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Byron Shire
August 12, 2022

Cops call for an overhaul of emergency and disaster response system

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Three years of disasters that saw fires, floods and a pandemic, have highlighted where emergency systems have failed according to the Police Association of NSW, which says that putting police at the centre of disaster management permanently is the best way to future-proof the state against emergency situations spiralling out of control. 

In its submission to the 2022 Flood Inquiry, the Police Association of NSW says a complete overall of the current emergency management response is required in order to protect the people of NSW from future emergencies and disasters such as floods, pandemics and bushfires getting out of hand. 

Ever-increasing emergency demand

The Association is recommending the NSW Government implement a formal, funded, permanent function within the NSW Police Force devoted to meeting the ever-increasing emergency demand.

Kevin Morton, President of the Police Association of NSW said with the number of disaster and emergency situations facing the state only set to increase, changing the overall structure of emergency management to ensure police are at helm from the very start rather than simply being brought in when things start to go wrong, would be a game-changer for emergency response in the state. 

‘The reality is that when disaster strikes, police are often called upon to come in and manage the response. We’ve seen it time and again during bushfires, floods and the pandemic and it makes sense – that’s what cops do and what we’re good at,’ said Mr Morton.

Police are always the first in

‘Keeping people safe, coordinating operations, supplying people with what they need to get by – whatever the challenge, however ‘unprecedented’, police are always the first in and the last left standing, but always finding a way. 

‘However, the current emergency response structure means the Police Force is often not called in to assist with an emergency situation until things have got dire and valuable time has already been lost.

Mr Morton said having a police structure permanently in place to deal with disaster response would help ensure we can stave off disasters before they happen, rather than having to come in and fix issues once they’ve already started to spiral out of control.

‘The Ruby Princess and Lismore floods are classic examples of emergency situations that would have benefited greatly from immediate police management.

‘There’s no doubt a lot of pain and suffering could be avoided simply by ensuring those best equipped to handle emergency situations are ready to go at the outset, and when we’re not in the midst of an emergency, having those minds planning mitigation strategies to minimise future risks would be invaluable.’


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7 COMMENTS

  1. Yes – we need a better response-system based on local knowledge and better co-ordination on improved data.
    Local SES volunteers always do a good job, when they are allowed to so by their often bureaucratic management.
    I’m certainly not convinced this ambit ‘power-grab” by ‘The Force’ is the best option.

  2. What Australia needs is like a military reserves’ unit such as the U.SA. model called The National Guard.
    The infrastructure could be located within defence units or partitioned to ensure defence capability isn’t compromised.
    The capability of infrastructure would depend on the geographical situation being, either type of natural disaster or overlap directed by federal head leader to support other first responders within the bounds of locality and task E.g., Cyclones, Mud Slides and Fire etc.
    Funding to support the infrastructure and to call out the proposed National Guard, could come in the way of size of your residential/living property E.g., 102m = $10.00 annually, collected by your local government and added to your rate notice.
    Owners of properties in ‘known’ geographical areas of natural disasters would need funding to relocate as the future is identifying to South Pacific Nations and including Australia that the 1 in 100-year events is no longer acceptable as man-made industrial revolution is the primary contributor to our global warming.
    Something must be done, and the states could not cope with the real need for infrastructure. This is an Australian problem, and it must include drought as a disaster too.

      • Property-owners pay enough already in add-on taxes, especially if they are forced into “luxury” insurance policies with big % payments added for various services and alphabet NGOs etc. This large dollop of our money goes into an amorphous pit & never seen again !
        We already have a type of ‘National Guard’ here already (aka – the Australian Army Reserve] in all regional towns, but their competent resources are nearly always ignored in local emergencies.
        Perhaps that question needs to be answered before your call to to raise taxes yet again ?

        • Thank you for your reply, Rob L.
          Funding for any response to a natural disaster is now displayed in billions of dollars: Drought; Fire; Floods/Cyclones and the biggest cost is employment/training & preparedness.
          Also, you need Infrastructure suitable for the occasion or geography and quick accessibility for those employed.
          Serving in the military we have dedicated specialist who could support in dental/medical assistance as what is occurring now in support staff for the Aged Care, and we have soldiers able to assist in floods and fires etc. The real skillset is to defend our nation and may be the best way to support our nation or those that surround our continent is to [get ready], do what the Israelis’ government and compel all citizens to complete two years of National Service in the Reserves.
          If this would be allowable in Australia, the resources to concentrate on largely domestic issues at home and support critical needs abroad.
          What I object to is the insurance companies who have a responsibility to their shareholders, hiking the price up or cancelling policies. Some owners/renters do not pay for Household Insurance or Building Insurance because of pricing, yet I’m the bunny who has insurance and I’m paying the SES through my insurance.
          SES do not have the capacity to cope with Global Warming in infrastructure/voluntary employment and capital.
          This is a national/state & local government issue that must be addressed.

  3. Please stop calling everything that happens Emergency Management, it is not. Are you talking about emergency response or Emergency Management – which includes prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery, not one but all of them in a integrated manner? Which we don’t have, we still have a silo’d system. First off… under SERM Act, NSW Police has or was in charge of large scale events for years, they also had EM for years which they did very little, with the exception of turning the role into clerk that they ignored. Response is not EM, it is a very small part and without all the other phases, it is simply response NOT EM.

  4. Interesting Article on the argument for the Police to assume command for EMS Response. What we can all agree that there is a need for change (learning lessons), with the goal being to better warn, respond and support the community prior to and during a disaster. Both the Police and ADF have defined roles (security – national interest), where as the SES is purpose built for emergency situations. I would rather see a collaborative approach to having the EMS / Police / ADF better integrated for a disaster response, the leadership role is not the argument we should be having now. There are multiple layers of problems to be solved for disaster management, and I firmly believe that power plays should be put aside so that we can all be focused on the opportunity to invest in disaster mitigation, there is precious time being wasted, for us to try and reduce the impacts of future floods, fires and droughts for the Northern Rivers community.

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