Eddie Cowie and his family hid under the stairwell as the roof of their Rockhampton home was ripped off during Cyclone Marcia in 2015.
- Eddie Cowie is making resilient modifications to his Rockhampton house
- Skye and Michael Bottero are building a “disaster proof” home in Yeppoon
- Architects say they’ve had an increase in requests for disaster proof designs
Not only was the State Emergency Service controller dealing with his own family’s heartbreak, he was called to assist thousands of others across central Queensland who were impacted by the severe event.
“[It was] like a mini tornado spinning around the eye of the cyclone … that pressure actually broke the frames up in our ceiling and lifted our roof,” Mr Cowie said.
“It basically popped all the screws and nails and sucked our whole roof up.”
Mr Cowie said along with the roof being torn off, debris flew through his house smashing windows and fly screens, trees crashed over their fence line and outdoor furniture was whipped across the yard.
After recovering from the cyclone, and witnessing the devastation of floods, bushfires and storms as a first responder in the Rockhampton region, Mr Cowie is now doing everything he can to make his home more disaster resilient.
“We looked at where we could mitigate … where we could prevent, but also, what can we do to actually really prepare our home for potentially another event,” Mr Cowie said.
Mr Cowie said making resilient renovations to his home gave him a sense of safety and should be front of mind for all Australians.
“We’ve replaced all of our windows with different glass and different frames but we’ve also ensured this time that we put … metal mesh over the whole window so that it’s going to protect all that glass,” he said.
Mr Cowie said setting up access to a generator for backup power and having an easy plan to secure outdoor items were also key.
“When we know that there’s a storm coming, or if there’s any threat of a future cyclone, we’ve got a really clear checklist of the things we should be doing,” he said.
Building a ‘disaster proof’ home
Michael and Skye Bottero moved to the coastal central Queensland town of Yeppoon in January 2022 and are in the process of building a “disaster proof” home.
Ms Bottero said they did their research in order to build a home that worked with the climate instead of against it.
“We’re using extra thick roofing … that’s for storms [and] hail resistance so we don’t have to replace the roof, aluminium windows, which are a semi commercial frame, and stronger flyscreens,” Ms Bottero said.
Mr Bottero is a builder and said he designed the home to protect against a variety of extreme weather conditions.
“We’re considering fire, we’re considering wind loads, we’re considering heavy rain, we’re considering hail,” Mr Bottero said.
Mr Bottero said there were specific codes that had to be met when building a new home, but his design included higher grade materials that go beyond the average standard, giving it extra resilience.
“Your choice of materials is extremely important … your different grades in your roofing … your cladding, coming from experience I know what lasts,” he said.
Ms Bottero said she felt safe knowing her new home would have a better chance of withstanding a disaster.
“It’s definitely … more expensive. You need more materials. But … then what’s the value of losing everything?”
‘Massive’ increase in requests for disaster proof designs
Brisbane architect Dion Seminara specialises in flood-proof house designs and said he’d experienced an increase in clients coming to him since the 2011 floods.
“[It] took off significantly after 2011… after every event there’s a barrage of calls that come in,” Mr Seminara said.
Mr Seminara said building a flood-proof home started with getting a flood study done or looking at council flood mapping.
“Once we’ve got that, then we can obviously take it away and design specifically for your site needs,” he said.
“If we can raise the house… that is the first way.”
Mr Seminara said if he’s working with a slab home on a ground level, options included polished concrete as flooring and raised cabinetry.
“You could have polished concrete… You certainly can’t have any cabinet work in the way. And you really have to know your levels.”
Complacency still an issue
As an SES controller Mr Cowie said there was still complacency within the community when it came to understanding the risks and preparing for disaster, despite all the information available to people.
“It’s a real challenge for us,” Mr Cowie said.
“Every local government has a disaster dashboard that identifies the risk of communities… so much information is available.”
Mr Cowie said the more people understood the risks relevant to them, the more they could prepare and the better they would respond in times of emergency.
“If you understand the risk… and how you need to manage it, we know that that naturally builds resilience,” Mr Cowie said.
“From resilience we know that people cope better both in the lead up to, during, and in the recovery of those events.”