Brace Your Team: The grim reality of the future for disasters!

Kiah’s Organisational Resilience leader Marnie Edwards recently attended AFAC23 in Brisbane. These are her observations.

Escalating emergencies, and more devastating impacts, is the prediction of AFAC23, specifically:

  • natural hazards will worsen in intensity, complexity and regularity
  • there will be increased demand on the limited emergency service agencies and government funding
  • species and habitat loss will increase
  • people living in emergency “recovery” accommodation will increase
  • insurance costs may become unaffordable

The good news, technology will afford us greater capability and capacity to manage emergencies – if we plan, prepare and practice.  

Three thousand emergency services professionals from across Australia internationally convened in Brisbane under the theme of `Creating a Sustainable Future’ in August. Key takeaways for me included the criticality of building community and organisational resilience, the critically of healthy emergency service cultures, and the harnessing predictive technologies and innovation.  

The clear message for organisations and businesses everywhere, at every level, is vigilance. Prepare, plan and practice – storms, heat and fire events are coming. 

Here are some other insights.

Learn from and work with the communities you serve!

A multitude of initiatives and success stories across Australia demonstrated the effectiveness of working with locals for locals. Combining emergency expertise and theory with local experience created workable, targeted solutions across the prevention, preparation, response and recovery (PPRR) spectrum. Local collaboration results in empowerment and buy in to build the resilience of local communities for all emergencies. 

Healthy workforce cultures are paramount for safety!

The insights from keynote speaker, Nazir Afzal, in the Independent Culture Review of London Fire Brigade, were confronting and real. During Nazir’s recounting of the behaviours witnessed in his review there was applause and tears within the audience. For me he spoke for all men and women that have experienced the dilemmas and disempowerment of witnessing and experiencing bad behaviours in the workplace. He emphasised the need for leaders to proactively role model values in everything they do, to take every staff member’s story seriously and never walk past a `rotten apple’ in case it may turn into a contaminated orchard. 

We have of course, seen the same behaviours identified in many reviews in Australia and more recently in the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force Afghanistan Inquiry report, released in 2020 (the Brereton Report) and the court cases related to the events in the report. With the hard work done by Nazir, the 22 recommendations would be a great health check for any organisation. How good would it be to be part of making workplaces safe now and for the next generation!

Predictive Technologies and Hazard Analysis – the way of the future is here now!

The emergence of predictive tools was a highlight at AFAC. These technologies enable every business and organisation to quickly analyse potential impacts of storm and fire events, allowing for more proactive response planning. By leveraging data-driven tools, organisations can anticipate and mitigate risks effectively. The introduction of these technologies into our business and agencies will lead to automation of actions plans and decision-making points eg when to close businesses, evacuations, sending staff home etc.  This would be good news for all emergency staff and crisis leaders who are working towards having information flows that ensure the right information gets to the right people at the right time.

Innovations in Equipment and Strategy – how do we adopt into our asset management plans?

Exhibition Hall was full of fire technology, trucks, drones, robots, simulators, popcorn with exhibitioners happy to enthral every delegate with the details of the equipment. It was a wonderland of cutting-edge equipment and vehicles. The challenge being of course for all attending, working out which would help their services do their role and improve the safety of their services and volunteers. Long term strategy, planning and funding for emergency fleet and equipment provision is a key challenge for every business, government and emergency service. Getting the balance of maintaining a like for like asset management plan and ensuring you are open to innovations and improvements in equipment is a significant challenge and one Kiah loves assisting with. 

Key Agencies at the forefront of the national emergency agenda!

There was clear leadership throughout the conference by the new National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) and Natural Hazards Research Australia (NHRA). All three speaking to initiatives in creating a national common operating picture, advancements in national resources for disaster resilience and research specifically targeted at improving disaster response and recovery. The emergency sector has come out of Covid and the increase in natural hazard disasters over the past four years with clearer national leadership and more cohesion in meeting the challenges of the future. We here at Kiah are using the Organisational Resilience work done by the Australian Government to help agencies and business to be adaptive and respond well to disasters and shape themselves to prepare for long term challenges. 


The emergency sector has literally been dealing with pandemic, floods, fires and bio-security threats continuously for over four years. Staff are crisis fatigued, workforces have a myriad of issues, equipment is a constant battle and then there are the reviews of each event to work through. And yet, in Brisbane we saw the best of the sector, showcasing great work, demonstrating innovation and showing the way to take on the challenges of the future with confidence, positivity and most importantly planning.  

If you would like to have a conversation about your organisations’ resilience strategy, please give us a call. 

Marnie Edwards leads Kiah’s Organisational Resilience programs. Marnie has extensive experience in leading emergency and crisis management teams investigations, business improvement and strategy. Marnie has delivered many complex projects in public, not-for-profit and private sectors. Marnie has a unique ability to transition quickly into leading a work project, creating positive momentum and completing projects on time and on budget.  Marnie has been an inspirational leader in the emergency sector and is passionate about helping business feel confident about-facing emergencies and crisis in their businesses into the future. 

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