms of the toll on human life and injuries, and building losses and damage, in order to provide an evidence base for emergency management policy and practise

Key Topics:
Would You Drive Through Flood Water?
18 Aug 2015

Floods are the second highest cause of death from natural hazard events in Australia following extreme heat. Bushfire and Natural Hazard CRC research has so far uncovered 1874 flood fatalities between 1900-2015. This data shows a growing number of fatalities associated with vehicles entering floodwaters, particularly 4WDs.

Key Topics:
Katharine Haynes Conference Poster 2016
12 Aug 2016

This project is measuring and gaining a greater understanding of the impacts of natural hazards in terms of the toll of human life, injuries and building damage in order to provide an evidence base for emergency management policy and practice.

An analysis of human fatalities and building losses from natural disasters in Australia
29 Jun 2017

Who is most at risk? Why? What are they doing? How have vulnerability and exposure trends changed over time? What can we learn about the circumstances of these deaths? This information will assist agencies with planning, resourcing and community education. 

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