Local knowledge is invaluable to the disaster planning process. The January 2014 North Stradbroke Island fires highlighted just how critical local knowledge is in understand local hazards and the topography of the land to support an affective fire response. The National Strategy for Disaster Resilience recognises that disaster management is a shared responsibility for all of society and active engagement with and empowerment of the community as central to achieving resilience over the long term. Redland City Council has recognised the key role the community plays in contributing to its own safety.
In this light, Redland City Council has undertaken a program of community engagement around disaster planning with a twofold purpose. Firstly, the program was aimed at tapping into the knowledge of local residents about their local area – the hazards and resources available within the local community to support during disaster response. Secondly, the program was designed to build community resilience through education to increase community awareness of the hazards that exist locally and how to prepare themselves, their home and their community for the possibility of a disaster event. Engaging a community in how it can prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies is more likely to result in decisions and outcomes the community is confident about and will act upon, and this in turn will support the work of disaster response agencies.
The Community Engagement Framework for Emergency Management (AEMI, 2011) (the Framework) is a key component in the implementation of the Council for Australian Governments’ National Strategy for Disaster Resilience. The Framework draws on the internationally recognised International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Public Participation Spectrum. The Framework has been utilised to design and implement the community engagement process.
Community Engagement Model for Emergency Management
A number of community forums were held across Redland City to draw knowledge from residents living on the mainland of Redland City. These forums were held in the following locations:
• Mount Cotton State School
• Capalaba Sports Club
• Victoria Point Shopping Centre
• Wellington Point Village
• Redlands RSL, Cleveland
• Donald Simpson Centre, Cleveland
• Capalaba Park Shopping Centre
The community forums identified that residents believed that they had a good understanding of local disasters and the event that was most likely to impact their area was a severe storm, followed by bushfire and flooding. The forums did however highlight that residents generally were not aware of the extent of the natural hazards in their area. Nor were the majority of residents aware of where to go to access information about disaster preparedness or how to get updates during a disaster. It also appears from survey results that the majority of residents had not prepared for disasters, the main reasons given for this were apathy, laziness or not having thought about it.
The information provided by the community through these forums has informed the development of this disaster management plan. Future community forums will be held at various locations throughout Redland City to continue to build community resilience and awareness, and as a process of continuous improvement in refining the Redland City Disaster Management Plan.