Natural Disasters: Assessing the Risk for Property

Australia and Asia Pacific countries have been plagued recently by an unprecedented influx of natural disasters; this has pushed GIS and spatial technology into the media spotlight. 

The Australian Property Institute (NSW) and Spatial Industry Business Association (SIBA) are co-hosting a seminar on Friday 3 June 2011 which is focussing on the role of location intelligence in the area of natural disasters. We’ll not only be attending this event, but our Principal Consultant for Financial Services Gary Johnson will also be presenting there

With this is mind we spoke to SIBA CEO David Hocking to get his views on the role GIS can play in managing and recovering from natural disasters.

 EA: Hi David. Thanks for your time today! Now, this seminar is all about finding ways to enhance the way we respond and manage natural disasters. How important would you say location intelligence is in assessing the risk for property and relating insurance queries?

SIBA CEO David Hocking

David Hocking: The need for accurate and current spatial data is at the root of important planning decisions, which are made well before insurance ever becomes an issue. Where people should live or where commercial properties should be housed is part and parcel of the evaluation of risk that must be undertaken by governments at all levels before zoning is approved. 

EA: Why are Geographic Information Systems (GIS)  and location intelligence such hot topics at the moment?

DH: The call by the insurance sector for adequate flood mapping highlights the importance of location intelligence, spatial information and GIS technologies to a growing community of potential users.

 EA: It certainly seems like location intelligence is a vital component of a national flood mapping strategy. Can you see any limitations to the role of GIS and location intelligence in natural disasters?

DH: There’s no denying location intelligence will have a key role. What I find disturbing is the current focus many people have on blame rather than on fixing a long-standing problem that can only be addressed once we have a sound foundation of spatial knowledge. Some have blamed insurance companies for being ‘mean spirited’, which distracts us from the root cause of natural hazard devastation. It does not focus attention on how to fix the problem of people and property being exposed to high risk of flood inundation and other natural hazards. 

EA: What was the thinking behind the SIBA/Australian Property Institute seminar?

DH: The seminar is primarily to assist stakeholders to better understand how location intelligence and spatial information and technologies can be used to prevent, manage and recover from natural disasters. This seminar will provide practical real-world examples of how we might better prepare for future natural disasters and how we might better inform decision-making. 

EA: In regards to natural disasters, which organisations would you expect to benefit particularly well from leveraging GIS in the future?

DH: Location intelligence provides opportunity for planners, local councils, state and federal agencies, private companies and professionals from a range of sectors to better understand how they might prepare for natural disasters. 

EA: How can the community, businesses and governments prepare for the inevitable natural disasters of the future?

DH: There is no better way to be prepared for the next natural disaster than to understand natural geographical risks. It is vital to have an understanding of the interconnectedness of manmade structures and the land. Understanding how GIS and data mapping works to model risk will enable you to be better prepared to assess risk and mitigate loss. 

EA: What hurdles need to be considered by those thinking about introducing GIS and spatial technology into their business?

DH: Business, governments and the community need to understand what is required in terms of data standards, currency or data, and the required scale that data must be collected to provide reliable assessment of risk. Availability of this data is also important as is the need for our governments to work cooperatively to develop a mechanism for discovering and accessing that data. 

EA: Thanks David, we’ll see you on 3 June.

DH: See you then!

One thought on “Natural Disasters: Assessing the Risk for Property

  1. Pingback: GIS Key to Flood and Fire Management, Disaster Conference Told « Esri Australia

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