Research leader

Andrew Gissing Research Leader

Research team

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

End User representatives

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

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
2019 Report Gissing, A. Catastrophic and cascading events: planning and capability. Annual Report 2018 1-16 (2019).
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 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 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).
Date Title Download Key Topics
18 Apr 2017 Planning and Capability Requirements for Catastrophic and Cascading Events PDF icon 1005.5 KB (1005.5 KB) capability, emergency management, multi-hazard
07 Jul 2017 Lightning presentation: planning and capability requirements for catastrophic and cascading events PDF icon 1021.56 KB (1021.56 KB) capability, emergency management, multi-hazard
31 Aug 2017 Fire Australia Issue Three 2017 PDF icon 5.22 MB (5.22 MB) child-centred, prescribed burning, severe weather
25 Oct 2017 Planning and capability requirements for catastrophic and cascading events PDF icon 1.07 MB (1.07 MB) capability, multi-hazard, risk management
16 Mar 2018 Fire Australia Issue One 2018 PDF icon 5.37 MB (5.37 MB) coastal, emergency management, fire severity
05 Apr 2018 Catastrophic and cascading events - project overview File 0 bytes (0 bytes) capability, emergency management, planning
16 Apr 2018 Planning and Capability Requirements for Catastrophic and Cascading Events PDF icon 1.22 MB (1.22 MB) capability, emergency management, planning
18 Sep 2018 Tourist responses to the Lombok Earthquake, 2018 – Rapid Assessment Study PDF icon 1.91 MB (1.91 MB) earthquake, response
18 Sep 2018 Transformative culture of disaster risk management as an enabler to resilience PDF icon 3.74 MB (3.74 MB) multi-hazard, resilience
19 Sep 2018 Adoption of a strengths-based approach to address catastrophic disasters PDF icon 1.73 MB (1.73 MB) emergency management, planning
19 Sep 2018 The Hawaii Nuclear Alert:How did people respond? PDF icon 964.71 KB (964.71 KB) planning, response
08 May 2019 Evidenced based capability maturity assessment for severe to catastrophic events RAF May 2019 PDF icon 1.3 MB (1.3 MB) capability
Increasing Emergency Management Capacity Through Business Sector Involvement
19 Sep 2018
The resource capacities of emergency management organisations are geared around managing relatively frequent...
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. ...
19 Sep 2018
It is important to consider how future catastrophic disasters might be shaped by choices we make as a society...