Emergency Risk Management (ERM) is a systematic process that contributes to the wellbeing of communities and the environment. The process considers the likely effects of hazardous events and the controls by which they can be minimised’
The process begins with an understanding of the hazards, evaluates the likelihood and consequence of possible events and produces a range of treatment options to minimise or eliminate the resulting risk.
Risk treatments include prevention and mitigation measures that reduce the frequency of events or consequence of the impacts, and preparation, response and recovery measures if an emergency event occurs. Ongoing risk identification and analysis is essential for the anticipation and management of the consequences of emergencies. This is underpinned by the six State Core Objectives, endorsed by the State Emergency Management Committee, which apply to Western Australia, to assist in measuring the risk posed to Western Australian communities as part of ERM planning. These highlight important objectives for the State which may be impacted by an emergency event, as they contain identifiable vulnerable elements (i.e. key vulnerabilities).
The six State Core Objectives are:
People: protect lives and wellbeing of persons;Economy: maintain and grow the State’s productive capacity, employment and government revenue;Social setting: ensure there is public order, under which people are housed and fed in a safe and sanitary manner and have access to social amenity including education and health services, and things of cultural importance are preserved;Government: ensure there is, at all times, an effective and functioning system of government and societal respect for rule of law; Infrastructure: maintain the functionality of infrastructure, particularly key transport infrastructure and utilities required for community health, economic production and effective management of emergencies; andEnvironment: protect the ecosystem and biodiversity of the state.
The adoption of a consistent and comprehensive state ERM approach — traditionally the prevention, preparedness, response and recovery approach — aids effective decision making, facilitates appropriate resource allocation and allows for a proactive approach towards EM.
Increasing resilience to emergencies is the collective responsibility of all sectors of society, including all levels of government, business, the non-government sector and individuals. Given the increasing severity and occurrence of natural hazards, all these sectors need to be empowered and work together with a united focus and a shared sense of responsibility to keep hazards from becoming emergencies.
Resilience minimises the vulnerability, dependence and susceptibility of a community by creating or strengthening social and physical capacity in the human and built-environment to cope with, adapt and respond to, and recover from emergencies.
To improve resilience we need to learn from emergencies in order to lead change and coordinate effort; understand the risks and communicate them to all levels of the community; work with the people and organisations that can affect the necessary changes; and empower individuals and communities to exercise choice and take responsibility. Our planning approaches need to include risk reduction strategies and our capacity to deal with disasters needs to be enhanced by greater flexibility and adaptability of our emergency services agencies and communities.
The ‘all hazards’ approach assumes the functions and activities applicable to one hazard are often applicable to a range of hazards. The all hazards approach increases efficiency by recognising and integrating common emergency management elements across all hazard types. It does not, however, prevent the development of specific plans and arrangements for hazards that require a specialised approach.
The ‘graduated' approach is based on the following principles:
decisions should be made at the lowest appropriate level (subsidiarity); however, existing command, control and coordination arrangement apply; and where emergency management activities extend beyond the capability of the local community, support may be obtained from the district, state, interstate, national or international levels, as appropriate.
The ‘all agencies coordinated and integrated’ approach recognises that no one agency can address all of the impacts of a particular hazard. It is necessary for a lead agency to coordinate the activities of the large number of organisations and agencies that are involved. These can be drawn from across all levels of government, non-government, volunteer organisations and the private sector.
Emergency management requires collaboration, coordination and integration to facilitate complementary and coherent action by all partners to ensure the most effective use of resources and activities. Coherent actions rely on well-defined and appropriate roles, responsibilities, authorities and knowledge of the capacities of emergency management partners. This includes adherence to an incident management framework encompassing command, control and coordination.
Continuous improvement, including incremental and transformational change, is undertaken systematically as an integral part of emergency management measures and practices to improve outcomes. Improvement in arrangements is achieved through the regular monitoring and review of plans, arrangements, policy and procedures at all levels, as well as the capture and implementation of lessons identified by research, exercises and incident reviews.
Effective and timely communication with the community is a critical and continuous process before, during and after an emergency.
Prior to an emergency, communication focuses on enhancing awareness of hazards, risks and vulnerabilities; strengthening prevention, mitigation and preparedness measures; and providing information on all aspects of emergency management. Public alerts communicate warning messages that an emergency is imminent.
Communications during and directly after an emergency explain and guide immediate response actions to minimise impacts and to maintain safety and security. The provision of accessible, clear, consistent and reliable recovery information and advice improves the speed of community recovery after an emergency. Given the popularity and importance placed on social media by the community, it should be incorporated into community communication strategies.
Information is critical to emergency management. The collation, assessment, verification and dissemination of relevant and appropriate information must be underpinned by integrated information management systems that adhere to governance and accountability standards. These systems need to support single and multi-agency decision making. Systems must also be flexible, multifaceted and dynamic to provide information that will allow members of the public to make informed decisions to ensure their safety.