New approach to preparing for disasters

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A University of Adelaide researcher is exploring an alternative approach to preparing communities for disasters.

Researcher Antonella Cavallo is designing a framework for disaster preparedness to complement current planning based on identified risks. She will bring in management of uncertainty and building community resilience.

"Current disaster preparedness approaches look at identifying risk," says Ms Cavallo, a PhD student with the University's Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC). "But, as much as we can prepare for risk, there's always a portion that can't be predicted. We can feel overwhelmed with the uncertainty.

"My research is about finding out what we can do to manage and prepare for disasters in the face of this unpredictability."

Ms Cavallo is applying the ideas of complexity science - looking at a whole system of interacting parts - to developing strategies to prepare the population to be able to better cope with disasters.

"I will be working with a number of organisations and community members to explore how to incorporate ideas from complexity theories into everyday practices, from the disaster planning stage through to the operational management," she says. "The ultimate goal is to build disaster resilience within a community, empowering the community itself to prepare for unpredictable events."

She has received funding under the Natural Disaster Resilience Program managed by the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission (SAFECOM) for a two-stage project working with the Australian Red Cross and the City of Onkaparinga. There will be an introductory free public lecture this month and, from March, a series of focus groups.

The lecture, 'Getting Ready for the Unexpected - Disaster Preparedness, Trust and Community Resilience' is being held on Wednesday 20 February, at 4.30-6pm, LG29, Lower Napier Building at the North Terrace Campus. Register online.

Presenters include: Mr Jörgen Sparf, Risk and Crisis Research Centre at Mid Sweden University; Dr Tina Comes, Centre for Integrated Emergency Management at the University of Agder, Norway; Professor Paul Arbon (Chair), President of the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine and Director of the Torrens Resilience Institute; and Ms Cavallo.

"We can't keep ignoring uncertainty," Ms Cavallo says. "We need consistent approaches which allow us to acknowledge the uncertainty and then design new responses that will work and help us get ready for the unexpected, including events such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

"We want an open framework, not a recipe, which can be used all over our country and the western world to build resilience into our communities."


Contact Details

Ms Antonella Cavallo
PhD candidate
Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 7422
Mobile: +61 424 145 707

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814