Catastrophic warning doesn’t follow Oxford interpretation, says Koperberg

Catastrophic warning doesn’t follow Oxford interpretation, says Koperberg

12 January 2010

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Australia — The word “catastrophic” should not be used as a predictor of bushfire conditions, the former head of the NSW Rural Fire Service said.

Blue Mountains state MP and former RFS commissioner Phil Koperberg said the new fire danger rating of “catastrophic” was inappropriate.

The top level warning in the national fire ratings system was introduced in response to Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires which killed 173 people.

“The Oxford English Dictionary … defines extreme as to the highest degree possible,” Mr Koperberg told ABC Radio today.

“So the terminology is, in my view, not consistent with use of the language.

“‘Catastrophe’ … and its derivative `catastrophic’ signal a disastrous end and event causing much damage or suffering.

“To use that as a predictor is, in my view, inappropriate.

“Catastrophic is a consequence, it’s not a predictor of what might happen. It’s an end result.”

Mr Koperberg said the index might be refined in the future.

“It may well be that the uppermost of that scale will be extreme and that terminologies like, ‘If a fire occurs in these extreme conditions the consequence could well be catastrophic’ (will be used).”

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