Over the past month, Australia has experienced record breaking heat waves, bush fire disasters, rainfalls and flooding. Certain parts of the east coast have now had their 6th hundred year storm in ten years. Whatever the causes of this cycle of natural disasters, it is perfectly clear that severe weather will continue to have an extreme impact on national security, the economy and the safety of people around the world.
In Australia, as in many countries, government administration in the areas of emergency management, national security, health and the economy remain largely silo based. Disaster preparedness and recovery are seen as costs rather than investments. As a result, budgets are always under pressure and the traditional likelihood vs impact risk analysis approach is used to justify low levels of preparedness on the grounds of economic pragmatism.
In Japan, a country which also has a history of recurring cycles of natural disasters of wildly fluctuating magnitudes, attitudes are very different. Rather than treating each extreme event as a unique, once off, never to be repeated disaster, people accept the inevitability of natural disasters and act accordingly. As a result, preparedness is accepted as a core aspect of engineering and social planning.
Following the recent election in Japan, the government has announced an economic stimulus package which includes a significant investment in ‘nation toughening’ projects. These projects follow previous infrastructure investments which have not only raised the level of resilience but also facilitated economic growth and supply chain improvements.
In Australia and other countries, government investment and incentives for large scale private/public resilience and preparedness projects would deliver a win, win result. At a small scale, a national network of community ‘bushfire bunkers’ could stimulate regional development and offer protection for those whose evacuation routes have been closed. At a larger scale, flood management infrastructure can be developed which incorporates improvements to transport and irrigation systems.
After another month of ‘surprises’, it’s time to start expecting the unexpected and explore the opportunities for ‘nation toughening’ projects in your country.