Emergency Media and Public Affairs (EMPA) was formed in 2006 from a discussion between the University of Southern Queensland and the Queensland Department of Emergency Services about a way of developing emergency communication skills and sharing experiences in order to learn. Emergency Management Australia had also been looking at ways to develop the field, and the three organisations decided to hold the first conference, which was in Brisbane in 2007.
The first committee was Alastair Wilson from EMA, Barbara Ryan from USQ and Peter Rekers from DES, which then expanded to include communicators from organisations and universities in other states, and now links emergency communicators across Australia and around the world.
EMPA runs an annual conference intended to share experience and knowledge amongst crisis communicators from both government and industry. Funds raised from the conference aid practitioners from disadvantaged organisations to attend the conference and also fund research in the field.
Research & Development Centre
EMPA has also established the EMPA Research and Development Centre, which aims to act as a centre for research ideas, but also as a ‘clearing house’ for research ideas from government and industry. This clearing house aims to connect these ideas with researchers from across Australia. The EMPA Research and Development Centre also aims to fund a range of research projects.
Crisis communications is a specialist area, often overlooked and misunderstood, or at best taken for granted until it’s all that is left. The challenge of reaching audiences with accurate and up to date information and safety messages in situations where normal communication channels are often failing demands rigorous methodologies, preparation and engagement at all levels of management. The opportunities for crisis communicators to meet and share learnings and methodologies are limited. EMPA aims to correct this, expand the networks for professionals and encourage knowledge sharing in this fast-growing area.