Case study: Adaptation Lessons from Cyclone Tracy
The authors of this study are: Matthew Mason and Katharine Haynes, Risk Frontiers, Natural Hazards Research Centre, Macquarie University.
Summary of the project
This case study will review the impact of Tropical Cyclone Tracy on the city and people of Darwin, the Australian engineering and institutional responses that it invoked and the relevance of these lessons to a world threatened by global climate change.
- Determine the cause of structural failures in Darwin buildings during Cyclone Tracy. Show how these shortcomings in engineering knowledge have been overcome.
- Study the role of institutional bodies in overcoming engineering shortcomings in objective 1 and how these bodies implemented positive change. Determine whether current government bodies could act in a similar manner.
- Quantify the potential damage to Darwin’s building stock if Cyclone Tracy were to impact the city today. Compare this to the 1974 scenario and comment on how/why this has changed.
- In examining the published material in Objectives 1 and 2, evaluate the level of public awareness of cyclonic impacts in Darwin prior to Tracy and how this has changed over the last 35 years.
- Evaluate the role of insurance in improving the resilience of the community in any future damaging cyclonic event.
- Use lessons learnt from objectives 1 – 5 and comment on how these could be applied in a changing climate predicted to produce more severe atmospheric hazards.
- Objective 1 will be achieved through analysis of building codes, standards, and relevant scholarly journals and interviews with those involved in the analysis of Cyclone Tracy building damage.
- Objective 2 will be achieved through interviews with institutional bodies (e.g. Building code of Australia, Standards Australia), state and federal authorities, and analysis of public records. Interviews will provide insight into the current standing of these agencies to act decisively in a similar scenario to Cyclone Tracy.
- Objective 3 will be achieved by modifying Risk Frontiers’ proprietary loss model CyclAUS to undertake scenario analysis of a repeat of Cyclone Tracy under today’s conditions. This analysis will allow an evaluation of the financial impact of improvements in construction.
- Objective 4 will be achieved by analysing public records, reports, interviews and websites (e.g. Northern Territory Library) for stories regarding public sentiment and attitudes towards cyclone warning and the perceived level of risk cyclonic events posed to Darwin. Comparison with the social behaviour/sentiment patterns of those in more recent cyclonic events (e.g. Cyclone Larry) will allow assessment of what, if any, changes have occurred.
- Objective 5 will be achieved through interviews with insurers and emergency management authorities and assessment of current and historical procedures for dealing with extreme cyclones.
- To achieve objective 6 future predictions for extreme atmospheric events will be determined by from published scholastic literature and government funded research reports (e.g. CSIRO). With this information comment can be made on the similarity/differences to the physical event of Cyclone Tracy and whether the public/emergency management agencies would react in a similar manner, or if Tracy’s lessons could be applied so similar tragedy could be avoided.
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