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WEBINAR Bushfires: Response, Recovery, Preparedness - The Engineer


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WEBINAR Bushfires: Response, Recovery, Preparedness - The Engineer

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The 2019/20 black summer was one of the worst in recent times in the world. The season started in early September 2019 in Queensland and gradually progressed into New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory. Thousands of firefighters and volunteers battled the fires, with millions of hectares burned, thousands of properties damaged, and countless numbers of wildlife exposed. In February 2020, the last fires were extinguished, with torrential rain assisting in putting out the remaining fires.  Affected communities are recovering, COVID-19 has since caused further widespread disruption. On 20 August 2020 fires were again burning in Northern New South Wales, with record heat building in North West Australia.  Yet it seems that a potential La-Nina event may yet save us from the worst of 2020, and now there may be too much water.  Will we forget what happened less than one year ago as rains fall, and the fields are green?

The National Disaster Risk Reduction framework emphasises the need for a shift in thinking about natural hazards and disaster impacts: “that disaster risk is a product of the effect of hazard (a sudden event or shock), impacting on (people and things) and the ability for those people and assets and systems to survive and adapt”.  The interconnected and cascading effects of systemic disaster risk’ means that vulnerability to disasters is inevitable and causes and effects, are both complex and interconnected throughout society. 

So what role is there for engineers in disaster risk reduction. Some engineers will say we are implicit in disaster reconstruction and that recovery relies on the efforts of engineers. Perhaps those engineers will be alarmed to know that engineering as a profession does not engage in the national discussions on resilience.  The newly formed Humanitarian Engineering Community of Practice within the College of Leadership of Management intends to champion engineering efforts in disasters as a subset of humanitarian endeavour. The Risk Technical Society has long championed disaster risk reduction within UN frameworks.  Engineers need to be engaged in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. 

Key takeaways

1. Will we forget lessons and create further vulnerability for communities? 
2. Will we learn the lessons of 2019/20 if there is substantial rain in late 2020?
3. What is investment in preparedness and what is the role for engineers in disaster preparedness?

About the Speakers

Craig Lapsley, Innovation Pro, Chief Executive  

Craig Lapsley, PSM, is recognised as one of the world’s most experienced and creditable emergency management/public safety leaders with more than 35 years’ experience as a change maker who understands communities and complex problems. As Chief Executive of Innovation Pro Pty Ltd, Craig works across the world and Australia championing collaboration, community-centred outcomes and strategic leadership focusing on key global future drivers including climate change and resilience building. Craig was appointed as Victoria’s first Fire Services Commissioner in 2010 and then Emergency Commissioner.

Renae Hanvin, Corporate2community, Founder 

Renae Hanvin is the founder of corporate2community, a purpose led business focused on building a nation of disaster resilience. Known for ‘doing disasters differently’, Renae advocates and activates greater private sector contribution before, during and after all-hazards disasters. Renae’s forward thinking, multi-stakeholder and strategic approaches shape solutions to provide pathways for the private sector and government to collaborate and co-design outcomes that benefit communities, businesses and governments. 

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