Publication Details

Ahmed, M. Arifa., Haynes, K., Tofa, M., Hope, G. & Taylor, M. (2020). Duty or safety? Exploring emergency service personnel's perceptions of risk and decision-making when driving through floodwater. Progress in Disaster Science, 5 100068-1-100068-14.


Vehicle-related flood fatalities and rescues due to driving through floodwater are a significant emergency management issue for emergency services. To reduce fatalities, injuries, and costs associated with this risky driving behaviour it is essential to develop strategies to stop or reduce the incidence of people driving through floodwater. In Australia, people are told not to enter floodwater – on foot or in vehicles – with the phrase ‘If it's flooded, forget it’ widely used in official messaging. As first responders responsible for floods, storms and tsunamis, Australian State Emergency Service (SES) personnel are working in flood conditions regularly and are considered an occupationally ‘at-risk’ group for driving through floodwater. Although SES agencies across states and territories in Australia are independently led, they typically promote policies of not entering floodwater to their personnel. Such policies are important for meeting duty of care obligations to employees, for protection of assets (vehicles and equipment), and for upholding organisational reputation (leading by example). This study was undertaken to explore the behaviour of driving through floodwater by SES personnel. The study explored the characteristics of those who have and have not driven through floodwater, and then used detailed situations in which SES personnel entered floodwater in vehicles to analyse their perception of risks, the conditions and contexts in which they entered floodwater, and to identify what influenced their decision to enter...



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