Preparedness refers to actions taken to create and maintain the capacity to respond to, and recover from natural disasters and other emergencies. This is achieved through measures such as planning, exercises, training, community education, information management, communications and warning systems.

Role of the States and Territories

The States and Territories have principal responsibility for disaster preparedness and response within Australia and are fully responsible for managing any natural disasters within their area of jurisdiction.

The arrangements within each State and Territory are well established and implemented, with capabilities which have increased and improved considerably over time. This has been achieved through a move towards integrated whole-of-government, multi-agency systems for response management which focus on community safety.

As risk assessment and hazard information improves and disaster mitigation is more widely practiced, the States and Territories expect to further update, improve and integrate their preparedness and response capabilities and performance. The States and Territories also are encouraging local governments to revise their preparedness and response arrangements in light of an improved understanding of disaster risks.

Role of the Australian Government

A vital role of the Australian Government is in response planning and preparedness which is undertaken through Emergency Management Australia. As part of the Attorney-General's Department, Emergency Management Australia is the principal agency responsible for emergency management planning and coordination at The Australian Government level. In addition to its management role, the agency's activities include training and exercises, community awareness, information and knowledge management, strategic development and coordinating 60 Australian Government disaster responses.

A series of response plans developed by Geoscience Australia and others are currently under consideration. The Australian Government Disaster Response Plan provides the framework for the provision of Australian Government assistance in any form of emergency or disaster. The government also plays a significant role nationally in the provision of geohazard and meteorological related services through Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology. These services are provided in partnership with Emergency Management Australia and State and Territory agencies which prepare for, and respond to natural disasters.

Critical elements of national preparedness provided by Australian Government agencies include:

  • weather forecasts and warnings
  • warning systems for flood and tsunamis
  • the National Registration and Inquiry System (a computer based system to identify people affected by disasters)
  • seismic monitoring for earthquakes and nuclear explosions
  • multi-hazard risk assessments for earthquakes and landslides
  • development of the Australian Disaster Information Network (AusDIN).

(Edited excerpts from: Natural Disasters in Australia: Reforming mitigation, relief and recovery. Commonwealth of Australia 2004 - Read COAG Report.)