Resilience in Practice Symposium helps to debrief on overlapping disasters

Disaster management experts gathered at Griffith University’s Nathan campus tor the inaugural Resilience in Practice Symposium this month to pause and reflect on a decade of disasters.

The event coincided with the ten-year anniversary of the 2011 floods that devastated much of Queensland and was followed by a decade of back-to-back extreme events that culminated in a global pandemic.

The key players in disaster coordination, response and recovery united under the Flood Community of Practice (COP) network to consider the consequences of decision making and ways to achieve greater community resilience.

According to Dr Piet Filet from the Australian Rivers Institute (ARI) and Flood COP network, disaster agencies haven’t had any time to debrief and incorporate new learnings to better develop community resilience.

“The traditional disaster management cycle had a rhythm of prevent, prepare, respond, recover (known as PPRR), with breaks in between to rest and recuperate, but lately we’ve experienced a constant COVID event with an overlay of flood and fire that is essentially merging,” Dr Filet said.

The symposium was held over two days at the Disaster Management Research Facility at Griffith University and included a Flood Resilience Forum featuring plenary and panel sessions with three interactive scenarios which allowed attendees to observe, reflect and discuss the role plays.

The scenarios included:

  1. Response: Features of a Disaster Co-ordination Centre
  2. Recovery: Features of an Evacuation Centre and Recovery Hub (delivered by the Australian Red Cross)
  3. Prevent, Prepare and embed Resilience: Features of Planning and Preparedness.

The activities built on previous events hosted by the Flood COP in March and April this year.

Outcomes of the day

The event resulted in a fantastic illustration of the FloodCop21 story by Hayley Langsdorf and Venetia Brown.

Dr Filet said he walked away from the event with the big question in his mind: Where in the cycle of managing impacts of major flood events on local communities do we best align (i) the skills ans knowledge of the professionals and (ii) information and data they need to work so that (iii) decision making and action is in place to ensure the impacts of the flood are minimised?

“It is a big question that needs the (i) diversity of professionals, (ii) tentacles of organisation roles and responsibilities and (iii) expectations of communities to be fully unraveled with a much better interconnected approach between all the players,” according to Dr Filet.

“It is no easy task – but this Forum’s role plays, conversations and relationship building needs to continue as one way to answer this question. The goal is to have a full mix of proactive resilience measures in place across the disaster management cycle – measures that are put in place well in advance of any major flood event so our collective efforts have true synergistic benefits for our local communities.”

The inaugural Resilience in Practice Symposium was 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.