Where, why and how are Australians dying in floods?

HazardNOTES

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Most flood fatalities occur when victims attempt to cross floodwaters. Photo CFA.
Most flood fatalities occur when victims attempt to cross floodwaters. Photo CFA.

Hazard Note 20 documents the analysis of the circumstances surrounding fatalities due to flooding in Australia from 1900 to 2015. The investigation includes exploring the socio-demographic and environmental factors surrounding the deaths. Overall there have been 1,859 fatalities within the 115 years, with distinct trends in relation to gender, age, activity and reason. The most deaths have occurred in Queensland and New South Wales. The majority of fatalities are male (79%) with children and young adults (<29) making up the greatest proportion of the fatalities.

The data shows a statistically significant decreasing death rate from 1900 to 1960. Although a very slight decrease in death rates is discernible between 1960 and 2015, it is not statistically significant. The female-to-male fatality ratio has steadily increased since 1960 (1900-1959 female fatalities account for 16.9% of fatalities, while 1960-2015 female fatalities account for 28.3% of fatalities), indicating a greater proportion of female fatalities. An increase in fatalities associated with motor vehicles is evident in recent decades, and in particular, 75% of all fatalities associated with 4WD vehicles has been observed in the last 15 years.

Measuring and understanding the impacts of natural hazards in terms of the toll on human life is a fundamental first step to enabling efficient and strategic risk reduction. Outcomes of this research are significantly contributing to the Prevention of Flood Related Fatalities Working Group of the Community Engagement Sub-committee of the Australia and New Zealand Emergency Management Committee with their investigations into preventing flood fatalities. The research will also influence policy, practice, education initiatives and resource allocation across emergency management.

Additionally, the short video below features project leader Dr Katharine Haynes and Dr Elspeth Rae from the NSW State Emergency Service discussing the findings and why the research is important.

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