The social impact of natural disasters — at what cost? Emergency situations can be an incredibly stressful, disruptive and traumatic time for those affected. A report from from Deloitte Economics has examined for the first time the economic costs of social impacts by drawing on community experiences and analysing data on the increased health related, employment and community costs experienced following a natural disaster.
Natural hazards are a global phenomenon that can strike without warning throughout the world, and impact on every Australian state and territory. Rapid onset natural hazards including bushfires, tropical cyclones, earthquakes, floods, landslides, severe storms, and tsunami threaten lives and damage private and public assets as well as disrupt water, power, transport, and communication services.
These hazards and their associated impacts can also seriously affect employment and incomes to industry, agriculture, commerce and public administration. The impact of natural hazards on both the natural and human environments has been recorded since European arrival through diary entries, newspaper articles and anecdotal accounts.
Oral history, Aboriginal Dreaming stories and the geological record also provide some evidence of natural hazards and their impacts in Australia. Australia experiences a range of meteorological and geological hazards. Some natural hazards occur only in certain climatic, geological or topographic regions, while others have a high potential of occurring anywhere on the Australian continent.
Natural hazards have impacted on people since humans first walked on the Earth. They have influenced, shaped and modified human behaviour, changing the way people live with and respond to the environment. In Australia alone, billions of dollars have been spent in trying to mitigate or prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters.
Moreover, natural disasters have resulted in enormous intangible losses, causing grief through the loss of life and personal possessions. The article Natural disasters in Australia outlines the impact of each of these and other natural disasters that have occurred since the lateth century.
Smaller events which affect fewer people or are less severe, but occur more frequently, emphasise that the risk posed to the Australian community by natural hazards is real. Two recent smaller events declared natural disasters were Cyclone Larry and the storms and floods in the Hunter and central coast regions of New South Wales Australians have a long history of responding to disasters and can be proud of their successes in managing natural hazards through mitigation.
However, recent natural disasters serve as a reminder that there is much more to be done to reduce the risk to communities and minimise losses. Increasing numbers of people, buildings and infrastructure assets are being exposed to natural hazards as the pressures for urban development extend into hazardous areas.
Accurately modelling the likely impacts of natural hazards on communities provides decision makers with the tools to make more informed decisions aimed at reducing the impact of natural hazards. Natural hazards cannot be averted, but their consequences can be minimised by implementing mitigation strategies and reducing the potential impact to areas which are most vulnerable.
Natural hazards and their impacts are briefly described in the following paragraphs and further information may be found in a recent publication on natural hazards Middelmannon which this article is based.
Tropical cyclones Tropical cyclones can cause major impacts over a significantly large area and have affected Australians since the earliest days of settlement. As they move inland and to the south, tropical cyclones lose contact with the warm tropical oceans necessary to sustain them and weaken.
Weakening storms can still cause major impacts and may adversely affect southern regions as they interact with other weather systems.
Some of the rainfall can be beneficial to agricultural communities, who rely on rain from decaying tropical systems. Tropical cyclones have caused over 2, deaths in Australia since Blong Heavy rainfall in Australia can cause both riverine floods and flash floods.
While floods are estimated to be the most costly natural disasters in Australia, their impact is not always negative as floods are a part of a natural cycle and can have significant environmental and social benefits particularly in areas which have suffered a long drought.
Records of flood impacts extend back further than those for many other hazards, with the first recorded death in Blong Since then, there have been over 2, recorded fatalities in Australia.
While vulnerability is increased through the development of floodplains, the potential to reduce the impact by effective management of this risk is higher than for any other hazard, as floods are restricted to definable areas.
Severe storms Severe storms occur more frequently than any other natural hazard and have the potential to occur anywhere in Australia. They can range from isolated thunderstorms that affect only a few square kilometres, to intense low pressure systems that may affect thousands of square kilometres.
They can be associated with tropical cyclones and be a substantial contributor to flooding. Severe storms produce storm tides, lightning and thunder, hail, tornadoes, water spouts, damaging winds and flash floods.
Storm damage is a significant issue for the insurance industry with payouts for severe storm damage being greater than payouts for tropical cyclones, earthquakes, floods or bushfires.
Thunderstorms have killed over people since Blongwhile large-scale storms often cause deaths through flooding or shipwrecks. Severe weather warnings play a vital role in reducing the risk of this hazard.
Natural ecosystems have evolved with fire, and the landscapes and their biological diversity have been shaped by and rely on patterns of fire.The Impacts of the Black Saturday Bushfires Nearly six years after the Black Saturday bushfires, a new study shows a quarter of survivors from the worst affected Victorian communities are still experiencing serious mental health problems.
Wildfires often result in widespread destruction and damage to a range of economic, social and environmental assets and functions. Social impacts range from the impacts of life due to the damage to the grief for lost loved ones to the tearing apart of communities.
Lives are changed drastically when a bushfire destroys. Veld fires are a common phenomenon in the predominantly savanna ecosystems of Zimbabwe. Until now no studies have investigated the causes, and socio-economic and environmental impacts .
Environmental One of the major impacts from the Black Saturday bushfires was the huge amount of loss on flora and fauna. The RSPCA estimated that over one million animals died from the Black Saturday bushfires, and the . Case Study: Black Saturday Bushfires.
Look back over your class notes on what the various impacts of bushfires can be, and whether these impact people, places and/or the environment Explain why services with a focus on social interactions became a priority immediately following the bushfires.