In recent posts, we’ve touched on disaster resiliency and how to build it within the community and in business. What we are yet to explore is the significant role that preparedness plays in achieving this resiliency.
Every year, Australian communities are subjected to the detrimental impacts of disasters. Australia was battered with 43 natural disasters last year, that’s compared with just 4, ten years ago. A continued increase is a certainty.
The impacts of these disasters on people, the economy, our infrastructure and the environment remain a timely reminder of the need to continually improve our resilience to disasters by simply being prepared.
Just this year, an independent study by the National Institute of Building Sciences based in the United States found that for every $1 that the US government invested in mitigation, an average of $6 would be saved in future spending by taxpayers.
Translating this statistic into the Australian environment would no doubt reveal savings in the millions, with the total cost of natural disasters predicted to reach $39 billion by 2020.
In order to become resilient, Australia needs to foster a culture of preparedness by putting an unprecendented focus on the ‘before’ stage to drive greater readiness to the future impacts to come.
Developing a culture of preparedness cannot be done by one sector, nor can it be achieved overnight. It is an all-inclusive effort and one that businesses need to be a part of. There is a lot to gain from businesses simply being ready.
Disaster resilience is the collective responsibility of everyone – all levels of government, businesses, organisations and community members. Working together with a shared sense of responsibility will prove far more effective than the individual efforts of a specific sector.
There is certainly a need for a new focus on shared responsibility and a system where all major sectors – government, business, community leaders and the not-for-profits – work together to achieve integrated and coordinated disaster resilience. In turn, individuals and households need to account for their own safety and act on information and advice before, during and after a disaster.
It should be noted that shared responsibility does not mean equal responsibility. There are certainly some areas where government agencies, not-for-profits and businesses should assume greater responsibility than those in the community.
When it comes to building disaster resilience, all stakeholders have an important role to play:
Government: Government agencies play a significant role in strengthening our resilience by:
• Developing and implementing effective mitigation activities
• Having effective arrangements in place to educate community members on assessing risks and reducing their vulnerability
• Supporting communities to prepare for extreme events
• Working swiftly and and efficiently to help communities recover from disaster and to learn and adapt in the aftermath
Business: Businesses play a fundamental role in supporting a community’s resilience to disaster by:
• Providing resources, expertise and many essential services that the community is dependent on
• Having a thorough understanding of the risks they face so they can ensure they will be able to provide services during or soon after a disaster
Not-for-profits: This group is at the forefront of developing a culture of preparedness and ultimately, strengthening disaster resilience. The community often turns to them for support and advice in the event of a disaster, and it’s imperative that government agencies partner with them for extra support and to spread the disaster resilience message.
Individuals: Individuals are also needed to share the responsibility for preventing, preparing, responding and recovering from disasters. They are able to do this by utilizing the guidance, resources and policies of leading stakeholders.
Knowledge is power when it comes to developing preparedness and building disaster resilience. Strong networks should be built across all sectors, with information, skills and understanding communicated at all levels. Communities can then be supported and motivated through training and awareness activities, including those that highlight the importance of volunteers.
Connect before, not during
Preparedness comes down to partnering with those who effect change. Partnerships across and within governments, businesses, the not-for-profit sector and the community will create a well-informed and integrated approach to increasing disaster resilience.