Challenges of Resilience in Emergency Management


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Presentation given to Sydney Metropolitan Area Integrated Regional Vulnerability Assessment hosted by Office of Environment & Heritage.
Looking at climate change and some of the challenges facing the emergency management sector around adaptation and resilience

Emergency Management Workshop
4th December 2013

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Challenges of Resilience in Emergency Management

  1. 1. Office of Environment & Heritage Sydney Metropolitan Area Integrated Regional Vulnerability Assessment Emergency Management Workshop 4th December 2013 Lew Short Principal, Emergency Management & Resilience
  2. 2. My Role Today • Give us a Sydney perspective and challenge participants to understand that climate change is real, happening and urgent with a silo-busting approach. “Poke the bear…”
  3. 3. “The world has entered the era of ‘mega crisis’ or catastrophic emergencies’ whose force and magnitude defy even the best laid plans and the most robust response systems” Professor Paul ‘t Hart
  4. 4. Emergency Management policy is getting more complex • People expect information as it arrives • Previous good responses may have created a culture of immediacy in the community • Peoples ability to make appropriate decisions under stress is limited • Peoples ability to understand their risk and act on this in an informed way is limited
  5. 5. Australia vulnerable in a warming planet, IPCC Report • Climate change will increase the likelihood of deaths from heat stress and bushfires, and potentially place more than a quarter of a million Australian homes at risk from rising sea levels. • Cities such as Sydney will see heat-related deaths soar by the end of the century, the draft said. • Without adaptation, heat-related deaths could triple to 7.4 per 100,000 in 2070-99, from 2.5 in 1960-99. • Mental health issues, water- and food-borne diseases will increase under global warming projections. • Floods may also worsen. One study found that 50year and 100-year flood peaks will rise 10-20 per cent by 2050, the draft document noted.
  6. 6.
  7. 7. Most expensive Black Saturday Feb 2009 The commission's final report estimates the cost at $4.4 billion Blue Mountains bush fires $183m
  8. 8. Cyclone Tracey 74 deaths
  9. 9. Cyclone Tracey 74 deaths
  10. 10. • Israel’s survival is due to the Mossad policy of the “10th Man”: • For every potential threat, one out of 10 people in the agency assigned to the case needs to take it seriously, no matter how farfetched it may seem.
  11. 11. Defensive Limit to safe operation of helicopters (~50km/h) Indirect attack Parallel attack Limit to direct attack Potential: • Loss of radio & telco towers • Loss of situational awareness
  12. 12. Capacity of community to receive and act on triggers
  13. 13. Future Resilience Challenges • More frequent & intense natural disasters (longer & deeper droughts, more frequent & intense bushfires, heatwaves, more costly storms & floods); • There will be more of us (around 25 million in 2020) & aged population; • Catastrophic events will overwhelm emergency services & government will not be able to meet the response phase of an event; • The community will continue to be first responders (ie they will be the first on scene and will begin to assist) and will self mobilise (social media i.e. “Tassie Fires We can Help” ( and “Cyclone Yasi Update” (; • Natural disasters will cost us a lot (around $12 billion by 2030) • Insurers will be price signalling to reflect risk & exposure; • Harmonising landuse planning and building codes on an all hazards, all agency basis that is consistent across the country; • Expectations of the community will be for no loss of life, real time information and warnings; • We will be network centric; • More warnings and evacuations
  14. 14. Code based Resilience • Buildings and infrastructure must have the resilience to accommodate climate change . • The Insurance Council of Australia, in a recent submission to the Productivity Commission, outlined that the National Code of Construction – “permits the construction of buildings (at a minimum standard) that include no element of durability (property protection), creating a stock of buildings that whilst ‘safe’ are increasingly brittle to extreme weather events”. • Under current code objectives — health, safety, amenity and sustainability — buildings are primarily designed and built to reduce risks to human life, rather than to minimise damage to the building. • National Code of Construction is not applicable to existing buildings, which form the majority of the building stock… retrofitting?
  15. 15. Insured V Non- Insured Coonabarabran, Yass and Shoalhaven 1.4 million hectares burned, 62 homes destroyed and 50,000 stock • An interesting policy dilemma may be shaping up regarding peoples actions during bushfires • Fully insured residents were the least likely (23%) to stay and defend their properties, with 45% of underinsured and 38% of uninsured saying they would do so. Many NSW bushfire victims lack full cover • At face value it seems those that are at risk of financial hardship are taking a more risky path to stay & defend their property. • While there are not mandatory evacuations in many jurisdictions it presents a series of issues, linked in part by peoples socio-economic means to have insurance – Vic “pecuniary interest in a property”
  16. 16. Out of Scale Events • Profound changes in the way we consume information • How does government deal with non government in a disaster? • Why are more people turning to NGO in disaster? Speed, capability & nimbleness issues? Maybe constraint issues? D. Kaufman FEMA • Big events expose the vulnerability of government – – – – Hurricane Sandy 25,000 people seeking shelter 18m people without power 100m Americans experienced the storm 118 deaths
  17. 17. The 10th Man • What happens when out of scale events or a series of concurrent events within NSW or around the country stretch resources beyond their capacity & capability – Loss of situational awareness – Surge capability – Society breakdown??
  18. 18. Winmalee Sydney Basin drained of fire fighting resources and sent to the Mountains • What if fires had been burning in northern or southern Sydney OR started in these places when the resources were away?
  19. 19. Challenge: How to make information accessible • In a way that provokes a response • Gives greater understanding of risk • Initiates action and adaptation • Builds capacity • Enhances resilience • & is not based on emergency services
  20. 20. EM Challenges • Catastrophic & out of scale events • Ability to manage large scale asymmetric events • Situational awareness in complex environments • Loss of situational awareness • Coordinated operations & integrated doctrine • Communications & information management • Social media & first responders • Surge capability • Partnerships with NGO & private sector • All hazards, all agency Framed in consideration of climate change, resilience and out of scale events
  21. 21. Adaptive Leadership • Technical responses are relatively easy • Adaptive management & leadership is hard • A process of understanding, exchanging information, working together and learning is needed. • This is an uneasy process. People don’t adapt easily. They deny the problem, they resist the pain that is needed to deal with the situation, they avoid the work to be done. That’s where leadership is needed. • Leadership is putting the finger on the real challenges that threaten our survival and changing the mindset of the many.
  22. 22. Lew Short Principal, Emergency Management & Resilience Eco Logical Australia 0419 203 853 Lew Short Lewshort14