Modelling impacts of natural hazards on interconnected infrastructure networks | Natural Hazards Research Australia

Modelling impacts of natural hazards on interconnected infrastructure networks

Photo: Nathan Maddock
Project type

Core research

Project status

In progress

Over the last three years, significant damage and disruption have been due to natural hazards impacting infrastructure. Damage often results in cascading consequences that quickly spread across society and the economy. Recent damage to public infrastructure from flooding in Queensland in February and March of 2022 was estimated at $492 million. Challenges associated with repairing and restoring infrastructure are exacerbated by compound disasters that see natural hazards occur concurrently or in sequence. 

Though research has been undertaken to understand the vulnerability of residential, commercial, and industrial assets in Australia across a range of different hazards, less attention has been given to understanding the vulnerability of infrastructure assets, which we assume to be mature within the organisations and sectors that own, operate, and manage infrastructure assets. There is a limited understanding of infrastructure risk and impact information between private and public infrastructure agencies and policy and strategy arms of government. There is also a broader demand to understand infrastructure vulnerability in a changing climate and how to best build resilience. 

The aim of this project is to develop vulnerability models that can be used to quantify how public infrastructure is impacted by natural hazards. The project aims to develop models for both direct and indirect impacts for a selection of infrastructure and natural hazard types.  

The rationale for developing these models is so they may be used to understand long-term natural hazard risk to infrastructure networks, for estimating recovery time following a disaster, and so they may be used to facilitate cost-benefit analysis when assessing investments in infrastructure resilience. While such vulnerability models may exist internally within certain infrastructure network owner/operator agencies, few of these are publicly available. 

Project details

The purpose of this research project is to: 

  • Establish the context to understand the extent of direct and indirect losses relevant to infrastructure 
  • Develop better estimation methods to understand the impact of compound disasters on infrastructure losses 
  • Provide a framework to better understand the value of infrastructure resilience investments 

The primary focus of this project is on public infrastructure.  

The expected outcomes for the project are: 

Network mapping:

a) Improved end-user understanding of network connections and system vulnerabilities within their networks.

b) Development of a consistent approach to network mapping across infrastructure systems and operators.

c) Clear methodology for intersecting infrastructure network maps with each other to capture inter-network links and impact flow paths.

d) Development of an initial methodology for considering impacts on networks with initial damaged states (i.e. cascading damage). 

Damage estimation:

a) Open-source direct and indirect financial damage estimation tools specific to the chosen infrastructure assets, hazards, and networks in the study region. Models will enable end-users to estimate direct and indirect impacts of natural hazards to networks.

b) Improved capability to estimate financial consequences of infrastructure betterment through the development of modifiers to damage estimation models. 

Utilisation case studies:

a) Improved end-user understanding of how specific hazards could impact networks during disaster events.

b) Development of case studies that can be used to ‘tell stories’ to a range of audiences about disaster risk and mitigation.

c) Highlight key research needs to enable future research to better estimate damages during cascading events where infrastructure may be in differing initial states of damage/disruption


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