Australia’s emergency services can now easily navigate through 130 years of data from inquiries, reviews and coronial inquests into natural hazards in one place. The Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC’s Disaster Inquiries Database captures and categorizes recommendations, ensuring lessons from the past are not forgotten.
The outcomes of 130 years of inquiries and reviews into emergency management and natural hazards have been captured in a new database. The Disaster Inquiries Database is an online platform that gives emergency services the upper hand in learning from the past to create a better future. Created by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, the database contains over 300 inquiries and reviews across all states and territories.
The database contains facts on all reviews conducted between 1886 and 2017, in addition to full recommendations from 55 inquiries carried out from 2009 to 2017. It allows users to custom search through over 1,300 of these recommendations. Users can search and compare recommendations through keywords and themes, as all recommendations have been coded into specific categories.
The functionality of the database allows it to be used in a variety of different ways:
- to compare equivalent recommendations between inquiries, themes and jurisdictions
- to track inquiries across jurisdictions, years and types
- to download and work with all inquiries and listed recommendations as it suits the particular needs of an organisation
Making data valuable
Since its release, the platform has become a resource for government and emergency management agencies to help them recognize past lessons and identify effective practices both now and into the future.
CRC researcher Dr Michael Eburn from the Australian National University was part of the research team that helped develop the database. He believes that it will ensure emergency managers continue to learn from the past. ‘Inquiry recommendations get lost or distorted over time, and so having a place where practitioners can find and search the actual text of inquiry recommendations will help with understanding the past in order to keep learning for the future,’ Dr Eburn said. ‘Post-event inquiries are only helpful if their recommendations are available and not forgotten. Bringing together the lessons from past events will help practitioners identify trends and recurring themes and ensure the lessons of the past are not forgotten.’
Available now for public use, the database has garnered positive feedback from those within the emergency management sector. Adrian Birch, a private data analyst and developer, said that the assembly of a repository of inquiries in one place greatly assists researchers. ‘The inquiries and reports following major natural disasters are produced in the context of powerful community sentiment and political considerations such that, despite their best intentions, investigators often struggle to produce reports that are fully objective and complete.
‘The CRC’s new Disaster Inquiries Database enables researchers to more effectively distil the accumulated wisdom from across a large and growing body of inquiry reports,’ Mr Birch said.
Volunteer National Incident Management Officer for Australian Red Cross Stephen Sennett said that the system is ‘absolutely fantastic’. ‘Such a relatively simple system, but such an incredible amount of knowledge contained within. It really is such a potentially powerful tool, and brilliant that it enables practitioners from across the sector to assess such a wide range of knowledge,’ Mr Sennett said.
For example, a search for bushfire inquiries on the Disaster Inquiries Database shows that between 2009 and 2017 there have been 55 inquiries, resulting in 811 recommendations. Most recommendations relate to ‘doctrine, standards and reform’, with 106 individual recommendations. ‘incident management teams’ and ‘emergency management agency and authority’ have also had many related recommendations, with 71 and 64 respectively.
Between 2009 and 2017, 15 flood-related inquiries have been conducted. The database allows users to easily identify the recommendations made by, and outcomes of, these inquiries. From these inquiries, 328 total recommendations have been made, with most relating to ‘land use and building regulations’ (61 recommendations), ‘government responsibility’ (33 recommendations) and ‘doctrine, standards and reform’ (30 recommendations).
CRC Research Director Dr John Bates said that the database is an accessible resource for practitioners. ‘The database’s multifunctionality is really what makes it exciting for researchers and agency personnel alike. Combining past learnings and recommendations from major inquiries into bushfires, flooding and cyclones in the one place gives a holistic overview for emergency management in Australia.
‘We’re proud to be able to provide to emergency services a place where they can get all the information from past events that will help to create a safer future for Australian communities,’ Dr Bates said.
The Disaster Inquiries Database is an outcome of the CRC’s Tactical Research Fund project, Major post-event inquiries and reviews: review of recommendations, completed in 2017 and commissioned by AFAC. Explore it at bnhcrc.com/utilisation/ddr.
For more information, go to bnhcrc.com.au/utilisation/tools