Griffith University: Griffith hosts vital disaster debrief and planning sessions

Disaster management experts have gathered at Griffith University’s Nathan campus (18 and 19 October) for the inaugural Resilience in Practice Symposium, coinciding with the 10-year anniversary of the Queensland-wide floods in 2011.

Taken together with the pandemic, disaster agencies have dealt with back-to-back and often overlapping disasters of one kind or another for around 500 consecutive days, making it difficult to pause to incorporate new learnings and better develop community resilience.

Dr Piet Filet, from Griffith’s Australian Rivers Institute (ARI) and the Flood Community of Practice (COP) network, said while the disaster management cycle had a rhythm, recent times had certainly tested the traditional model.

“We are accustomed to a cycle of prevent, prepare, respond, recover, then prevent, prepare, respond, recover, known as PPRR,” Dr Filet explained.

“In the past that tended to be linear, providing a rest for at least a season before floods come back, or at least a season before fires return but now, we have a constant Covid event with an overlay of flood and fire that is essentially merging, so our decision makers are always on. They have not had a break.”

The Flood COP network, and partners from state and federal government departments, non-government organisations and the insurance industry, all key players in disaster co-ordination, response and recovery, will meet at Griffith to reflect on the consequences of decision making and ways to achieve greater community resilience.

Pro Vice Chancellor (Sciences) Professor Andrew Smith said Griffith was pleased to play a pivotal role in bringing the disaster community together.

“Both through our leading research and our state-of-the-art infrastructure, Griffith University is proud to play an important role in facilitating conversations about community resilience and ways in which our own resources, both physical and people can better support disaster readiness,” he said.

“We are also exploring new digital tools that can further support efforts around resilience, particularly in the area of flood prevention and preparation.”

Held over two days, the Queensland Resilience in Practice Symposium, which includes a Flood Resilience Forum, will feature plenary and panel sessions along with interactive scenarios so that attendees can observe, reflect and discuss the roleplays.

On the first day of the Symposium, the Queensland Reconstruction Authority ran a recovery exercise to inform planning, preparedness and resilience.

The highlight of the Symposium’s second day of activities was the Flood Resilience Forum, which featured three interactive scenarios involving around 40 participants (delegates and actors) followed by discussion and feedback.

The activities build on previous events hosted by the Flood Community of Practise in March and April earlier this year.

Dr Filet said the disaster management community in Australia had built a strong skill set to respond and recover from major Flood events but interactive scenarios like these, provided insights into long-term outcomes from response and recovery efforts. This will help deliver greater proactive resilience.

“These events are about learning how we can translate that expertise into more proactive measures that reduce the impact of flood events, well in advance of the events occurring,” he said.

“The forecast cumulative costs of not building adaptation and mitigation measures to future flood events are prohibitive and at this event we aim to better understand the professional skills and decision making needs to enable a transition to more plan and prepare efforts, while maintaining the respond and recover expertise.”

Flood Resilience Forum scenarios:

Response: Features of a Disaster Co-ordination Centre
Recovery: Features of an Evacuation Centre and Recovery Hub
Prevent, Prepare and embed Resilience: Features of Planning and Preparedness.

Australian Red Cross delivered the Recovery scenario activity. Red Cross Emergency Services State Liaison and Engagement Lead Eleanor Carter said it was a valuable opportunity to explore in greater depth the strengths and challenges of evacuation centre operations, and how they impact on evacuees.

“As a global and community-based humanitarian movement Red Cross has a long history of responding to disasters wherever they occur,” she said.

“We acknowledge the important role of communities and agencies in planning for, responding to, and recovering from disasters.

“We are pleased to support this initiative by facilitating an evacuation centre scenario, which highlights the complexities of community evacuation, and the coordinated approach required for effective response.”

The inaugural Resilience in Practice Symposium is a joint event developed in partnership with Griffith University, the Flood Community of Practice, Suncorp, Queensland Reconstruction Authority and the National Recovery and Resilience Agency.

All sessions and experiential learning activities were run in Griffith’s newest learning and teaching facility, the Engineering, Technology and Aviation building known as N79, which features specialised laboratories, engineering high bay labs with cranes and gantries, workshops, informal learning spaces, a technology floor, science super lab, a simulation studio and engagement spaces located around a central atrium which can exhibit for example, a suspended light aircraft or vehicle.