Reducing Perth's natural hazard vulnerability

08 December 2003

Scientists from Geoscience Australia equipped with palm top computers and GPS units are on the shores of the Swan and Canning Rivers in Perth this week to carry out building surveys. The aim of the research is to reduce the vulnerability of the Perth community to natural hazards such as floods and earthquakes.

The scientists are recording information about buildings, such as what they are used for, what materials they are made from, and the number of floors in the building. They will also use global positioning systems (GPS) to accurately locate each building. All of this information is then entered directly into a geographical information system (GIS).

The leader of the project from Geoscience Australia, Trevor Jones, said, "We are taking a multi-hazard approach to this research. The information we collect during this survey will enable us to analyse risks to buildings and other infrastructure from a range of hazards.

"Our findings will help scientists and engineers to design buildings that can withstand future natural hazard events."

Geoscience Australia is undertaking this research in collaboration with the State Mitigation Committee which is convened by the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) of Western Australia.

"This research will help us to improve emergency management practices and thereby reduce the impact of natural disasters on our community", FESA's Acting SES Metro Regional Director, Gordon Hall, said.

Sudden impact natural hazards such as floods and earthquakes account for more than $1.1 billion damage annually. In 2002, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) identified Geoscience Australia as a key Commonwealth scientific agency, providing information and research support to national disaster-mitigation efforts and hazard alerts. Application of spatial information and risk-assessment methodologies in urban environments is especially relevant to the organisation's disaster mitigation studies which are undertaken in partnership with State/Territory agencies.

The team of scientists will be in Perth until Thursday 11 December. They will spend the following weeks processing and analysing the GIS information.

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