Tag Archives: natural disasters

Queensland | Take care of vulnerable residents

Natural disasters affect everyone, but for vulnerable residents an emergency event is particularly challenging.

The State Emergency Service (SES) is encouraging residents to get to know their neighbours and assist other residents who may have difficulties during natural disasters.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Commissioner Lee Johnson said residents who spoke English as a second language, were new to the area, had a disability, or were elderly or isolated may appreciate help from their neighbours.

“Get together with your community and make a plan for floods, storms, cyclones and fires, including how you will assist vulnerable residents,” Mr Johnson said.

“For example, if one of your neighbours has hearing difficulties, ensure that someone in the community makes contact with them when a weather warning is issued or cancelled.

“Offer to help residents who are physically unable to secure loose items and keep them in mind if a flood is predicted. They may need help evacuating or shifting belongings above the water line.

“A community that works together is a stronger, more resilient community and more likely to recover quickly following a natural disaster.”

Mr Johnson said there were also resources available online to help vulnerable community members.

“Emergency services and the Red Cross have developed the Emergency REDiPlan, designed to assist people with a disability to prepare for an emergency,” he said.

“Fact sheets on topics like, floods, cyclones and emergency evacuations are available in 20 languages for residents who don’t use English as their primary language.”

For further information and tips on how to Get Ready and to register for your own personalised step-by-step plan visit www.qld.gov.au/getready

Queensland | Resilient Australia Awards winners named

The Queensland Alliance for Mental Health (QAMH) and a combined initiative of Queensland councils have been named the Queensland winners of the Resilient Australia Awards at a ceremony in Kedron this morning.

Minister for Police and Community Safety Jack Dempsey said 10 community groups and government and emergency service organisations were presented with a range of awards recognising innovative practices and achievements in resilience across the nation.

“These groups help make our communities safer, stronger, more resilient and better prepared to manage any emergency situation and I congratulate them on their achievements,” Mr Dempsey said.

“The award recipients ranged from non-profit groups to local councils which created extraordinary programs and initiatives that engaged the community and encouraged people to prepare their homes, help their neighbours and educate themselves on natural disasters.

“These programs helped transform groups of volunteers into well-supported and organised units, brought communities together and ensured that residents were well-informed before, during and after an event.”

Mr Dempsey said the QAMH and the Queensland councils were well deserving of their wins.

“QAMH identified the impact natural disasters had on the mental well-being of the community and developed Resilient Places, a program encouraging mental health recovery through the provision of resources and grants for community events aimed at building resilience at a community level,” he said.

“Seventeen local councils, supported by the Local Government Association of Queensland, delivered the Community Development and Engagement Initiative, a project responsible for around 250 events and activities which encouraged resilience and helped rebuild communities following natural disasters.”

Mr Dempsey said the major Queensland winners would go on to contend the national Resilient Australia Awards, putting Queensland’s ideas on a national stage.

“We wish the Queensland winners all the best at the national level of judging,” he said. “Last week was Get Ready week and it was pleasing to see so many communities band together to prepare for the upcoming storm season.
I’m sure some of the ideas sparked last week will form next year’s batch of awards.”

The awards are an initiative of the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.

New South Wales | Natural Disasters Declared Following Flooding Across Northern NSW

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell have today announced ten Local Government Areas will have access to jointly-funded national disaster assistance following extensive flooding.

Natural disaster assistance is available to affected residents, small business owners and primary producers in the following LGAs:

  • Ballina Shire
  • Bellingen Shire
  • Byron Shire
  • Clarence Valley
  • Coffs Harbour City
  • Kyogle
  • Lismore City
  • Nambucca Shire
  • Richmond Valley
  • Tweed Shire

The deluge right across northern NSW has resulted in extreme flooding in a number of areas.

The NSW State Emergency Service has been inundated with calls for assistance with the heavy rain, strong winds and flash flooding bringing down power lines and trees and ripping roofs off homes

Northern Territory | Urging Territorians to be prepared

Chief Minister Terry Mills today launched the secureNT natural disaster resilience campaign encouraging Territorians to be prepared for cyclones, bushfires, floods and other natural disasters.

“Television, press and radio advertisements are being run across the Territory to raise awareness of natural disasters in the Territory and to let people know the simple things they can do to stay safe,” Mr Mills said.

“Disasters can and do happen in the Northern Territory, so every Territorian should take a few simple steps to prepare their home and their families.

“After a large scale event and in a place as vast as the Territory, it could take up to 72 hours for help to arrive; therefore it is crucial for every household to have an emergency kit stocked with food, water and other household essentials.

“The Territory is home to extreme conditions, and I urge everyone to keep this in mind while preparing their emergency kit.

“We will also be getting the message out through social media including Facebook and Twitter.

“More useful information about preparing for, getting though and recovering from disasters can be found by downloading the free secureNT application and at the secureNT website.

“In an emergency situation, Territorians can keep up-to-date with important information by using these two mediums and listening to the radio.”

The campaign was developed by the Northern Territory Government in collaboration with the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services and Bushfires NT.

The resilience campaign was developed using a grant from the Australian Government’s Attorney General’s Department through their Natural Disaster Resilience Program.

For more information visit www.securent.nt.gov.au

Saskatchewan | Text rather than phone during a natural disaster

A message from the City of Saskatoon:

Most of us are coming to rely on our cell phones and other mobile devices more and more. During a natural disaster, wireless networks are often overwhelmed by people calling to check in with each other or searching for updates online.

If that happens, it may be vital to remember that brief text messages, emails or social media use less bandwidth and may work even when phone service doesn’t. Even if a text, email or social media update can’t go through at the time, the message will wait and go through as soon as the system can accommodate it. This eliminates the need to keep retrying like you would if you were making a phone call.

If you are able to use your phone, keep your conversations short. This will free up wireless networks for others as well as emergency operations.

It is a good idea to charge your wireless phone batteries as soon as warnings are issued. You should also look at ways to conserve your phone battery and alternate ways to charge it. Conserve your battery by reducing the screen’s brightness and turning off Bluetooth and any applications you are using. Consider purchasing extra batteries or a solar-powered crank or vehicle phone charger to charge your phone’s battery if the power is out for an extended time.

If you have a battery-powered radio, tune into 91.7FM for regular updates rather than searching online.

Remember cordless phones rely on electricity and will not work during a power outage. If you have a landline, keep at least one corded phone in your home.

Having a way to contact your family and/or friends and either asking for help or letting them know you are okay becomes extremely important during a natural disaster. Remember texting will often work even if phoning doesn’t.

Texas | Ready or not? Emergency preparedness video series

Texas | 24 Jan 2012

Editor’s Note: This is an excellent series of videos and worth the investment of your time. They are well-researched, well-produced and ought to be emulated by other jurisdictions. – HN

Wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and flash floods – these are all common occurrences in Texas. Are you prepared? Watch Surviving Disaster: How Texans Prepare and learn from other Texans who have survived these types of disasters. Then make your plan. It happened to them. It could happen to you.

Introduction from Dr. David Lakey, Commissioner

Surviving Hurricanes: Grab it and Go

A Community Rebuilds: Recovering from Wildfires

Back to Business: Planning for Disasters

Ready for Anything: Preparing for the Next Flood

Winds of Destruction: A County’s Lessons

Facing Disasters: A Plan for Work and Home

Queensland | Harden Up website encourages self-reliance in major weather events

QLD | The Harden Up website, launched October 2011, provides weather data from the CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and Insurance Council of Australia to encourage people to take practical steps to become more self-reliant in major weather events.

With data and case studies from the past 150 years for more than 3000 Queensland suburbs, Harden Up allows locals to learn about weather specific to their area.

Funded by a grant from the Natural Disaster Resilience Program through the Queensland Department of Community Safety, Harden Up provides practical advice on how to prepare for and help others during a disaster event.

The site also allows you to create a plan to prepare your household for the weather event that you are most likely to encounter. These plans and resilience tips can be shared through Facebook and other social media.

Mahila Partnership is launched


Dear friends & colleagues,

As many of you know, Nicole Mason and I co-founded a non-profit this year – Mahila Partnership www.mahilapartnership.org. We are a grassroots organization dedicated to serving vulnerable populations and working on projects related to education, community and disasters. Most recently we have partnered with UMASS Boston’s Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities after Disasters. As their NGO Partner we will be working with them on their November 2008 International Conference on Rebuilding Sustainable Communities for Children and their families after Disasters.

You are invited to contact me directly to learn more, volunteer or learn about sponsorship opportunities. Please share this information with anyone you feel would be interested.

In support of the work at Mahila and initiatives at Caritas, I have been participating in projects related to women’s issues and disasters.

Also very exciting to me, (the amateur photojournalist that I think I am!!) I will be profiling issues in healthcare as well as the lives of women & their families as a result of our work through writing and photography. You will see my work on Big Medicine and other online & print publications. A new article will be posted on Big Med soon!

My work at BCPWHO and in healthcare in the areas of disaster management, domestic violence, vulnerable populations and emergency medicine will continue.

If you would like to learn more or have projects that you believe may benefit from some of these initiatives, you are invited to contact me.

Kindest regards,


Angela Devlen
Emergency Management, Caritas Christi Healthcare
President, Mahila Partnership www.mahilapartnership.org
Director, BCPWHO www.bcpwho.org


Mahila Partnership Partners with UMASS-BOSTON Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities After Disasters

[Boston, September 16, 2008] – The University of Massachusetts Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities After Disasters (CRSCAD) and Mahila Partnership have established a partnership, working together to strengthen communities locally and internationally; focusing on sustainable rebuilding after disasters, and decreasing the impact of disasters on women and their families with a focus on particularly vulnerable populations such as those experiencing domestic violence or poverty.

Together, along with other international partners an inaugural conference, “Rebuilding Sustainable Communities for Children and their Families after Disasters”, will be held at CRSCAD November 16-19, 2008.

“The central objective is to provide an intellectual forum for scholars and practitioners around the globe to explore how rebuilding of communities after war or disasters can be carried out in a way that promotes social justice, economic and political sustainability, and the full participation of all stakeholders,” CRSCAD Director Adenrele Awotona said about the conference, which began to take shape after a successful conference he held at the University of Massachusetts-Boston on rebuilding in Iraq.

Experts participating in the November conference include:

Grace Oyebola Adetula, Nigeria, “Female Ex-Child Soldiers: Case Studies for East and West Africa”

Ashfaq Ishaq, USA, “Rebuilding After Disaster: A Child-Centered Approach”

Tutty Alawiyah , Indonesia, “Rebuilding sustainable communities for children orphaned by the 2004 Aceh Tsunami: The Case of As-Syafi`iyah Special Boarding School for Orphans”

Kai T. Erikson, USA, “Lessons from Katrina” (tentative)

Diane Levin, USA, “Understanding the Impact of Disasters on Children and
Helping Them Heal and Thrive Afterwards”

More information about the conference can be found at: http://www.rebuilding.umb.edu/rsccfd/

In addition to the conference, together Mahila Partnership and CRSCAD will work with vulnerable populations to develop and promote sustainable methods of community rebuilding after disaster, with a focus on the issues of domestic violence and poverty, both of which make women and their families even more susceptible to disaster. “Along with CRSCAD, we will work with our partners to support sustainable redevelopment of communities affected by poverty, violence and disasters,” says Mahila Partnership co-founder Nicole Mason.

About The University of Massachusetts-Boston Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities After Disasters (CRSCAD)

CRSCAD works in close collaboration with practitioners, academics, researchers, policy makers and grassroots organizations in their search for the most appropriate and sustainable ways to rebuild their communities after disasters (both natural and man-made). The work of the Center includes applied research, early childhood education and family support, communications and intellectual outreach to academic experts, other research groups and policy think-tanks. It organizes and hosts seminars, workshops and conferences on various aspects of post-disaster reconstruction in partnership with public and private sector agencies in all the countries of the world.

About Mahila Partnership

Mahila Partnership is a grassroots organization dedicated to serving vulnerable populations by promoting self expression through the arts; fostering awareness through educational initiatives; working to end domestic violence and poverty; and training women and their families so they are better prepared for, and more able to recover from disaster. Together with our partners, we create and support innovative projects to reduce vulnerability, promote dignity, and strengthen communities through long-term, sustainable measures.

Local leadership during an earthquake

by Avi Bachar

An earthquake is the world’s most traumatic event human beings could possibly experience. An earthquake strikes at everything familiar in our daily lives. It occurs without early warning and strikes at every aspect of life; it impacts lives in large numbers; destroys homes which are people’s primary source of security; and impacts all life systems known to us. A review of the latest earthquakes indicates that the main bulk of assistance was provided by people who were in the vicinity of the event. True, later on some kind of help arrived, either from the state or from neighboring countries, but the main burden was carried by the afflicted communities themselves as well as by the local authorities, some of which have difficulty functioning in their daily lives, much less in such a catastrophe.

We in Israel cannot easily discuss such an event because we have (thank God) never experienced anything similar recently. We have experienced wars, we have experienced terrorist attacks, but how can these events be compared with an earthquake scenario? An earthquake is such a complete tragedy to deal with that anything we have ever gone through pales in the face of it. It is something completely different, and its full proportions cannot be fathomed. However, this is where the significance of the local leadership lies; it must act within each and every local authority, actually put the entire system in motion, so that the afflicted population can return to their routine lives as soon as possible with trauma minimized as much as possible.

What does Leadership actually mean?

Leadership does not necessarily mean managing the event; this can very well be carried out by the authority’s director and headquarters. Leadership means: leading the bulk of the processes which are going on simultaneously in every aspect and at all levels of life; being the right person at the right place; showing the population that you care about what is happening to them, that you are part of them; making them feel that all of us will eventually come out of the disaster strengthened, making them feel that someone out there cares for them, someone who can be trusted, someone who is a leader, the right person at the right time, the leader who will manage to pull them out of the depths of horror into which they have fallen.

We are taught to manage staff jobs, we are taught to run campaigns/battles and events. Leadership is indeed all that, but moreover, leadership deals with people’s strength, their capability to motivate all people to take productive action. Leadership means comprehending the basic needs – water, electricity, food, shelter; but also something else beyond all these – making people believe that they can survive, caring for the individual. The ability to be with those people, to embrace them, to make them feel you are there with them and for them; that you are all in it together.

We are taught all about military leadership, how to motivate soldiers hiding in shelters to get up and confront the enemy and the shooting. This is indeed leadership at its best, but out there in the battlefield, in the war, there is a tangible enemy that can be hit and destroyed, there is a sense of victory after the fight and the attack. There is exultation. While here, in the midst of this local disaster there is no visible enemy, only injured, dead and missing family and neighbors. There is the stench of corpses and overflowing sewers. There is almost endless work to do without any kind of exultation. Here the leadership has to face an entirely different kind of challenge, harder and a thousand times more complex, but still possible and more importantly – binding.

Here are some instructive examples:

On September 11, 2001 after the collapse of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center, New York’s mayor Giuliani did not himself take charge of the event, or of what we are used to calling command and control. What he did was only to encourage the population; he understood that the city was undergoing a catastrophe and that the most important thing was to talk to the people. He talked to them about the terrible tragedy, explained that there were many casualties, among them some who were personally very close to him, but also suggested that they were all in it together and sure to overcome it; he instructed people what to say and what to do, grieved with the afflicted, and displayed general empathy which was very helpful to all.

On the other hand we saw the mayor of New Orleans, Mr. Ray Nagin, at the site of destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina; we saw his mumblings, his failure to assume responsibility, his lack of understanding as to what leadership was; and his search for culprits to lay the blame on. It might be worthwhile mentioning that even at the drills which had been conducted in town to prepare for what was to happen, the mayor did not participate.

Both cities suffered heavy losses. But New York had leadership demonstrating that there was someone in charge of events, who led the way and inspired hope.

What happened here in Israel during the last war ( July 2006) is also instructive. I wish to refer only to the local authorities’ level. I do not believe there is much difference between people who live in Haifa, Naharyia, Aco, Carmiel, Shlomi, Maalot, or Safed and Kiryat Shmona. Nor is there a significant difference between the local authorities’ employees in each of the towns I mentioned.

And still we can see that in some local townships the Municipality staff stayed on and extended assistance to the population that lived in the shelters on an ongoing basis – without resorting at all to the services of national organizations. And then there were other townships which completely fell apart, requiring soldiers to take their place. The mayor did stay on, directing and guiding the action, but without his staff. Although there might have been some management skill here, there was no organizing, exciting leadership which can inspire people to act even under stress and personal hazardous conditions.

None of the mayors in Israel had to face (and hopefully will never have to) a catastrophe the size of an earthquake. However we are practiced in handling smaller scale catastrophes, and we must learn from the experience of others.

This is what Rudy Giuliani writes about in his book “Leadership”:

“All leaders are influenced by people they admire. Reading about them and learning about their growth inevitably enables a person who aspires to leadership to develop his own personal abilities. If he’s lucky, he can learn from contemporary leaders, ask questions, observe them in private, and decide which of the leader’s methods could succeed in completing his own style of growth. However, as much as it is imperative to learn from others, a significant part of a leader’s approach should be formed by the raw material of his own life experience” – end of quote – and my addition is – a significant part of his personal characteristics and qualities brought along from his own origin as well.

Having studied international events, and also out of my own personal experience I wish to present some points for contemplation on the subject of leadership on a local level in case of an earthquake disaster.

A. A leader on a local level lacks the privilege of watching events from afar/above, receiving information and calmly weighing it as the head of a state/national apparatus would. The local leader must become involved in what goes on on the scene, not just indirectly involved, but actually being there, meeting people face to face, witnessing their worst trouble and distress, and preparing particularly for this purpose.

B. In the stages of preliminary preparations he should, without hesitation integrate the citizens into his study of the threats, and moreover, of possible ways to minimize the damage in their closest environment. It has often been argued that the citizens should not be made familiar with the various threats because “they would panic”. The truth is often just the opposite. Becoming exposed to a possible danger in addition to being instructed and taught how and what can be done – how the individual must prepare himself as well as how the surrounding community does so – all this makes people confident that they can prevail.

Such a structured procedure enhances trust in the local leadership and creates a feeling of partnership in the struggle and the knowledge that there is a manager up there who shares the burden with them, prepares them and will eventually know how to handle a catastrophe if and when it occurs. Any attempt to suppress the threat and exclude the citizens from sharing it will neither make the threat go away nor will it make them totally ignorant of it; it will only enhance the feeling that no one is taking care, no one is preparing to face it. We find that it is this kind of behavior that leads to distrust in a leadership, which might cause them to distrust the local leadership in times of hardships.

C. It is imperative to present to the citizens the situation and solutions in every possible way and to act persistently to recruit them to work for the benefit of the community. This kind of daily activity only strengthens the bond between the people within the community and their trust in the local leadership. These people will go on working even when the situation is at its worst, out of continuous commitment and loyalty towards the population, the community, their friends and the system.

D. International events must be studied, read and investigated in order to learn from their experience anything that could be relevant to our community. Because it is not enough to be motivated to act, one should also know how to act both on the location and on the leadership level.

E. We must know and remember that when an earthquake event strikes, especially on a scale similar to the one we are referring to, its impact will be on large areas, it will be difficult to transport outside/national help to the local authority/the afflicted community; it is possible also that such help may not get there at all, or may not be enough, certainly not the massive help we are used to receive in daily routine.

In other words, the head of the local authority is left on his own!

However, he must have the means to work with the people who were trained ahead of time, and many volunteers who would be willing to do anything required, providing they are guided and instructed to do what is right and effective. The Municipality staff must know how to activate these people too, and the Mayor leadership will provide the motivating mechanism to act, as long as he does not expect “someone” from up there to come down and do the work for you!

F. After the event has occurred, professionals and managers must be allowed to work and act according to their training and instruction. The head of the local authority should be on site, see for himself what is happening, meet the people as they come out of the inferno and collapsed buildings, maybe after having left behind their most dearly beloved. He must be there with them, trying to find out what can be done to ease their suffering even beyond what is expected of them.

G. We are well aware that these people cannot be given everything they need, but they can be given the feeling that everything is being done to give them what is within the range of possibilities, that an honest effort is being made to provide their needs, and most of all that there is someone to talk to. It is also important to be with these people in their worst moments, including funerals and corpse identifications.

H. But one should also not forget those people who have not been directly hit, the rest of the local authority citizens. One must address the general public who need to know what is really happening and what is being done to help their friends who are trapped in the stricken area. These people are the main source that can provide the necessary help. They can and should be recruited to help the injured.

I. The local leader should also instruct the public as to what to do and what not. He should be assisted by the relevant professionals, the city engineer, maintenance staff, water, electricity, emergency department, municipal emergency services, the welfare and education departments, municipal volunteer system, etc. They must be instructed as to the existing dangerous areas: electricity, collapsed structures, open holes and hazardous buildings, and also informed regarding the way to volunteer, where to collect donations of all kinds, educational institutions, etc.

J. One must remember that our population is our “army” as well, and if we prepare them adequately there will be thousands of “soldiers” able to provide the best solutions in such difficult times. This is also the way to motivate more people to lend helping hand and make their own contributions. In order to do all this, a powerful local leadership is required, someone who is self confident and better yet, proficient and dependable.

I would like to sign off by quoting a passage written by Ehud Olmert (at the time the mayor of Jerusalem) about Rudy Giuliani’s leadership, in his introduction to the Hebrew translation of his book “Leadership”.

I quote: “Shock and dismay had struck the citizen of New York and the entire world. It seemed that despair, loss of hope and total confusion were about to take over. And then – without a moment’s delay, even before other people have come to their senses – Rudy took hold of the reigns and swept his fellow townsmen and fellow countrymen towards confrontation with pain, confusion and bewilderment. He knew how to inspire hope and joy. From the very first moment his figure showed up among the wreckage, the dust and the destruction. We saw him display strength and determination amidst the screaming and the pain, we saw him lead where many around him fell apart, we saw him comfort and support while many others where too helpless to act, we saw him support the grieving families who had lost their dearest of all, we saw him lead the urban-municipal systems to restore life to its normal course as soon as possible. We saw him keep a clear composed mind, hold out a helping hand, support, and caress, himself moved and moving others, make decisions, determined and inspiring confidence and a feeling that there is someone who could be trusted – this is leadership”.

True, leadership is often innate, a gift with which not many have been blessed, but this divine gift alone is not enough to provide the necessary leadership qualities in times as difficult as during an earthquake; one must take the trouble to learn from the past, to constantly prepare the city systems even when it seems either unnecessary, or not promoting re-election, or not one of the first priorities of the municipality and the citizens — even then everything must be done to make sure that once a disaster occurs, the local leader can be at peace with himself and his God that he has done everything possible to deal with the catastrophe, including his personal preparation to meet the biggest challenge of his life.