Western Australia is subject to a variety of hazards that have the potential to cause loss of life, damage and destruction. Every year, any one or more of these hazards may impose substantial costs on communities. Examples include:
Damage to residential, commercial, educational, and recreational buildings
Damage to infrastructure
Damage to stock, equipment and facilities
Indirect losses through disruption of economic activity
Stress and anxiety in affected areas
Injury and death
Damage to ecosystem and wildlife habitats.
Each of these hazards is covered by a Westplan that outlines the arrangements, responsibilities and procedures in place for multiagency, coordinated responses.
Agriculture is a major industry within WA, representing about 10% of the state’s economy. Agricultural products are the second largest export commodity. Animal or plant: pests or diseases can threaten the industry, causing major economic loss, while also affecting the state’s environment, social amenity and human health.
Biological substances are organic substances that pose a threat to the health of humans, environment and property. Worldwide, it is estimated that about 320 000 workers die each year from communicable diseases caused by work-related exposure to biological substances.
There is a risk of a chemical substance emergency wherever chemical substances are manufactured, used, stored, or transported. These substances are capable of causing loss of life, injury to people, impacts to the environment and property.
The collapse of natural landforms or built infrastructure such as buildings, bridges or subsurface commercial operations is a risk. A landslide in 1996 near Gracetown in the south-west of WA resulted in nine deaths and a further three injuries, after 30 tonnes of rock and soil was dislodged.
On average, WA experiences five large-scale cyclone events that threaten the coastline each year. Two of these cyclones cross the coastline, one at high intensity. These have the potential to cause deaths and injuries along with major damage to homes, infrastructure and industry.
WA has experienced at least one significant earthquake each decade since Federation in 1901. Earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater are relatively common and occur about every five years in the South West Seismic Zone, which is adjacent to the main population centres of the state. The 1968 Meckering earthquake measured 6.9.
Electricity supply disruptions are inevitable. There is a wide variety of hazards that can disrupt electricity supplies, including cyclones, storms, floods and bushfires. A severe disruption can potentially have serious, costly and distressing consequences.
Each year in WA, thousands of fires occur that destroy or damage houses, sheds, garages, commercial and industrial buildings, vehicles and vast areas of bushland. Some of these become critical events, subject to size, location or prevailing weather conditions.