In this final instalment of my series on the Recent trends in and preparedness for extreme weather events Inquiry I’ll address the remaining terms of reference in a roundabout way. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 here. The remaining terms deal with Australia’s overall response to climate change adaptation and national coordination of risk management. I want to address the impact of climate change on severe weather events being far from the only climate impact relevant to emergency management; climate change adaptation being far from the only emerging challenge in emergency management; and the interconnectedness of many current and emerging threats for Australia and the world.
(f) progress in developing effective national coordination of climate change response and risk management, including legislative and regulatory reform, standards and codes, taxation arrangements and economic instruments;
(g) any gaps in Australia’s Climate Change Adaptation Framework and the steps required for effective national coordination of climate change response and risk management; and
(h) any related matter.
Further submissions have come in in the past week or so and I move onto the fifth instalment in my series on the extreme weather trends and emergency preparedness senate inquiry. See part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4. This term of reference relates to federalism and emergency management:
(e) the current roles and effectiveness of the division of responsibilities between different levels of government (federal, state and local) to manage extreme weather events;
The division of emergency management responsibilities is a product of Australia’s history of federalism. I’m going to try and restrict this discussion to just responsibilities and ignore the role money has to play in federalism and emergency management through vertical fiscal imbalance and horizontal fiscal inequity.
The recent spate of large natural disasters in Australia has a lot of people asking whether we are in some sort of “new normal” of regular catastrophic disasters. I believe such comments demonstrate a lack of sense of history – disasters, even catastrophic disasters, are a regular feature of the Australian landscape. Disasters ARE normal, there’s nothing new about it.
I thought I’d take a look at another 10 year period to demonstrate; I’ve picked the 1930s. Here’s a brief summary of significant disasters in that decade:
- 1930 – Widespread flooding in Queensland – 6 deaths
- 1932 – Bushfire in Gippsland – 9 deaths
- 1934 – Cyclone in North Queensland – 99 deaths
- 1934 – Flooding in Melbourne and Victoria – 35 deaths and 400 homes destroyed
- 1935 – Cyclone in Broome WA – 141 deaths and pearling fleet destroyed
- 1938/39 – Heatwave, 438 deaths, and the Black Friday bushfires with 71 deaths in Victoria, 6 in NSW and 1000 homes destroyed.
- 1939/40 – Heatwave 112 deaths
- 1940 – Burdekin Flood, Queensland – 3 deaths
- The new State Emergency Management Plan (EMPlan) has been published. Consistent with recent changes to the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act it expands the roles of functional areas and names agency responsibilities across PPRR. It’s also a much shorter document clocking it at 35 pages excluding annexes (79 with) versus 51 pages in the old DISPLAN (98 with annexes).
- A new guide: Government, you and what to do – A Guide to Natural Disasters in NSW, which contains comprehensive information about natural disasters in NSW; what individuals, families and businesses can do before, during, and after them; and what risk management activities the Government is undertaking. It also includes handy guides, checklists, social media links and other useful information.
For those in emergency management in NSW – good luck for tomorrow. Anyone wanting to find good information here’s a couple of recommendations:
- Head to the NSW RFS Website, Facebook Page or follow them on Twitter. You can also download the NSW version of the Firesnearme app for iPhone and Android.
- Tune in to ABC Radio (frequency list here) or follow @ABCemergency on Twitter.
- Don’t forget to look out the window.
And if you’re looking to help out with the Tasmanian Bush Fires Appeal go to the Red Cross website.
*Some media sources are pegging it as the worst fire danger day on record for the state. I’m not so sure. It will probably be the worst for at least 10-20 years, but I’m not sure it would eclipse the fire danger (although this was before the FFDI index was even invented) during the heatwave of 1939 (which set many of the individual temperature records in NSW).