Flood research shows human habits die hard

Feb 13, 2013

New research has come up with ways to quickly assess flood damage to houses while also showing most people didn't intend to make changes to reduce their vulnerability after the 2010-11 floods in Australia.

Two separate reports from the National Adaptation Research Facility released today show how lessons learned from households affected by the 2010-11 Australian floods can minimise damage under current and future climates.

The report Analysis of Damage to Buildings Following the 2010 Eastern Australia Floods evaluated the role of development controls and analysed house damage to inform estimation. Based on damage to buildings in Brisbane, Ipswich and Grantham, the project developed a model to rapidly assess impacts following a , such as estimating building losses and the likely need to relocate people.

Lead author Dr Matthew Mason said "There are new amendments for flood planning coming into force this year within the Building Code of Australia but some of the issues our research identified are excluded." The new code will not require rebuilt homes to be more resilient to flood and does not address homes built in areas prone to storm surge or flash flooding.

The second report, Impact of the 2010 floods and the factors that inhibit and enable household adaptation strategies is based on surveys and interviews with people directly affected by floods in Brisbane and Emerald in Queensland, and Donald in Victoria.

Lead author Dr Deanne Bird said "There was a lot of frustration over communication.

"After the floods receded, people needed to know what to do, where to get information, how to implement changes to reduce vulnerability, and how to deal with insurance companies."

Their study shows many residents made general home improvements such as installing their 'dream' kitchen rather than concentrating on making their home more resilient to flooding, for example by raising cupboards and air-conditioning units or changing floor coverings.

While most respondents indicated that they were not likely to make any changes to reduce their vulnerability to flood, 55 percent stated that they were likely to, or already had, changed their insurance policy.

Many residents felt they had no options to make changes due to the structural design of their home. In other instances, insurers would only pay to replace like with like.

According to Dr Bird "We saw communities getting on with their lives and largely driving their recovery with stoic endurance. This does not necessarily translate to adaptation to future events but it does reflect strong resilience in the community."

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More information: Full reports available from www.nccarf.edu.au

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