An unmitigated disaster: shifting from response and recovery to mitigation for an insurable future
de Vet, E and Eriksen, C and Booth, K and French, S, An unmitigated disaster: shifting from response and recovery to mitigation for an insurable future, International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 10 pp. 179-192. ISSN 2095-0055 (2019) [Refereed Article]
Australian households are increasingly vulnerable to natural hazard-related disasters. To manage disaster risk, government commissioned inquiries have called for greater investment in mitigation. This article critically examines the call for a shift in funding priority towards pre-disaster mitigation measures, in the context of growing concerns around the ability of households to access and afford insurance. It examines mitigation measures in the context of three prominent Australian disasters: the Black Saturday bushfires (Victoria, 2009), the Queensland floods (2010-2011), and Cyclone Yasi (Queensland, 2011). We argue that as a mode of disaster security, mitigation operates as a complex assemblage of logics and practices of protection, preparedness, and resilience, which problematizes simplistic protection/resilience binaries. On the one hand, mitigation serves as a mode of protection, which underscores the dominant maladaptive rationality of insurance. It promises a collective solution to uninsurability that is limited by government fiscal constraints and growing employment of risk-reflective insurance pricing. On the other hand, there is evidence of an emergent rationality of household insurance as a path to resilience and preparedness - for example, in the development of insurance systems that price household retrofitting technologies and in the development of policyholder education campaigns. This resilience rationality holds the promise of securing individuals previously excluded from insurance. However, for householders lacking the necessary physical, cognitive, and financial capacities to make themselves and their properties resilient, the transition to a pre-disaster mitigation mode of security will likely do little to alleviate disadvantage and marginalization.