Floods and injury prevention: Using available tools to understand and minimise risks

I found the article I am chatting about today as particularly interesting, and not just because I lived through the event under examination. January 2011 saw 99% of my home state of Queensland, Australia, declared a disaster zone. We had survived weeks of intense rain across much of the state, and the sodden ground meant floodwaters were working their way inexorably south. Electricity supplies were cut off in many regions, including ours, followed by landline telecommunications. The helicopter flying over our house sounding an emergency siren, coupled with SMS messages to our cell phones advising ‘get out now’ when every exit road in every direction was covered by floodwater were quite alarming. Within minutes all cell phones were also useless. Thankfully, though, we were all safe, and insurance covered water damage to our home which occurred despite frantic sandbagging during the interminable downpours.

The article by Zhong and others (read more at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.usc.edu.au:2048/doi/10.1111/1742-6723.12097/pdf) was also particularly interesting as they applied Haddon’s matrix to try and understand the factors contributing to the deaths of more than 30 men, women and children during these floods. Growing up on the Darling Downs, I am only too familiar with the land where many of the victims drowned, and agree with the Authors that there was “a complex interplay of factors that together result in death”. For those not familiar with Haddon’s matrix, I recommend reading the article simply to gain an understanding of how it can be applied in such a safety-critical event. I was also pleased to see that the Authors went one step further, using Haddon’s 10 prevention strategies to develop countermeasures which can be used to prevent injury in future flood events.

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