Research outputs and artefacts

03 Jul 2017

Community resilience - a statement on research priorities for natural hazards emergency management in Australia

Throughout 2015-2017, emergency service agencies around Australia participated in workshops hosted by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC to consider the major issues in natural hazards emergency management.

This publication on community resilience summarises the outcomes of one of these workshops and poses questions as a guide for a national research agenda in natural hazard emergency management.

Recognising that a large segment of the Australian community is not active in their own preparedness for emergencies and natural disasters, the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience (NSDR) purposely advocates for the community to be active participants in their own resilience. This represents a major policy shift in emergency management moving from the traditional position of the emergency services serving the community, to where the community is empowered to act as its own agent in emergency management.

There are a series of community engagement activities that the emergency management sector can utilise to build community resilience. All of these activities centre on the concepts of shared responsibility and community resilience which encourages the active participation of individuals, businesses and communities in government processes and in this case emergency management and the preparedness for emergencies.

There is growing public interest in emergency management policy with governments wanting to demonstrate impact and positive outcomes for the community. There are some fundamental questions on how to demonstrate whether or not the treatments currently being used are effective, and to what extent they are effective. For example, there is strong evidence that supports traditional risk treatments such as building levees for flood protection. However, there is currently no equivalent evidence for possible benefits of shared responsibility and community resilience.

In recent years, there has been a shifting paradigm impacting on emergency management organisations. No longer are they expected to be solely ‘response’ focused (although this is still a primary responsibility when emergencies or disasters happen); they also carry responsibility for community engagement and information management.

To that end there needs to be a shared understanding of what emergency services are able to do so that expectations are realistic and attitudes consistent with sharing responsibility. Communities must have available to them the information and resources to share that responsibility. For that reason, considerable attention is being paid to ensuring that the community is as informed as possible and able to make appropriate choices when it comes to exposure to risk in areas susceptible to natural and other hazards.

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