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Photo: Michael Dawes (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Photo: Michael Dawes (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Release date
18 Dec 2017
More information:
Dr Matthew Hayne
Research Utilisation Manager

Strength in the face of high winds

Most of the damage from cyclones and severe storms occurs to older houses, but much can be done to reduce this damage. Research through the Improving the resilience of existing housing to severe wind project, led by Prof John Ginger, Dr David Henderson and Dr Daniel Smith at James Cook University, has shown that improvements can be made that can strengthen houses to reduce damage, as well as save money through the reduction of insurance premiums.

Suncorp Insurance wanted to know more about the vulnerability of the houses in northern Queensland, explains Jon Harwood from Suncorp. The insurance company knew that some types of houses built before 1980 were the most vulnerable to cyclones, as they were constructed before the building code was developed for cyclones, but they were surprised by the other findings generated by the study.

“What we were surprised about was the water ingress failures across all ages of houses, whether they were built to code or not,” Jon said.

A majority of claims – 60% – were due to a lack a preparation. These were small claims that could have been easily avoided if the appropriate mitigation action was taken before a cyclone.

The research recommended a range of retrofitting options that reduced the chances of damage occurring.

“The research gave us a clear evidence base to show that retrofitting and strengthening homes really has a great cost-benefit analysis,” he said.

Suncorp took these research findings and created the Cyclone Resilience Benefit, which rewards homeowners who have undertaken work to strengthen their homes and reduce the chances of damage. More than 30,000 people have accessed the benefit, with the average saving on premiums $100. Some have saved over $400.  

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services is also benefitting from the study, using findings to improve the work of its rapid damage assessment teams, which operate after major disasters to collect building damage data. This enables a focused and coordinated response, as well as better planning for event recovery. Specialist advice and lessons learnt are also provided by the team at pre-cyclone season briefings for emergency managers across Queensland to QFES, as well as other local, state and federal agencies.

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