Not business as usual
Authored by Emeritus Professor Gerard Fitzgerald, Faculty of Health, School – Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology
There is an imperative for all industries, governments and communities to be better prepared in the face of disaster, particularly as globalisation impacts the way the world responds. The demand has never been greater for strong leadership to effectively respond to these threats.
In layman’s terms, disaster connotes something out of the ordinary. But for those who are responsible for the planning, preparedness, response and recovery of disaster management, it means a time when things need to be done differently in order to deal with a threat to society, and to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our people and our planet.
While mass scale disasters have been present throughout history, globalisation and the availability of information has increased society’s expectations of our leaders to minimise the impacts of these events. When faced with an emergency, response from system-wide managers progressively needs to be seen to be lessening the effect it has on the public if they are to avoid scrutiny in the media and online.
A coordinated response
But responding to a disaster requires a collaborative and coordinated response from multiple agencies.
Due to the nature of disasters and the broad ranging impacts that ricochet across multiple industries, it calls for people in both government and the private sector to adapt and respond to the issue at hand. As we have seen with COVID-19, while the pandemic is a public health crisis, it has had a significant impact on the economic and social structure of our society and required a response from every Australian citizen.
At home and abroad
This was demonstrated throughout Australia’s bushfire crisis which saw an outpouring of generosity and support, both at home and abroad. Similarly, there has been an international collaborative effort to control the outbreak of COVID-19, a capability the world didn’t have during the outbreak of the Spanish Flu in 1918.
Globalisation, and the plethora of communication technology available aids in this response and provides the capability for cross country cooperation. But while globalisation has assisted, it has also increased the risk and vulnerability communities face. With intertwined and increasingly complex global supply chains, cross-border disruption to systems has been unavoidable during the current pandemic – evidenced at the lack of vital medical supplies available in many countries.
Getting better prepared
As a country, Australia needs to continue to improve its preparedness to deal with these events and in particular to assist communities through the prolonged recovery phases. To do this requires effective leaders that are able to coordinate efficient responses that factor in unpredictability and rapidly changing circumstances, and put the health and wellbeing of our communities first.
QUT has a suite of courses designed to ready individuals to effectively plan, prepare, and respond to emergencies and disasters. Available online or on-campus, courses include a Graduate Certificate in Emergency and Disaster Management, and shorter courses in Disaster Planning and Preparedness, and Disaster Response and Recovery.