Feb 1, 2013

Fires, floods, and why it’s not all bad news in 2013

While Australia has copped fires and floods this summer, fire expert Peter Johnson points out there have been relatively few deaths from natural disasters. He examines why.

Along the east coast of Australia, the top half is underwater and the bottom half has seen major bushfires in the past month. It’s remarkable more people haven’t died.

Could it be that the authorities are becoming more effective at emergency management? Or are people responding better to the multiple layers of warnings now in place, particularly since the terrible 2009 Victorian bushfires of Black Saturday, or the frightening Brisbane floods of 2011?

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6 thoughts on “Fires, floods, and why it’s not all bad news in 2013

  1. Pamela

    Maybe another reason for less deaths is human’s capacity to learn through experience and adapt behaviour accordingly.
    The Victorian fires were a sad and salutary lesson to all of us not just those who suffered directly.
    Of course idiots are always with us- slow learners- who decide to drive through flooded creeks etc and kids without supervision who try swimming in flooded rivers. They learn or they die.
    maybe this is where some community ed needs to be concentrated in order to save the lives of those who then have to attempt to rescue the idiots.
    The bozo who sped through the foam needs a good talking to- he nearly ran over a couple of police who were trying to direct folks to safety- not clever.

  2. Sharilynn Gerchow

    The Qld Police Service’s Facebook page has 363,936 likes as of now. It is my first port of call for information and I’ve followed their flood coverage closely. Most of their posts are delivered with a great sense of humour (very cheesy)and they really “humanise” the police force. Check out their What the? Friday offerings.

  3. Venise Alstergren

    Meanwhile, how can a community deal with people like the man who started-deliberately-the Aberfeldy/Donnelly fire? He will be found to be mentally impaired before being put on a good behaviour bond. Locking these people up would further cut down on the amount of bushfires.

    Years ago the people of Queensland used to build their homes on high wooden stilts in order not to have the next flood wash over them. Is this still the case? If not, then clearly people do not learn through experience.

  4. Coaltopia

    Trolls (and Chinese whispers) are a good reason why the #mythbuster tweets/posts are so helpful …

  5. Clytie

    Sharilynn is spot on about the Qld Police social media account(s): they do a terrific job of engaging with the community. @abcemergency and @cbemergency (CB radio network) are usually on the cutting edge. Fire service accounts are getting better. Apps need better development criteria and evaluation/testing, especially when they’re created with taxpayer funds.

    I think people who’d experienced or watched one recent disaster were more ready for another. Urban people had learnt that you can’t combat a bushfire, flood or cyclone with denial. Contrast this with Hurricane Sandy, where NY residents decided to stay because “it wouldn’t be that bad”.

    Following the different fire-service accounts on Twitter brought home to me just how atomized our emergency services are. We need, not just a central resource for analyzing data and making recommendations after fires, but one which handles all types of emergency: coordinating, allocating, communicating and afterwards, collecting data and working out how to do it better next time. Because there will be a next time,

  6. Roger Jones

    Correction: John Handmer is at RMIT University.

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