What is a upper story flood free refuge: A flood free refuge is a specially designed area in a property where occupants can escape too during rapidly rising flood water. It is essential that a flood free refuge is fail safe i.e. the building is able to withstand water pressure and debris impact forces, the refuge floor level is above the possible maximum flood height, it is accessible to all people on site, there is an escape option and it is fitted with emergency lighting, an emergency first aid kit including candles and a fire extinguisher. Upper story flood free refuges are usually only considered appropriate when: “there are no other practical flood management options available; evacuation is not possible due to lack of flood warning i.e. generally flash flood situations; flooding is of short duration; or it is safer to shelter than evacuate” (NFRAG, 2012)
Improves community access and recreational use:
Not applicable. Why? The upper story flood free refuges are designed to create a safe refuge area above maximum possible flood heights. As such upper story flood free refuges cannot improve community access and recreational use
Does not disadvantage individual members of the community:
Upper story flood free refuges may disadvantage individual members of the community. Why? Upper story flood free refuge construction methodologies may limit access to mobility impaired individuals as stairs are typically utilised to reach the refuge.
Provides safety to the community during flooding:
Upper story flood free refuges may provide safety to the community during flooding. Why? Well designed flood free refuges can improve safety to vulnerable individuals particularly in flash flood locations. Generally however, upper story flood free refuges should be treated as a last resort as fires and medical emergencies can occur, creating potentially life threatening situations for the occupants. As a result, they can provide a false sense of security and increase risk to life.
Raises community awareness and understanding of the local flood risk:
Upper story flood free refuges may improve community awareness and understanding of the local flood risk. Why? If a property has been designed with flooding in mind the occupants and nearby residents are generally reminded of the potential flood damages that could occur in the local community.
Does not threaten local plants and animals and their habitat:
Upper story flood free refuges do not cause negative environmental and ecological impacts. Why? Upper story flood free refuges generally do not threaten local plants and animals as the works are usually within the footprint of the existing dwelling or permissible future dwelling.
Does not cause water quality issues:
Upper story flood free refuges generally do not cause negative water quality impacts. Why? Upper story flood free refuges generally do not adversely affect the nearby stream or rivers water quality, as the works are undertaken within strict building controls.
Initial Costs (i.e design/construction) require minimal council expenditure:
Upper story flood free refuges have no initial costs to council Why? The construction of upper story flood free refuge works are undertaken by the individual property owner and there are no subsidies available.
Requires minimal ongoing council expenditure after implementation:
Upper story flood free refuges require no ongoing costs to council. Why? As mentioned above Upper story flood free refuges are the responsibility of the property owner to reduce risk to life.
Reduces flood damages to the community:
Upper story flood free refuges may reduce flood related annual average damages to the community. Why? Properties that are designed with upper story flood free refuge, are constructed to withstand high levels of water pressure and impact. As a result they are usually constructed of pre-cast concrete or masonry which generally reduce damages during flood events.
Does not cause negative flood impacts to other areas (both upstream and downstream):
Upper story flood free refuges generally do not cause adverse impacts to other areas. Why? The construction of upper story flood free refuge works are usually undertaken within the footprint of an existing dwelling or must adhere to strict Council development controls and as such should have no adverse impacts both upstream and downstream.
NFRAG (2012). Managing the floodplain: Best Practice In Flood Risk Management In Australia-Consultation draft. Canberra, Australia.