Macquarie University
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Driving through flood water: risks, fatalities and challenges for emergency services personnel

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posted on 2022-03-28, 19:59 authored by Mozumdar Arifa Ahmed
In 2018, floods affected more people globally than any other type of natural disaster and were cited as causing the second largest number of deaths after earthquakes. In Australia floods are the second greatest cause of natural hazard-related fatalities, after heatwaves. Australia has a long history of flooding, with many towns, cities, and roads at risk of inundation and driving through floodwaters is a relatively common experience for people living in areas prone to flooding. Recent flood events in Australia illustrate the dangers of flooding, in particular, those associated with motor vehicles deliberately entering floodwater. Despite communication campaigns that urge people not to enter floodwater, the behavior persists even when it is evident that vehicle related flood deaths are avoidable. Therefore, numerous general questions arise: Why do people drive through floodwater? What are the unknown factors underlying and influencing their risk taking behaviour? What types of interventions could stop this behaviour? These questions are explored in the early part of this thesis. Further, adding an additional perspective, what happens if the behaviour is required and unavoidable? There is a group of people occupationally exposed to driving in flood situations, they are State Emergency Services (SES) personnel. In Australia, response to floods and storms is the primary responsibility of SES. A central question for SES agencies is, despite the presence of potentially life-threatening risk and clear official warnings instructing people to a void driving into flood water why do people engage in such behaviour? More over, as they are tasked with a duty of care for their own employees, what do SES personnel do when they encounter flood water in vehicles? This thesis has four specific aims, all of which focus on the behaviour of entering flood water in mortised road vehicles, e.g. cars, utility vehicles: 1. To understand the significance of the problem withinn, and outside, Australia. 2. To explore the contexts surrounding motor vehicle-related flood fatalities in Australia. 3. To explore the risk perceptions and decision-making processes of SES personnel entering floodwater in vehicles. 4. To investigate whether differences in the use of information in the environment (cue utilisation) can be identified in SES personnel in flood contexts, and if so, whether higher cue utilisation is related to improved ability to flood water hazard assessment ...


Table of Contents

Chapter One: Introduction -- Chapter Two: Systematic international review -- Chapter Three: Risks and fatalities in Australia -- Chapter Four: Encountering floodwater at work-perception of risks and decision-making by State Emergency Services -- Chapter Five: Cue Utilisation and decision-making -- Chapter Six: Discussion.


Theoretical thesis. Includes bibliographical references

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Science, Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Mel Taylor


Copyright Mozumdar Arifa Ahmed 2019. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xvi, 274 pages) colour illustrations

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