How Disaster Management is Impacting Engagement

We’ve been working with local councils who are implementing recommendations from reviews and commissions into major disasters. We’re finding we need to review our approach to engaging for disaster management.

Across Australia a significant, and increasing, number of major disasters, including floods, fires, cyclones and storm surges, have caused billions of dollars damage to city and towns. That’s kicked off a broad range of reviews and commissions into the issues that may have made disasters worse. Recommendations to lessen the future impact of disasters are now being implemented across the country.

Engagement professionals often consider strategies and tactics that will balance the influence of NIMBYs (not in my back yard) and WIIFMs (what’s in it for me). But when it comes to mitigating disasters, some people will be impacted more than others. However, more than ever policy makers are being driven to take action to protect their communities, despite possible individual opposition.

Engage for disaster management improvements

So, what we do as engagement professionals to foster greater acceptance of policy changes that might not benefit everyone equally when the health, safety and future prosperity for an entire region are at stake? Here’s our top six tips to help you in your disaster management engagement.

1. Explain the drivers for action

When people understand why, they’re more likely to accept changes. Councils are at risk of being held responsible if they don’t take action on information they have about disaster behaviour – they must act.

2. Engage as early as possible

Create an engagement plan to give everyone affected the chance to gain a deep understanding of all the information being considered in decision making.

3. Validate the information you are working with

Explain how it informs decisions. Engage with the community to confirm the information is accurate.

4. Test the community’s tolerance for disasters

Engage with the community to find out what they believe are the most important local issues. They’re right there in the middle of events so they witness how things unfold.

5. Try to get individuals to think about the big picture

You’re more likely to succeed when the community helps to identify the significant regional assets, and what is most important to protect to keep the region healthy, safe and prosperous.

6. Gauge early opinion about potential policy responses

Engage the community in the spectrum of policy responses. Understanding if they are deeply opposed to certain policy responses can inform policy decisions and responses and help plan for future communication and engagement.

The future: disaster mitigation

As more findings and recommendations are published, we can expect to see that focus will turn from funding disaster recovery to planning and funding for disaster mitigation.

We predict this will have a significant impact on planning decisions and engagement with impacted communities and stakeholders into the future.

We also see a need for councils to help their staff be ready to support local communities, particularly businesses, to recover more quickly from disasters. We developed the Small Business Disaster Hub for the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training and offer Crisis Resilience Training for council staff and small business.