Monday, November 23, 2015

Transformation of US Emergency Management

Greetings from a meeting organized by the University of Sydney's "Interoperability for Extreme Events Research Group" (IEERG) where Bob Jensen from Strat3 LLC is speaking on how the transformation of US emergency management after Hurricane Katrina. He pointed out there was little comment after Hurricane Sandy because of the lessons learned from Katrina. The main thrust of this appears to be that the US Government took a more proactive role in preparing for disasters and coordinating state and local resources, rather than just responding afterwards. Bob pointed out this was not just a matter for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

One non-government response to Hurricane Katrina was the establishment of the Sahana Software Foundation in California. Sahana is free open source disaster management software developed in Sri Lanka for the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. This was then offered world wide for free use in other disasters. Hurricane Katrina showed that software which could be run on the computers in local shelters (typically local schools) would be useful. In response the Foundation was set up to better work with US agencies (I am a member of the foundation).

Bob mentioned the importance of disaster management personnel having current training. This is an issue in Australia,  as the Australian Government announced in 2014 that its Mount Macedon emergency management training campus would close by mid-2015, to save money and be replaced by a Canberra based virtual "Australian Emergency Management Institute". On 12 August 2015, Michael Keenan, Federal Minister for Justice, announced that a "New partnership to deliver emergency management professional development", indicating that the new virtual institute was not in operation and not delivering training. The institute says "accredited training opportunities will be available in late 2015". Given that Australia is on a heightened state of terrorist alert and has recently suffered fatalities from brushfires it is of concern that the Australian government does not have in place emergency management training. The financial cost, let along the human cost of this cost cutting could be considerable.

Australia is fortunate in having formal national qualification standards in emergency management, including:
  1. PUA60112: Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management)
  2. PUA52312: Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management)
  3. PUA42712: Certificate IV in Public Safety (Emergency Communications Centre Operations)
  4. PUA33012: Certificate III in Public Safety (Emergency Communications Centre Operations)
The highest of these qualifications, the Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management), is offered by ten Registered Training Organizations. One of these is the Attorney-Generals Department Trading as: Australian Emergency Management Institute, AEMI. However, from discussions at the IEERG meeting it appears that the Attorney-Generals Department will no longer be delivering courses and will be instead working with RTOs.

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