There are two things that we can all do to reduce the risk to life and property in a cyclone; ensure that buildings comply with regulations and ensure that they are well maintained.
The Cyclone Testing Station at James Cook University was established as a direct result of Cyclone Tracy that devastated Darwin in 1974. For over 30 years since, CTS has been involved in wind engineering research, testing and community education on issues relating to housing and other types of buildings.
Building regulations and standards have improved dramatically since 1974. We can’t be sure that a similar cyclone won’t happen again but we can be confident that the impact would be far less today.
After any major wind event such as a cyclone, a team from the Cyclone Testing Station conduct a damage investigation, to look at which building components and systems performed well and which did not. One thing is quite clear from all of the investigations conducted in recent years.
Houses and other buildings that have been designed and built in accordance with building regulations and that have been well maintained have exhibited good performance. Those houses and other buildings that have performed poorly have often been poorly maintained and in some cases have not complied with building regulations.
The most effective actions that we can all take today to reduce the risk of damage from cyclones are to ensure that our houses comply with building regulations and to ensure that they are well maintained. Information is available to help with both of these tasks.
A pamphlet was recently released to assist in the task of maintaining our homes to reduce risk in a cyclone. The pamphlet, entitled “Is your house prepared for a cyclone?” was developed by the Cyclone Testing Station with support from the Northern Territory Government. It can be found here ...
The Northern Territory Government recently announced a package of initiatives including a moratorium to ensure a higher level of compliance of buildings with the Building Act. This moratorium continues until June 2011 and should assist any home owner wanting to ensure that their house complies. Further details can be found at www.nt.gov.au/lands/building/moratorium.
If there is any doubt that a building complies with regulations, a simple check by a suitably qualified person such as a builder may be a good investment. Another good option is an annual check for signs of deterioration in materials, as outlined in the pamphlet. In general this can be done by the home owner. Always remember to consider the condition of fasteners such as screws and nails as well as the condition of building components. Expert advice may be warranted where any doubt exists about the condition of any items.
For further information about this article, visit the Cyclone Testing Station web site at www.jcu.edu.au/cts or contact the Manager of the Cyclone Testing Station, Cam Leitch, on 07 47 814754.