New technologies, cost of natural disasters discussed at emergency management conference

DMC IMAGE 32 SARB JOHALMany of the region’s leading experts on emergency management have gathered on the Gold Coast to discuss emerging technologies in the field as well as the human and financial costs of natural disasters as reported by ABC News today.

More than 600 people from five countries are attending the two-day Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference (ANZDMC).

The delegates have discussed developments in technology that helps in planning and decision-making during emergencies, as well as crisis leadership and enhancing community resilience.

One keynote speaker, Dr Joanna Batstone, said her research team at IBM had been working on predictive analytics for future crises, extending to bushfire mapping and a dynamic app that recommends evacuation routes.

“Community resilience has to pull the millennial generation into the whole dialogue around resilience so there’s an empowerment of ownership in the younger generation,” she told delegates.

“The whole notion of social connectedness, whether it is embracing new ways of communication, reaching the broader community, is a piece to building the next generation of resilient communities.

DMC IMAGE 31 JOANNA BATSTONE“But you’ve got to take both your past experiences as well as the new data sets so you can do research around to being able to predict the future,” she added.

Despite advances in modelling, natural disasters will occur and their financial impact on taxpayers has been put under the microscope.

The Productivity Commission’s Jonathan Coppel told delegates there was an imbalance between the incentive to mitigate natural disasters and the response in terms of the recovery effort.

“Based on the figures only 3 per cent of resources went into natural disaster funding for mitigation at the Commonwealth level.

“There is a bias in the system which tends to lead to an overinvestment in relief and recovery and an underinvestment in mitigation.”

The Federal Government has yet to respond to the commission’s report.

The human cost of disasters was also discussed, with leading psychologist Dr Sarb Johal addressing psychosocial implications of disaster management.

“The shared experience of both going through a disaster oneself and having a job where one cares for others is a precarious balancing act.

“There is plenty of evidence that many are able to put aside personal concerns to be able to focus on delivering a service, but there is a burden attached to this.

“Research has identified that rescue and recovery workers engaged in disaster relief are at increased risk of developing mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.” Click to read more at ABC News.