Changing Expectations: Local Leaders in Community Disaster Preparedness

The 2018 Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference is almost here again, this year the Conference will be held over the 21-22 May at The Star Gold Coast.

Assoc Prof Valerie Ingham, Associate Professor Of Emergency Management at Charles Sturt University joins us to discuss ‘Changing Expectations: Local Leaders in Community Disaster Preparedness’.

Assoc Prof Valerie Ingham

Local community organisations play a pivotal, although often unacknowledged, role in Australian communities. In particular, managers of Neighbourhood Centres have a responsibility to facilitate and increase social capital and to assist the most vulnerable (National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, COAG 2011).

Recent disasters in NSW have highlighted the vital work of local community organisations in relation to knowing who and where vulnerable people are, organising disaster assistance and delivering household disaster preparedness education in the lead up to the next disaster season. We investigated the immediate impact and subsequent recovery of the community through the perspectives of eight community leaders, news reports and a variety of meetings involving community leaders responsible for shaping the steps to community recovery after the 2013 Blue Mountain fires. We found some community leaders experienced marginalisation and that their role went largely unacknowledged by traditional response agencies, especially in relation to communication of important information and the incorporation of local community leaders into disaster planning, response and recovery processes.

Our presentation will also incorporate the existing and potential roles of local community leaders in other Australian local disasters through an examination of various research reports and inquiries. Our recommendations will focus on recognising, at the practical and policy levels, the incorporation of community leaders into all phases of the disaster cycle.

We suggest the strength of organisational connectedness between local community and local emergency services may be a viable measure of a community’s disaster resilience. We encourage further research to explore whether the strength of local community organisation connectedness is a function of experiencing recent disaster.

Valerie Ingham lecturers in Emergency Management at Charles Sturt University. She is a founding member of the Disaster and Community Resilience Research Group and her research interests include community resilience, disaster recovery and the tertiary education of emergency managers and fire investigators. Recently her research has focused on highlighting the importance of local community organisations in building community connections for disaster resilience.

For more information on the 2018 Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference and to secure your spot, visit the conference website.