The future of natural disaster management
Alex Rees from Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) talks through the future climatic trends facing Queensland and how we can best place ourselves to respond.
As all Queenslanders know, our state already presents a challenging environment for disaster management.
Queensland accounts for 40% of the national cost for disaster management. Our geographic spread covers four different climatic zones, with the Great Dividing Range being the defining feature resulting in our disasters occurring in high energy landscapes to the east, and low energy landscapes to the west.
We know too that our weather is changing, and it’s only going to get more challenging.
Our modelling under our Natural Hazard Risk Assessment is showing:
Our severe weather season is getting longer. We’re experiencing shorter winters and longer, hotter summers. Climate change will continue to make yearly preparation challenging.
Increasing heat, with the possibility that some places in Queensland will be too hot to live in by the end of the century.
Less rain overall, but the rain we do see will be more intense and more likely to lead to flash flooding.
Fewer, but more intense, tropical cyclones. Our data also shows cyclones are moving further south and could creep as far down as south-east Queensland.
Rising sea levels over the next hundred years, increasing risk of inundation.
Earthquake zones off the coast, with potential to cause storm surges.
Aside from climate changes, our population is also growing, with high numbers of interstate migration apparent even before COVID-19 accelerated this trend.
This is leading to an increasing number of people who are unfamiliar with our environment, making community education a critical component of our plan.
The cost of managing disasters is also going to increase, with increased events, population growth, and increasing property values all playing a part.
We have a State Disaster Management Plan, which is putting us in a great place to be able to respond to these increasing challenges.
As part of this plan, we have outlined four priority areas:
While you'll usually have us top of mind during the response and recovery phases, it’s the prevention and preparedness that makes the biggest impact. The more we can spend time and money here, the less we’ll have to spend during recovery.
3. Local focus
We build the capability at the local level, so each local government is equipped to manage disasters in their area. This allows each area to apply their local knowledge – consider the differences between the disasters faced in coastal north Queensland versus western Queensland – and ensures even the least populated regions have dedicated resources.
It can be a big job though, which is why they’re supported by district and state groups, who can commit their resources where needed.
One thing that’s certain: we’re not alone. I’m heartened by the ongoing collaboration of government departments, organisations and community groups that are teaming up to tackle this shared problem together.
We’ve had a lot of practice, and our combined experience holds us well.
Alex Rees recently met with Suncorp’s Disaster Response team to discuss disaster management in Queensland and share experiences from both sides. Our teams loved the chance to learn from Alex and look forward to continuing to work together to strengthen disaster management.