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Tokyo Olympics – Will they be prepared?

The 2020 Olympics has been announced for Tokyo, one of the most earthquake prone megacities on the planet. The 2011 Sendai quake has also upped the chances of a big quake in the Tokyo area.

Despite extensive disaster preparedness for earthquakes Tokyo still has many vulnerabilities, and the clean-up of the Fukushima disaster will still be ongoing as the games get underway.

Plenty of Olympics have been held in disaster prone cities: Beijing, Athens, Los Angeles, Montreal, Mexico City and Rome all have high earthquake hazards, but fortunately a major natural disaster has not been visited on an Olympic Games. The 1908 games were originally going to be held in Rome, but were moved to London after the 1906 eruption of Mt Vesuvius led to financial pressures on the Italian Government. The worst olympics disaster in history was the terrorist attack on the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, and with billion dollar security budgets terrorism has been foremost in the minds of games’ organisers in recent years.

Although risk management has become a new priority for the IOC, assessment of disaster and emergency preparedness, particularly for natural disasters appears to be brief.

With the influx of athletes, officials and visitors Japan will need to put in place special measures to ensure that they are as prepared as the rest of the population, upgrade emergency response units and ensure that construction for the games is specially hardened – and that’s just for starters. A disaster ready games will be expensive and for a nation already faced with the recovery bill of the 2011 quake and tsunami and the clean-up of Fukushima it will be difficult for it to face up to the challenge. But the costs of not being prepared can be far greater.

 

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Extreme weather. Extreme planning. Extremely necessary?

In a piece published in the SMH yesterday Anthony Bergin, Director of Research Programs at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, argues that climate change will require greater preparedness for our emergency services. That doesn’t necessarily need to be the case.

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NSW EM Updates and Fire Danger

As Tasmania continues to face terrible bush fires and NSW gears up for a day of catastrophic fire danger in many areas*, I noted two new developments in NSW emergency management:

  • 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).

Dancing and Disaster Management

Aside from disaster management, one of my other passions is swing dancing. It appears that I’m not the only one to combine the two – check out this video from the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Red Cross:

Illness spreads really easy at swing dance camps, with their combinations of lots of contact with many different people, lack of sleep, poor diet and less than fastidious hygiene. Some of the sicknesses even have their own names, e.g. the dreaded Herrang Flu.

It’s as good a time as any to remember that a pandemic is never far away. For information about how institutions and governments can prepare, check out the WHO website.

And Happy New Year!

A Global Emergency Number

The World Conference On International Telecommunications that is just finishing up in Dubai, has attracted most attention for proposals for greater internet regulation. But the conference and the International Telecommunications Union looks after many things besides the internet.

One of these is the emergency calling number (in Australia 000), in particular for mobile devices (in Australia 112 will work on all GSM mobiles).

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Climate Change, Extreme Weather and Emergency Preparedness Senate Inquiry: Part 2

As a new report shows greenhouse gas emissions are putting the globe on a track for 4-6ºC of warming by the end of the century I’ll continue my series on the Senate Recent trends in and preparedness for extreme weather events Inquiry. In the last instalment I looked at current and historical trends in extreme weather and attribution of them to climate change. In this post I look forward to the next ToR:

(b) based on global warming scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of 1 to 5 degrees by 2070:

(i) projections on the frequency of extreme weather events, including but not limited to drought, bushfires, heatwaves, floods and storm surges,

(ii) the costs of extreme weather events and impacts on natural ecosystems, social and economic infrastructure and human health, and

(iii) the availability and affordability of private insurance, impacts on availability and affordability under different global warming scenarios, and regional social and economic impacts; (more…)

Climate Change, Extreme Weather and Emergency Preparedness Senate Inquiry: Part 1

This week the Australian Greens established a Senate Inquiry on extreme weather and emergency preparedness. The inquiry will be conducted by the Environment and Communications Reference Committee. Details and instructions on making submissions can be found here.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be addressing each of the terms of reference on this blog, gathering and summarising relevant literature and providing my own opinion. I’ll also add some context around past state and federal inquiries and other activities of a similar nature and outline why I don’t believe this inquiry will make a significant difference in the preparedness of our emergency services. Submissions are due by 18 January 2013 and the committee is due to report on 20 March 2013 (I expect that the deadline will probably need to be extended).

Today I’ll examine the first ToR. Warning – heavy science content.

(a) recent trends on the frequency of extreme weather events, including but not limited to drought, bushfires, heatwaves, floods and storm surges;

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