Being better prepared, more capable and more resilient in disaster

DMC 30The 5th Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference wrapped up on Tuesday after two days of meaningful collaboration and discussion of issues impacting preparedness, resilience, response and capability.

Closing Keynote Speaker Associate Professor Brett Aimers Adjunct Associate Professor, James Cook University and Director of the Australian Institute of Emergency Services highlighted the importance of recognising and overcoming ‘pernicious traditions’ by reflecting upon lessons learned helping us change proactively instead of reactively and the importance of making decisions based on real-time intelligence in dealing with larger scale disasters in the Asia-Pacific region.

More than 600 people from five countries attended, including leaders in their field, networked with peers and contributed towards a collaboration of discussion across a broad range of topics covered within the theme of ‘Earth, Fire and Rain’.

The Conference opened with Keynote Speaker Commissioner Katarina Carroll, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services who discussed the role of a leader in a crisis, how a crisis can bring out the best in leadership and how we can better prepare for, respond to and recover from a crisis.

Keynote Speaker Mr Jonathan Coppel, Productivity Commissioner – Natural Disaster Funding, Productivity Commission spoke next about the Productivity Commission’s Assessment of Australia’s Natural Disaster Funding Arrangements, proposed reforms and the role of wider policy measures and risk management.

Dr Joanna L. Batstone, Vice President and Lab Director at IBM Research Australia presented on proactive disaster and emergency management through data assimilation analysis, modelling and visualisation and how bush fire modelling and risk analytics has helped enable creation of models for layout evacuation plans such as identifying where to put fire shelters and models for showing personal dynamics.

Integrated data on weather, town planning and risk data help build up models that look at the static risk within a community and how dynamic risk models can be applied to assess property damage and help carry out better evacuations.

Mental health in disaster was a key topic as discussed by Associate Professor Sarb Johal, from the Joint Centre for Disaster Research at Massey University, New Zealand who covered the psychosocial implications of disaster management in particular the impact of shared trauma on health care professionals following the Canterbury earthquakes.

He talked about how stories we tell ourselves in recovery can lead to a dead end and how post disaster adaptation might be more useful so people adapt to the environment and the places that they find themselves, having a say in how their life is shaped after being displaced and experiencing of loss of place.

The frequency of disasters in Queensland will increase into the future as mentioned by Keynote Speaker Mr Brendan Moon from the Queensland Reconstruction Authority who talked about technologies and capability needs such as using a GPS enabled data collector, mobile phone and tablet as three very simple but effective technologies to use following the immediate aftermath of disaster.

Ms Julie Molloy, Director, Social Engagement, Volunteering QLD discussed how volunteers are viewed as the best of society and their help is as needed in the first few days as much as it’s needed in the weeks and months following a disaster.

A better understanding of developments in technology to aid planning and decision-making during emergencies was gained, as well as ideas around crisis leadership, enhancing community resilience, recruiting, training and retaining volunteers.

Feedback from delegates was extremely positive and with extensive range of topics across five streams attending all sessions proved to be difficult task, however podcasts of all the sessions will be available to delegates very soon.