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Learning from Adversity at Key Industry Conference

Learning from Adversity at Key Industry Conference

Nearly 1100 emergency services representatives and researchers converged on Wellington, New Zealand in early September 2014 the annual AFAC and Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre conference. The conference is the leading knowledge sharing event for fire, land management and emergency services, with delegates attending from across Australia and New Zealand, as well as the US, UK, Korea and many Pacific Islands.

The theme for the conference was After Disaster Strikes Learning from Adversity. Unfortunately there is no shortage of disasters from which to learn. The summer of 2013-2014 saw Australia experience some of its most extreme heatwaves. New Zealand is still coping with the devastating Canterbury earthquakes, while several Pacific neighbours are still recovering from cyclones and tsunami.

Natural and man-made disasters strike all countries, but particularly in our region, said AFAC CEO Stuart Ellis. “The conference was designed to bring together and share the combined wisdom of experience, research and analysis from across the sector to enable a deeper understanding of the approaches needed to secure the region’s future and prosperity.”

Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC CEO, Dr Richard Thornton, said the conference showed why research and innovation are more important now than ever. “The week was a great opportunity for all emergency management practitioners to learn what we are discovering about the biggest challenges in emergency management across Australasia, especially learning from New Zealand’s Canterbury earthquake experience, and finding ways to use this knowledge every day to make our communities safer.”

2014 saw the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC partner with AFAC for the conference, taking over from its predecessor the Bushfire CRC. The research of the CRC was on show all week, but kicking off the conference on day one was the sold out Research Forum. The Forum showed why research and innovation are vital precursors for safer communities and better environmental management.

Close to 60 sessions were scheduled over days two and three, with leading experts sharing agency activities, research utilisation and case studies. The impact of disasters, sector capacity building and increasing resilience featured highly, with the program culminating in a closing panel on lessons learned. Panel members discussed opportunities for sharing work across boarders and the value of empowerment and mentoring to being a strong leader. The conference was capped off with four Professional Development sessions covering:

  • An introduction to emergency management for those new to the sector.
  • The Australasian Inter-agency Incident Management System (AIIMS).
  • A mission command master-class.
  • How to navigate emergency intelligence feeds.

Four field study tours also took place, and while it is now several months after the conference, there are plenty of resources available on both the AFAC and Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC websites. These educational resources include audio and video of talks, abstracts, papers, presentations and research posters. They can be accessed at www.afac.com.au/events/proceedings.

Dr Thornton encourages all emergency and land management practitioners from across the Asia Pacific region to make use of the resources. “For those who could not make it to the conference, being able to access both the research information, and the latest developments from leading specialists within emergency management agencies, ensures that the benefits of the conference flow broadly.”

This year the conference moves to Adelaide from the 1st to the 3rd of September, with the theme New Directions in Emergency Management. The approach to emergency management is rapidly evolving, and with it the need for better knowledge and understanding. Driven in part by the escalating cost and complexity of major incidents, the emphasis is shifting towards a holistic view that encompasses research, readiness, risk reduction, response and recovery. At the same time, emergency agencies are being comprehensively reformed to improve their effectiveness before, during and after a major event.

For more information, go to www.afac.com.au/conference

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