In times of disaster, effective communications and efficient supply chains are crucial.
The recent flooding crisis in Queensland and NSW has shown the road to recovery following a natural disaster is a lengthy road with many bumps along the way.
From cleaning up to building resilience, there are challenges that can overwhelm local, regional, state and even national capabilities.
Those involved in disaster management and affected communities need to know who is responsible for what and how help will be delivered, and communication across departments and with the public needs to be clear and consistent.
The scale and severity of disasters vary and can cause mass destruction and interference with infrastructure, housing, medical facilities, communications, agriculture and industry.
Irrespective of the severity of disaster and logistic supply challenges, community expectations in the response and recovery phase are high.
And while disaster planning and response is much better than it was a decade ago, there are still many lessons we can learn.
In the aftermath of the February floods, we saw some people clean up only to be inundated with water again days later. Many of those affected were left without power for days (and in some cases weeks), while supermarket shelves were bare because of disruption to produce supply.
In Australia, local, district, state/territory and federal governments all have various responsibilities in planning for and responding to disasters. However, it is not up to government alone. Communities are also responsible for their preparedness and response to natural disasters.
Local communities are best placed to lead recovery as they have intimate knowledge of the local area, assets and resources.
The best model, however, is a whole-of-community approach that involves families, community groups and businesses, and government to deliver recovery goals and build resilience.
For governments, sourcing reliable supplies and inventory is the main challenge immediately before and after disaster hits. Assembly of resources post event can often be chaotic and inefficient despite planning and putting personnel on standby.
And, while donated goods can be helpful, they need to be effectively managed. Key ‘life support’ items such as food, toilet paper, toothpaste, drinking water and clothing are the main things needed in the initial stages of disaster response and recovery, yet some well-intentioned people donate items like fridges and TVs that affected residents have no immediate use for and nowhere to store. However, these items can be accepted if the right warehousing, inventory, and distribution is set up. This way people can register their needs and collect the donated goods when the time is right, even if it is in six months’ time.
Improving disaster management, recovery and response in Australia
Unpredictable natural disasters will be prevalent in the years ahead and may become more frequent.
We have already seen how Brisbane’s one-in-100-year flood in 2011 occurred again only 11 years later.
Regional and remote locations will remain particularly vulnerable with more extreme weather events predicted. Based on recent regional disaster events alone, disaster recovery is a very large regional sector worth an estimated $60 billion.
Improving disaster management, recovery and response while also building resilience, therefore, is imperative.
The Federal Government recently announced a raft of measures to help with the recovery from the Queensland and NSW flood crisis. This includes giving $1.7m to Emergency Management Australia to integrate with the National Resource Sharing Centre so that resources across states, territories and the Commonwealth are better shared during significant disasters. To help build resilience, the Federal Government will spend $10 million on mental health care and trauma education for school students affected by the recent floods in northern NSW.
Recent disasters have shown that real-time resource identification, allocation and timely deployment is still lagging in disaster response. We know that governments are still seeking to improve deployment speed, precision and efficiency. The four most important questions every level of government asks in a disaster scenario are: Who do I call? What do I need? When will it be here? How much will it cost?
So how can disaster management and response in Australia be improved?
With a team that has been involved in more than 50 disaster recovery events across the Asia Pacific since 1988 including the 2011 flood recovery and Cyclone Ita emergency and 2017 Cyclone Debbie response, Vaxa Group believes the ‘next-generation’ of disaster response can:
- have greater transparency and control when it comes to availability, accountability and cost of inventory and resources. This would include ‘bricks’ of vital response and recovery equipment and expertise in strategic locations across the region
- combine and coordinate best use of the market, and using the strength of non-government organisations (NGOs) to attract community resources and charitable donations
- maximise the benefit of a combined NGO ‘appeal’ to garner compassionate contribution, with transparency and accountability
- utilise a program, such as ‘Chorus’, which Vaxa Analytics is building, that includes pre-qualified contract management and procurement of goods and services by type, volume, scenario, and region, with known prices, that is available to buyers and sellers of these services (a marketplace) and integrates with transport and warehouse management systems. With a transparent payment gateway, the costs of disaster responses can be better known and contained
- implementing ‘needs analysis’, a community of practice whereby residents in affected areas can list exactly which vital goods and services they need immediately, and what local supplies/suppliers are available. This can be achieved through an improved community portal and information channel
- have improved certainty of actual inventory available for deployment backed with assured and pre-qualified logistics supply chains.
By working together and improving processes, Australians can take major steps towards strengthening disaster management, response and recovery, together.
Vaxa Group can assist with planning and preparedness, analytics, supply chain and logistics strategy and management, procurement, interoperability between commercial organisations for purpose, defence and government, greenfield and brownfield assessments and team deployment.
Contact us here to find out more.