Driving into floodwater: using data from emergency responders to inform workplace safety policy and practice

Melanie Taylor*, Tim Wiebusch, Benjamin Beccari, Katharine Haynes, Mozumdar Arifa Ahmed, Matalena Tofa

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Since 2001, approximately 45 per cent of all flood fatalities in Australia are attributed to people entering floodwater in motor vehicles. This behaviour is considered high-risk and avoidable. However, for emergency services personnel performing their duties, there may be additional pressure to take on such risks. In Victoria, the Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) is the control agency for floods and storms and its personnel encounter floodwater frequently. At an organisational level, good workplace health and safety practices are fundamental and duty of care is of paramount importance. VICSES personnel are discouraged from driving through floodwater; an exception being when responding to life-threatening situations. Doing so exposes staff to personal harm and driving through floodwater in work vehicles can result in vehicle and equipment damage. There is also the potential for VICSES reputation damage if people observe VICSES personnel driving into floodwaters and not heeding safety advice to ‘never drive (walk, or ride) through floodwater'. This raises public safety concerns if people take similar risks. This paper presents findings from a larger study into the circumstances in which SES personnel drive through floodwater in SES or private vehicles. Outcomes from this research will inform policy, practice and training to improve safety, keep staff and equipment safe and model good practice in communities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)26-34
    Number of pages9
    JournalAustralian Journal of Emergency Management
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


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