Community Groups Overlooked in Disaster Management - Report
12 April 2013 at 12:01 pm
Communities’ ability to respond to natural disasters is being “severely weakened” by the exclusion of community-based organisations from disaster management planning, a new report has found.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has released its research, Extreme Weather, Climate Change and the Community Sector – Risks and Adaptations, said to be a world first review into the preparedness of community service organisations in disaster management.
The research findings were presented at a Senate Inquiry hearing in Canberra today with Dr Goldie presenting the 12 core recommendations from the report to the Senate Committee.
“A major finding was that despite the crucial role locally based organisations play in supporting and rebuilding people’s lives during disasters like bushfires and floods – they are not included in official emergency response planning and are critically under-resourced to participate effectively,” ACOSS chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
“The report highlights the serious consequences, especially for people who rely on social services to meet basic needs, if vital service agencies are not able to cope with increasing extreme events.
“One research participant in the research bluntly told us that clients would die if their organisation could not provide services because they will not be able to eat, use shower and toilet facilities or get out of bed without the assistance that their organisation provides.”
The research was led by Dr Karl Mallon of Climate Risk and funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF).
Dr Mallon said the research shows that one week after an extreme weather event 50 per cent of community service organisations that sustain serious disruption to their premises or utilities would still be out of operation.
“This research confirms what we have seen recently in the USA and Europe, that highly vulnerable groups like the elderly and people with disabilities are being left to fend for themselves for days and even weeks after a disaster because the community organisations that normally tend to them have themselves been crippled,” Dr Mallon said.
“Therein lies the key to the solution, to protect vulnerable people from worsening extreme events society must prepare the community sector.”
Dr Goldie said: “This research has come to light on our watch. It is incumbent on us all, in government, the emergency services and the community to work together to fix this problem. No modern wealthy country can conscionably leave its most vulnerable to the ravages of natural disasters and extreme weather events.
“We must now collaborate to ensure community service organisations are fully prepared and a formal part of the solution– anything less would be negligent.”