The effects of disasters can be mitigated or averted in some circumstances by taking measures in advance which are aimed at decreasing or eliminating the impact of a hazardous event on society and the environment.

Disaster mitigation measures act by:

  • lessening the hazard
  • reducing the vulnerability of a community
  • changing the environment in which hazards and communities interact.

A rigorous and systematic risk management process will help communities to identify the most cost-effective combination of measures for a range of risks. Although all levels of government in Australia have some involvement in disaster mitigation, any plan of action for disaster mitigation will hinge on priorities determined by the community and other stakeholders. (Source: Emergency Management in Australia Website)

Risk and Impact Analysis represent effective methods for reducing the impact from natural disasters, but understanding the effectiveness, efficiency and appropriateness of a risk assessment allows for better appreciation of its merit in the process of disaster mitigation.

Reducing the cost of disasters

Over time, greater investment in mitigation is likely to reduce the economic cost of natural disasters in Australia. On average, natural disasters currently cost more than A$1 billion annually, although this estimate is grossly underestimated because it takes into account only those events which have incurred costs of A$10 million or more per event. Additionally another A$1 billion per annum is spent by the Australian, State and Territory governments and local governments to offset the financial and social costs to individuals, communities and businesses, especially in rural and regional Australia.

Rate of return from mitigation

Additional investment in natural disaster mitigation by all levels of government is conservatively estimated to provide a 15% rate of return. Additionally, recent analysis revealed that in 67 remedial projects for every dollar invested in flood mitigation more than A$2.10 was saved. Effective planning and warning systems also help to reduce the level of damage and the costs incurred as a result of disasters.

Making communities more resilient

A stronger national emphasis by the Australian, State, Territory and local levels of government on practical measures to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters would:

  • reduce the loss of life and damage to properties
  • enable speedier recovery by communities after disasters
  • reduce the costs of disasters to the national economy communities, regions and businesses

(Excerpt from: Natural Disasters in Australia: Reforming mitigation, relief and recovery. Commonwealth of Australia 2004.)