Category Archives: Uncategorized

Asia-Pacific’s Annus Horribilis

An interesting analysis and discussion of the recent events and approaches to crisis readiness’s-annus-horribilis/

Peter Rekers
Crisis Ready/EMPA


Emergency Public Information Officer Accreditation Program!

Hi All,

Those of you at last year’s EMPA conference may recall my presentation on our proposed accreditation program to build an industry benchmark for public information officers (PIO) working in emergencies.   After our conference I spoke in Washington DC at the FEMA PIO conference and presented the same concept which was very well received.  Like Australia, the US has no program to develop and recognise the skills and experiences of PIOs in this specialist area.  We have since attracted attention from Canada as well.

The good news is the program is being launched at this year’s conference.

The program brings together a number of elements which have been suggested by EMPA’s senior practitioners and researchers, many of whom will continue to contribute through formal inputs at EMPA Fellows.   The program is intended to take around 6 months and involves a number of essays, demonstration of practical experiences on major operations or exercises, an exam and finally sitting before an expert panel.

Accredited Emergency Public Information Officers are the future of this important field and as the peak body, EMPA is committed to providing them with a program to demonstrate their capabilities, while giving their employers a structured and recognised professional development program.

For more information contact Rebecca Riggs, the Program Manager at

Peter Rekers


Watching Japan

Quite apart from the devastating impacts on the communities, the commentary now seems to be about the lack of reliable information coming from authorities. Scenes of Tokyo looking deserted must be a reflection of wider economic impacts.

Post-disaster (an indeed ongoing threat) information flow has far wider impacts than just community spirit, morale and safety warnings. People are being told to leave the country due to an unclear picture of the scope of the nuclear threat.

Effective and timely warnings can lessen economic impacts. AUSAID, are you listening?

Well done NSWFB for sending Ian K.

Peter Rekers – Crisis Ready

Guest blog post: Denis Muller

As someone who worked for half a lifetime as a journalist and then specialised in media ethics, I watched the coverage of the Black Saturday bushfires with a mixture of admiration and dismay: admiration for its breadth, the vividness of some of the images and the excellence of some of the writing; dismay for the instances of gross intrusion and obvious exploitation, and for lapses of judgment about what to publish.

Michael Gawenda, Director of the newly established Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne, agreed to fund a research project in which we would ask media professionals who covered the fires to talk with us about the ethical dilemmas they faced, and how they resolved them.

We interviewed 28 media professionals from a wide range of media organisations. The result was a conference at which we presented our report, and a book published in February 2011 by Melbourne University Press, which can be found only through the MUP e-store.

We realised, however, that this was only half the story. The other half was, what was the effect of media treatment on the people whom the media covered?

The Centre for Advanced Journalism, with financial support from a range of organisations, including EMPA, then commissioned what has become, in effect, part two of the research project.

In this part, we are interviewing up to 30 people who were the subject of media coverage in the aftermath of the fires. We are looking in particular at issues of consent, emotional effect, privacy, grief, and trauma, as well as at the long-term effect on them and their families of their having been exposed to the media.

We are also looking at issues concerning media access to the fire ground and to private property, and issues concerning exposure of survivors to the media in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. This includes the role of emergency services in facilitating or blocking media access to survivors.

It is the findings from this work that will be presented at the EMPA conference in April.

-Denis Muller

Guest Bloggers: EMPA Conference Speakers

There’s just a month to go to the 2011 Emergency Media and Public Affairs Conference in Canberra.

To preview some of the great speakers who’ll be presenting at EMPA, we’ve asked all speakers to contribute a short entry about their topic to our blog. It’ll be interesting to see who jumps at the chance to get into the blogosphere. We hope it gets you even more interested in what they have to say.


Recovery….why is it always forgotten?

An interesting item from the ABC over the weekend reminding us of the importance of recovery planning.

Peter Rekers – Crisis Ready

Interesting articles – Today’s roundup

A couple of good emergency management-related articles from today’s Online Opinion:

1.  Flood management: a 12-point plan for Australia by Chas Keys, a Queensland-based flood management researcher who’s part of the natural hazards research unit at Macquarie University.  He says, “We need to better communicate information and advice to those about to experience flooding.”

2.  Social capital (from the floods) – up close and personal by Geoffrey Woolcock, who researches child-friendly communities at Griffith University’s Urban Research Program. There’s a good discussion of resilience and volunteerism here: “We were overwhelmed with the support that came from near and far, friends and strangers, family and acquaintances.” Seems that sites like FloodAid are indicative of a larger trend offline.

3.  What a difference a day makes: Katrina to Cairns by Edward Blakely, who I’ve heard speak a few times now. Ed’s the Professor of Urban Policy at the United States Studies Centre, Sydney University, and was the head of recovery after Hurricane Katrina in the US.  One of his ‘to-do’s’: “Have a communications system in place to reach all community members before, during and after the crisis. All the modern tools need to be put in place ranging from mobile phone messaging to radio, television and social media.”

Twitter: @dizzydeep

#qldfloods and #vicfloods

Craig Thomler is a federal public servant who works within the Department of Health and Aging. He has worked in various roles within the online industry since 1995, and as such has a wealth of knowledge on his blog. I heard him speak about gov2.0 late last year, and while he was preaching to the converted, he was a captivating speaker, offering various insights on web2.0 generally, as well as govt2.0 and social media communications. Well worth reading his blog and following him on Twitter.

In a roundabout way, that brings me to the purpose of this post, the Queensland floods, social media and particularly the Queensland Police Media Twitter account, @QPSmedia and their Facebook page. So much has been written about their efforts throughout #qldfloods, so visit Craig’s blog for his post on how Queensland Police demonstrated best practice emergency communications via social media. There are some links in there to some great articles about Queensland Police and their social media use in there too.

Sandeep (@DizzyDeep) remarked to me today that the Queensland floods will go down as the way to conduct emergency communications via social media, and I think he is right.

Victorian also suffered record flooding over January 2011, and Victoria Police also showed us another best practice example of how to engage in emergency communications via social media, with their Twitter account @VictoriaPolice providing updates and advice throughout the floods.

Twitter: @nathanmaddock

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Book of interest

The following is from the University of Colorado’s Disaster Research News:

Public Response to Warnings on Mobile Devices
This book, in prepublication from National Academies Press, presents ideas from a recent National Research Council workshop on how people respond to emergency warnings, especially those received via mobile devices. The book, available free online, covers the planned Commercial Mobile Alert System, communicating during a crisis, public education and training, and communicating with at-risk populations. Research gaps and opportunities are also explored.”

Michael Eburn

“Demistifying the Message to Create Effective Emergency Alerts”

Follow this link for an article that appears in the online journal, Emergency Management on the need to do more than just get the message out but to also take steps to ensure it is believed and acted upon.

It is interesting to note that during the recent Perth bushfires that people still relied on the neighbours and the ‘bush telegraph’ to confirm the warning message. See “How the ‘bush telegraph’ trumped Twitter” on

It shows there is still much work for communication professionals and EMPA.

Michael Eburn