With the cyclone season well and truly upon us, two Charles Darwin University experts in emergency and disaster management say it is time to take the possibility of a disastrous weather event seriously.
Associate Professor Akhilesh Surjan and Dr Jonatan Lassa say investment in preparedness is key to avoiding potential climatic disaster impacts on ports and built environments in our region.
“The best way to address disaster scenarios is to create a built habitat that is resilient to the multi-hazard risk factors in any given place,” Dr Surjan said.
“Former Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon reminded us in 2015 that for every dollar invested in preparedness, seven dollars are saved in response and recovery, and in some places that ratio is even higher.
“So it makes sense, business and policy-wise, for governments to invest in preparedness, prevention and pre-disaster activities.”
On a personal level, Dr Lassa said it was easy for people to become complacent.
“Part of my research focuses on overcoming the bias that is expressed by, ‘this will never happen to me, it only ever happens to others’,” he said.
“Downplaying risk is human nature, but it can easily put individuals and communities that are prone to natural disasters at risk.”
Both academics agreed that Cyclone Debbie, which hit northern Queensland on March 23, and laid a trail of destruction south to New South Wales until the first week in April, was an example in Australia of how coastal infrastructures could be threatened by severe weather events.
And on the home front, Dr Surjan said it was vital for people to have an up-to-date cyclone kit with battery-driven radio and torches, first aid kit, and enough water and non-perishable food to last at least 72 hours.