We all live in a changing environment. As climate change starts to kick in and the intensity of extreme events affect more and more communities. It is important that all communities protect themselves with an objective of remaining safe.

In previous articles, I have spoken about recovery from severe events. In this article, we will look at how the severe weather warning system can help residents of any state prepare themselves for a worsening situation related to severe weather.

Who issues flood warnings?

In Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology (B.O.M.) is responsible for issuing warnings. Inturn, various emergency service organisations will then transmit these messages via various methods. Including local media, social media and where a clear and present threat exists via SMS or voice messages to landlines.

The B.O.M. monitor the weather closely and use technology to ensure severe weather warnings are accurate and up to date. Emergency services, who may be under pressure responding to the severe weather event. Will again promptly issue the appropriate warning for a given severe weather event.

Flooding on the road and blocking access

What do the different Severe Weather Warnings mean?

There are two major warning levels that are issued by B.O.M. Used to alert both the emergency services and community. They are broken down into various levels of warnings by local authorities. Most states in Australia issue information that is consistent with warnings being used across state borders.

The two main categories of warnings from B.O.M. are.

[1] Flood watch.

A flood watch indicates that the Bureau has identified a weather pattern that could develop into a severe weather event within one to two days. Their advice is issued to the authorities with detail so weather experts within the organisations can maintain a watch in relation to this warning. Again, using updates from the B.O.M.

[2] Flood Warning.

A flood warning indicates that flooding is likely to be imminent. Affecting communities within an area very soon or immediately. In some circumstances, the severe weather could already be happening. They are generally categorised into minor, moderate or major flood warnings.

[a] Minor flood warning.

This indicates the low lying areas, like riversides and campground, may be impacted by rising water. Residents of local communities may see the water coming up through drains. Potentially start to impact their properties, especially in low lying areas. A resident and community member using the road may find that minor roads and tracks have been covered by rising water. Attempting to enter the water may be unsafe.

[b] Moderate flood warning.

Moderate flood warming is the next level of concern. Furthermore, the floodwater is becoming more significant and may start to impact buildings, businesses, main roads. As well as the minor roads. There may be a requirement to evacuate some people in low lying areas to ensure their safety. Riverbanks that weren’t previously impacted by the minor flooding might have water spillover. Their bank and even breach flood mitigation infrastructure.

[c] Major Flood Warning.

A major flood warning is the highest level of flood warning and may require the significant evacuation of communities to keep them safe. Properties may become isolated or even severely affected by the rising water. In extreme cases, some buildings may be completely submerged. Lives may be at risk and many evacuations may be required.

Road infrastructure could be affected by stopping the transportation of food and supplies to communities. During a severe weather warning, of this type, the emergency services would be providing advice and responding to any threat to life and property.

A severe thunderstorm warning.

Thunderstorms are classified as severe when there is a likelihood of hailstones severe wind gusts or flash flooding. We have even seen in Australia recently the presence of destructive tornadoes. B.O.M. will also provide information on these when appropriate.

The objective of this type of warning is to alert communities that they should take shelter to protect themselves and their property. I.e. placing their car under shelter where it is less likely to be impacted by hail storms.

Flooding as a result of climate change

Severe Weather Warning.

As climate change starts to kick in. The potential for short severe storms seems to be increasing. B.O.M. is constantly assessing weather patterns. Identifying when and where these relatively short and destructive storms may occur. This type of warning is not directly related to severe thunderstorms or bushfires and often arrives without warning.

The S.E.S., who are the combatant agency for flooding, issue warning with an objective to provide information so families can make decisions that will keep them safe. Another method of warning, which is used significantly during a bushfire is as follows.

The emergency warning.

The danger is imminent and you need to take action immediately to protect yourself. You should expect to be impacted soon and your life may be in danger. Generally, the emergency services will send an SMS or voice message on the landline. But don’t expect this alert just in case infrastructure is compromised. Monitor conditions via local radio channels or other communication methods.

A Watch and Act.

There is an emergency developing in your local area. You need to take action to protect yourself and others. Ensuring that you continue to monitor the situation and implement any plan you have for such events, including flooding.


There is an incident in your area. It may have been downgraded or it could be developing. There is a need to monitor conditions and remain alert. Even when the advice is communicated because there is no current danger to you.

Community Information.

Information may be transmitted about an incident that occurs in the local area. There is no current threat to your community. A type of communication, like this, may occur during the recovery phase of an incident simply to keep the communities updated on current information.

In conclusion.

Severe weather warnings are important way authorities and the weather bureau can alert communities that there is the potential or immediate threat of rising water or severe storms. Information, like this, is designed to keep communities safe and reduce the associated risks.

Information about developing situations can be the difference between making a good or bad decision. Potentially compromising you and/or your families life.

By Ken Walker

Hi, I'm Ken. I am the owner and senior director of Syncretic training Group Pty Ltd. If you have any questions about the website content or require guidance please let us know we are always happy to help.

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