Australia's 'new norm' bushfires - all year

Australian and NZ fire services meet to discuss new reality


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Bushfire authorities believe a new approach to providing emergency relief is required.

Bushfire authorities believe a new approach to providing emergency relief is required.

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Climate change and population growth is putting more pressure on our emergency services, forcing a response re-think.

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Australia's bushfires season could become an all-season concern, challenging the new norm of emergency situations, a peak fire authority argues.

A combination of the latest technology, public responsibility and accurate information could change the way we respond to emergency events says Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) chief executive Stuart Ellis.

A new approach is what the peak body believes is needed to adapt to recent changes in climate and population growth.

Mr Ellis says the responsibility to manage emergency situations in the most efficient ways doesn't only fall on emergency services but is in the public's hands as well.

Emergency services' role as emergency respondents could change to include public 'informers', he argues.

"Information can be crucial because we are reliant on community to take action and for that to be effective they need the right information," he said.

AFAC is hosting an emergency management conference on Tuesday to discuss these issues and reveal the latest in disaster-related research, resilience and experience, covering topics of climate extremes, aviation and fire engineering.

"There are big issues affecting the community including population growth, climate change and technological advancements," Mr Ellis said.

"We all need to continue to work together to confront the challenges we face and learning is vital to this."

The three-day conference will begin with a dedicated research forum, highlighting how the latest data and scientific developments into natural hazards are benefiting emergency services.

Science is also vital in reducing the impacts of emergencies, says Dr Richard Thornton, CEO of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

"We know that the economic, social and environmental costs of natural hazards are forecasted to rise in a way that is unprecedented and unsustainable. These challenges are complex and we should be wary of quick fix solutions - there is no silver bullet and research is key," Dr Thornton said.

Across Australia and New Zealand government spending on emergency management is increasing. This year, Mr Ellis says Victoria spent $ 5.5 billion on emergency damage control and 5 years ago it was roughly $3.5 billion.

"The numbers of emergency services members are not necessarily increasing but it's the way we communicate information to the public that could greatly change things," he said.

"The more funds we direct towards mitigation, the more we can save and a lot less to be spent in recovery after these events."

More than 3000 people from Australia and New Zealand's emergency management sector will take part in the conference, with more than 140 speakers scheduled.

Australian Associated Press

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