Katherine Times

Collaborative efforts in weather risk management and preparedness

Sally Randall, National Training Lead for Emergency Services at Australian Red Cross, facilitating the launch Help Nation EmergencyRedi™ workshop. Photo supplied.
Sally Randall, National Training Lead for Emergency Services at Australian Red Cross, facilitating the launch Help Nation EmergencyRedi™ workshop. Photo supplied.
Collaborative efforts in weather risk management and preparedness
Collaborative efforts in weather risk management and preparedness

The impact of extreme weather events on Australian communities can range from mild to severe, damaging properties and livelihoods alike.

That is why it is important to organise risk management and preparedness strategies to reduce the potential impact of any weather event.

Whether it is a bushfire or a massive storm, collaboration within risk management and preparedness strategies is the best way to overcome weather-related challenges.

This article will outline the importance of collaborative efforts on all levels of organisation, ranging from local communities to government and private sector engagement.

No matter how small or unofficial an organisation is, working together to mitigate risks and prepare for weather events is necessary because of Australia's changing climate.

Role of government in weather risk management

The authority and power afforded to state and national governments in Australia allows them to play a significant role in weather risk management.

They can create and implement policies that provide the country with the necessary framework for weather risk management.

These include:

  • Evacuation procedures: Governments have the authority to initiate and organise evacuation efforts in the case of severe weather events. This includes building evacuation structures to shelter communities and ensure their safety.
  • Infrastructure reinforcement: Investing in the reinforcement of important infrastructures within communities means that the potential damage caused by weather events is greatly reduced.
  • Policy development: By developing policies and building codes that focus on resilience and risk mitigation, governments can ensure that key areas like insurance requirements and zoning restrictions are addressed.
  • Public education: Funding and organisational efforts made by the government can educate the public on how to prepare for weather events and reduce their risks. These educational efforts can raise public awareness of weather extremes and promote safety measures through campaigns, programs, or the media.
  • Alert and warning systems: The government continues to fund meteorological agencies to monitor and provide warnings of weather events. These agencies allow communities to be pre-emptively alerted of whether to evacuate or plan.
  • Disaster response and recovery: The governments play a significant role in responding and helping communities recover in the wake of natural weather disasters. This includes sending resources to areas impacted by storms, bushfires, or floods. They even aid recovery efforts by organising search and rescue teams, medical assistance, and restoring vital services, among other factors.

Community engagement and public awareness

Although the government has the oversight and capability to roll out highly beneficial measures to support communities in severe weather conditions, the communities themselves are crucial in weather preparedness.

Due to their understanding of their environment and ability to work together towards a common goal, community engagement from residents can increase collective weather resilience.

Educational programs on the risks of weather events and the safety measures most effective against them may be offered to communities by the government.

However, communities can also create educational programs, drawing upon resources and tools offered by organisations with experience and knowledge.

For example, communities can join NRMA Insurance in collaborative efforts for weather preparedness by drawing upon their publicly available training sessions for weather safety and preparedness.

When this expertise is used with the local knowledge of the surrounding landscape, potential risks and how to safeguard against them, communities can efficiently prepare themselves for weather conditions.

Ensuring public awareness is also raised through public workshops, or campaigns means that the entire community will better understand what to do in case weather events threaten their livelihoods.

Private sector contributions and innovations

When collaborating with the public sector and communities, the private sector can offer significant contributions and innovations to weather risk management and preparedness.

When working together, rather than in competition, the private and public sectors can offer Australians the tools and resources they need to ensure their safety during weather emergencies.

For example, the private sector may have the concept of a safety measure that would be effective against bushfires damaging infrastructure.

Still, only with government funding can this resource be distributed nationally.

Through the efforts of collaboration, the private sector also offers contributions to weather risk management by:

  • Providing data collection and analysis on weather patterns.
  • Raising revenue for the implementation of safety measures and preparation strategies.
  • Developing climate services.
  • Empowering demographics less supported by public services, such as women or low-income households.

Impact of technology and data sharing

The effectiveness of collaborative efforts between communities and the private and public sectors would not be possible without technology.

The creation of innovative tools such as weather radars, satellites, and communication networks allow for the early appraisal of and public alerting to severe weather events.

Through such technologies, residents can effectively prepare for the risks associated with weather emergencies.

Residents can also mitigate the impact and damage caused by weather events through these technologies, as well as the data sharing between all sectors around said events.

This can be seen in the storm recovery efforts in Queensland during the start of 2024, with the community and agencies such as the Australian Defence Force and Local SES crews working together.

Effective decision-making efforts on cleaning up and restoring these communities are possible when data is shared between all sectors.

Open communication through technology can also ensure that all residents remain safe and effectively recover their livelihoods.

Challenges and solutions in collaboration

Collaboration efforts may result in successful weather risk management and preparedness, but it comes with its own challenges.

Creating effective communication networks between multiple organisations working together on a weather event can be difficult, resulting in several barriers forming suddenly.

Hierarchical structures can take time to work out, resulting in issues with assigning responsibilities and potentially causing gaps in recovery efforts.

That is why communication lines and organisational structures need to be created ahead of time to prevent issues from arising when a disaster strikes.

Resource allocation is also a challenge during collaboration, with a lack of communication between sectors possibly causing a lack of necessary resources or an overabundance in others.

While some organisations like the Red Cross can be entrusted to prioritise medical aid and recovery efforts, some organisations with less defined aims may need help to incorporate them into risk management efforts.

Entrusting a particular sector or organisation by allocating collective resources can prevent any gaps or issues from differing priorities from arising.

Even with the complications that arise from collaborative efforts between different sectors, it is undeniable that weather risk management and preparedness are more effective when worked on by multiple parties.

Whether it is by raising public awareness, bolstering infrastructure, or helping recovery efforts, collaboration can help save the lives and livelihoods of many Australians in the face of extreme weather conditions.