Emergency crews have responded to a simulated earthquake scenario in Adelaide to test their response capabilities to a “catastrophic event”.
Some 21 Metropolitan Fire Service (MFS) members, as well as six volunteers from the State Emergency Service (SES), worked to rescue multiple “casualties” from a collapsed five-storey building.
The simulated earthquake recovery exercise took place at Angle Park in Adelaide’s north-west.
Several fault lines run through Adelaide and the city has experienced several tremors over the past decade.
Adelaide’s biggest jolt, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake in March 1954, caused widespread damage.
Quakes of magnitude 6 or higher also rocked the state’s south-east in 1897 and Warooka on the Yorke Peninsula in 1902.
Emergency Services Minister Peter Malinauskas said SA was fortunate it had not yet experienced a major catastrophe.
“However, it is vital that we have the ability to respond to any local, national or international disaster,” he said.
The firefighters are in training to become members of SA’s Urban Search and Rescue team (USAR).
Once they are accredited, USAR will have 270 members from the MFS, the SES, Defence SA, SA Health and the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.
MFS Commander Colin Lindsay said the exercise was designed to be gruelling.
“It’s very, very tough, but we’re non-apologetic and we try to make it as realistic as we can,” he said.
“We also have dog search rescue specialists as well as police forensic crime scene examiners that all form part of this multi-agency capability,” he said.
USAR personnel from SA were deployed to floods in Brisbane and the 2011 Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand.
Ransomware attacks are hitting Australian businesses hard. Just this month, thousands of Australians were targeted by a ransomware email scam purporting to be from energy company AGL, sending a fake bill and prompting the recipient to click and download a copy.
According to Trend Micro, Australia has been one of the primary targets for a major exploit kit ransomware infection over the past two months, with more than 224, 000 ransomware attacks in the April/May period.
As data becomes more and more valuable, organisations locked down by ransomware are being forced to pay cyber criminals to return to business as usual. Above all, businesses need to get back to work, and quickly. The dilemma faced is to either pay out and move on, or face a period of uncertainty, interruption data loss and downtime while services are restored.
Many organisations may think they have solutions in place, but as malicious IT attacks become more and more sophisticated, no company is safe. Effectively overcoming ransomware means being able to recover critical applications and data within minutes.
Backup solutions and firewalls alone do not offer this. Businesses need comprehensive business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) capabilities that deliver consistent and complete recovery processes.
When a disaster like ransomware does strike, it is the first few minutes that are critical. Businesses need to be able to recover within those minutes, not hours, and as completely as possible. Relying on incomplete backups taken 24 hours previously could result in a full day of lost data and take hours to restore, leaving businesses with data loss and downtime they cannot afford; both of which could have been avoided.
For many organisations, IT security is often viewed as simply the prevention of intrusions. A more comprehensive approach, particularly in the fight against ransomware, involves considering IT security strategy as a three legged stool; the detection of attacks, prevention of intrusion, and fast recovery of critical data and applications such as SAP, Oracle, or SQL to ensure uninterrupted business operations.
Organisations of all sizes can fall victim to ransomware attacks, but with a comprehensive BC/DR strategy in place businesses will be able to quickly and effortlessly regain control of critical IT infrastructures and applications. Having instant access to data and being able to recover critical files, data and applications renders ransomware attacks ineffective.
Disaster resilience: According to a Deloitte Access Economics Report commissioned by the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities, natural disasters in Australia are expected to cost $33 billion per year by 2050.
The Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities was formed to provide expertise, research and resources to Governments.
The report entitled ‘Building resilient infrastructure’ which was published this month, points out that the majority of the costs incurred by natural disasters such as bushfires, floods, storms and cyclones will be borne by Australian Governments and ultimately taxpayers.
In addition to the direct costs of rebuilding, the indirect costs associated with losing infrastructure services are substantial according to Deloitte Access Economics. Indirect costs include delays, interruption to services, financial losses, plus stress and anxiety.
The Australian Government Productivity Commission and Infrastructure Australia have previously highlighted the need to prioritise investments that limit the extent of damage from natural disasters in Australia.
Disaster resilience for natural disasters
The Productivity Commission’s Natural Disaster Funding Arrangements inquiry report in 2015 highlighted that Governments tend to over-invest in reconstruction following natural disasters and under-invest in mitigation that could limit the potential impact in the first place.
Infrastructure Australia’s Australian Infrastructure Audit report 2014 recommended increased focus on resilience and improving the maintenance of existing infrastructure. This report also noted that the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is increasingly likely to pose a threat to infrastructure assets.
Determining the most appropriate resilience measures prior to both a natural disaster and to the construction of infrastructure can be challenging but invaluable. A detailed assessment of the likelihood of a hazard affecting an asset and an analysis of the resilience options that could be implemented is a very important part of determining which resilience measure is most appropriate.
Deloitte’s report highlighted three case studies which demonstrated that taking resilience into account prior to initial investment approvals would alter the ultimate infrastructure investment decisions. The three case studies were as follows:
- The loss of electricity caused by the 2007 bushfires in Victoria
- The flooding of a highway bridge in regional New South Wales
- The loss of telecommunications services as a result of the Brisbane floods in 2011
The Deloitte Access Economics ‘Building resilient infrastructure’ report clearly highlights the need to incorporate natural disaster resilience into project decision making processes in Australia. These natural disasters also need to be included in a company’s risk profile right from the start of the project planning phase.
At an expected cost of up to $33 billion per year by 2050, it is clear that neither Australian Governments nor businesses can afford to ignore the financial impacts of natural disasters and the economic cost of climate change. To read more click here.
Mr Jonathan Coppel, Productivity Commissioner – Natural Disaster Funding, Productivity Commission attended the 5th Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference in May 2016 as a Keynote Speaker and presented the key findings in the Federal Government’s Productivity Commission’s final report into Natural Disaster Funding Arrangements. Click here to read more.
Bushfire buffer zones: A plan to place buffer zones between urban areas and the bush needs to be funded by the state government, according to a volunteer firefighting association.
John Iffla, spokesperson for the Emergency Services Volunteer Association said he written an open letter to Premier Mr Barnett asking him to allocate ongoing funding to the bushfire risk management program.
The program was devised following major fires in the Perth Hills in 2010 and in the following year near Margaret River in the state’s South West.
The government funded a pilot following publication of the Keelty Report into the fires.
“It appeared to be successful, but they’ve never rolled that plan out across the state,” Mr Iffla said.
Along with other volunteers from various associations, Mr Iffla worked with the WA Department of Premier and Cabinet to formulate the plan.
In his letter, Mr Iffla stated:
If your government had funded the bushfire risk mitigation program, instead of only the pilot … we now would have 30 to 40 highly-experienced bushfire staff working in regional DFES offices.
These highly skilled bushfire professionals would be working with volunteers, local government, and all landowners to formulate bushfire protection zone plans, prescriptions and helping to do treatments around bushfire prone communities.
These professionals would have already built up relationships within regional communities, and if the time of an emergency arises, they would become operational through supporting the community’s volunteers.
Bushfire buffer zones are much needed
Mr Iffla estimated that the government would need to inject $7 million into the mitigation scheme initially and another $10 million to $15 million a year to help local governments to start implementing buffer zones.
“Start-up costs will be high but once the plan’s been rolled out, the upkeep will be more economical,” he said.
He believes five to seven years of prescribed burning and slashing should be enough to create low-fuel zones around communities.
Mr Iffla declined to comment on the recent Waroona fire which almost destroyed the town of Yarloop.
However, he said he knew of towns “that have bushfire zones that have been saved. I live in a high risk area and we’ve just started doing our own.”
The Bremer Bay local government is supportive and has employed someone to coordinate the planning for the mitigation zones.
Mr Iffla pointed out that the current emphasis was on response, with expensive equipment and infrastructure often idle.
He said that infrastructure could be used to put physical barriers in place to slow down major fires.
He said he had received no response from either the Premier or the Emergency Services Minister at this stage but was hoping to meet with either at the end of the week. To read more click here.
Rehearsing a disaster scenario inside a relief centre may not be everyone’s idea of how to spend a weekend but that is what has been happening in North Melbourne.
Arts House at North Melbourne town hall is a designated relief centre which, for 24 hours, is being used for a flooding emergency rehearsal.
Six artists have been invited to work with emergency management staff to help provide additional activities in the relief centre.
Angharad Wynne-Jones, the artistic director of Arts House, said to build more resilient communities, more work was needed in order to better deliver services required in a relief centre.
“I think that’s a really important part of it, to think about how artists can work along side the emergency services to really enhance the experience for those people,” she said.
“Sometimes we forget the basic requirements of a culturally diverse country like Australia, such as prayer rooms, quiet rooms.”
For example, one artist was providing music playlists to allow people to escape the stress and trauma of a disaster scenario.
Another artist was providing exercise games so a person could measure the output of their exercise with a view to monitoring energy production needed in the relief centre.
Ms Wynne-Jones said while their exercise was just a rehearsal, emergency incidents were becoming more and more common.
“This is definitely within the realms of possibility,” she said.
“There will be storms, we know already there’s increased heat,” she said.
“The next time we do this event we’re looking at five days over 40 degrees which we’ve already experienced in Victoria.
“It’s happening, it’s not a future projection, it’s a reality.”
The project is part of a wider strategy, including councils and community groups, aimed at looking at ways to improve the lives of Melbournians. To read more click here.
Local councils across the northern rivers have welcomed news that disaster relief funding will be available to help rebuild damaged infrastructure.
Lismore, Byron and Tweed shire councils have all been informed they would be eligible for assistance under the Commonwealth-state Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).
They are among 37 councils across the state that have been deemed eligible for assistance.
Tweed council’s general manager Troy Green said the declaration would allow the council to access funding to assist with cleaning up and restoring damaged assets such as roads and culverts.
‘This saves ratepayers from having to foot the entire bill – which in the Tweed is expected to be around $500,000 – although there will be some costs that are not eligible under this program,’ Mr Green said.
‘It’s also great news that assistance with be available to affected and eligible homeowners, businesses, primary producers and not-for-profit groups in the Tweed.’
Meanwhile, North Coast Nationals MLC Ben Franklin said the financial support from the government would provide support to the communities hardest hit by the weekend weather event.
‘Events like these test us as a community. We have witnessed an extraordinary level of hard work and dedication from our emergency services and volunteers and for this we say thank you,’ he said.
Mr Franklin said the NSW Government continued to work with other affected councils to identify impacts and make more declarations where appropriate.
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell also welcomed news that the Lismore council area would be eligible for disaster relief. To read more click here.