Disaster resilience: preparedness and recovery

Melbourne Heatwave Hypothetical video

Not so Hypothetical - a heated conversation
Presentation shown at the Hypothetical
Modelling the Future Grid Forum scenarios
Modelling the Future Grid Forum scenarios
Media Release - An extended heatwave hits Melbourne
Media release explaining the event

"It's all about communication in the end. Person to person"

Mary Farrow - Director, Centre of Resilience, Emerald House, Heat Wave Hypothetical Panelist

Climate models point to increasing likelihood of extremes. Though itʼs been dangerously hot in Melbourne already, unprecedented heat waves may likely lie ahead. This hypothetical style event explored how Melbourneʼs energy, water, transport and systems will respond as community services struggle to meet demand. Speakers discussed the impacts on Melbourneʼs community and infrastructure, what we¹ve learnt, how you can cope and how we can build Melbourneʼs resilience into the future.


Green Cross Australia is grateful for the participation of twelve outstanding panelists who represented Melbourne superbly during this thrilling conversation. We especially offer our thanks to moderator Andrew Wisdom, who led Arup's Melbourne office and its Australasian Cities practice for years. Important insights emerged - we capture some below, and you can watch the hypothetical here.






City of Melbourne faces an unprecedented heat wave event. It is January 2025 and the Bureau of Meteorology has projected 6 consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 40 degrees in Melbourne. The warning comes on the back of 4 stay-or-go warnings to bushfire at risk communities on the peri-urban outskirts of Melbourne. The Premier calls on residents and businesses to activate their personal heat wave plans.


  • Melbournians are called on to check up on each other, especially elderly, young and sick people. Public buildings are cooled in preparation for refuge.
  • In hot pockets of the city, urban heat island effects are expected to raise temperatures by over 5 - 7degrees, with residual impacts lasting well into the night.
  • Melbourneʼs energy supply system, health system and community services are expected to struggle to meet demand during this period. Water consumption is expected to peak. Black outs are anticipated throughout the heat wave and hospitals and ambulance services are preparing themselves for unprecedented demand.
  • Key infrastructure not designed to cope with such extreme heat will be impacted. Melbourneʼs public transport systems will experience delays and cancellations. Rails may buckle and roads may melt. Large and small businesses prepare for power and transport outages and water shortages, with vulnerable supply chains and staff well-being at the heart of management concerns.

More than ever, the well being of Melbourne rests in the hands of business and community members.






By 2025 we will have double the number of people aged 75 and over - and at this age heat waves are most deadly. In previous heat waves up to 30% of people over 75 had no contact at all with another person - not a single telephone call or knock on the door through an entire heat wave event.


  • Personal and business heat wave plans must include outreach to isolated people as a core response
  • People living in apartment buildings can find themselves by choice or coincidence in a situation where large numbers of people are isolated from others - community outreach models are needed
  • A culture of inclusion and social participation will save lives

As average temperatures rise, people living in peri-urban Melbourne will be evacuated more frequently during bushfire risk days, especially when power companies shut supply to mitigate acute bushfire risks.


Whether people choose to leave early remains an open question, and if they do, a large population will increasingly come into the City of Melbourne's cool public places and riverbanks seeking safety. With homelessness a persistent and growing problem there will be larger numbers of people seeking refuge in 'the commons' when heat waves occur. Residents in areas where power loads are shed need focused support to seek refuge, as studies indicate a 50% increase in the number of residents who will die in areas where loads are shed to prevent widespread energy supply failure.


  • More flexible hours and back up power supplies in places of refuge (pools, movie theatres, shopping malls, libraries, public spaces, child care centres) would lift Melbourne's resilience through future heat waves
  • Pop up facilities supporting refuge along rivers and beaches would also benefit the community.
  • 20% of hotel rooms are typically vacant, and this capacity can become part of Melbourne's emergency response to support those seeking refuge through industry social responsibility programs
  • Melbourne's homeless community can be supported trough services that connect them to suburbs with spare, cool hotel capacity and safe public places - Apps can assist, mindful that people who don't have access to devices usually know people who do.





Hospitals are expensive refuges: people at risk can be quickly attended, but if they are sent home or back onto the streets, risks return. Retirement villages can be safe or clusters at great risk, depending on back up power supply and evacuation planning.


  • Hotels near hospitals can offer affordable refuge for elderly and homeless people - at a fraction of the cost of a hospital bed
  • Public-private hotel/hospital partnership can improve the efficiency of our health care system's response and save lives.
  • Plans should include ability to quickly bus elderly residents from heating retirement villages to safe zones where care can be provided by community health outreach such as St Johns Ambulance.






By 2025 Melbourne's power supply will be different, with economically attractive battery storage systems complementing today's energy grid.


Combined with solar and wind systems at the local level, more safe and cool places will emerge with a more flexible power grid. Working with the sun and wind, by taking advantage of a night breeze and solar energy - can enhance the community's well being.

Some parts of the city get hotter than others - thermal imagery reveals it can be half as hot under an established tree compared to in dark asphalt.

  • By 2025 Melbourne's urban forest is providing cool parkways with no resident being more than 300 metres from a cooler area.
  • With nature's help, cool zones are built into new areas including a Linear Parkland on Elizabeth St which is now a creek again, offering refuge to visitors and residents who may be stuck in the city as trains and roads shut down through extended heat.
  • A lot less water falls onto hard surfaces because Melbourne has adopted storm water harvesting systems everywhere possible - which also makes it possible to water the city's growing urban forest.





This conversation builds on a tradition of reaching out across boundaries to address Melbourne's resilience, and Green Cross Australia is proud to be a part of it.


In late 2013 Melbourne was one of 33 cities selected from hundreds of applicants around the world to become a recipient of Rockefeller Foundation's prestigious '100 Resilient Cities' centennial challenge. We look forward to seeing how Melbourne's new Resilience Strategy emerges, and how leadership through a Chief Resilience Officer takes this converstion to new levels right across the community.

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