Home' Be : Be Issue 12 Contents Back in the real world, it’s been far from fun and
games for businesses affected by the flooding in
Queensland. Small and medium sized businesses
suffer disproportionately as, unlike large companies,
they tend not to have planned procedures in place nor
the financial and human resources to bounce back
from a natural disaster. It was something that Natalia
Muszkat, a CQUniversity Occupational Health and
Safety (OHS) student observed in the aftermath of the
flooding. As part of the work experience component
of her degree, she decided to see how these businesses
could be helped to recover quickly from natural
disasters and Gladstone Regional Council offered her a
scholarship to further the research.
“My theory – which I hope to confirm with study –
is that being prepared and having community support
makes all the difference to how resilient a business can
be. But saying that, if you’re very prepared but you have
no support from the community, that’s not going to pay
off,” she says.
Muszkat has sent out an initial survey, the results
of which are still being evaluated, to discover the best
communication techniques and the level of preparedness
in the Gladstone community as well as the psychological
impact on business owners and customers.
Already she has found one or two companies operating
best practice measures that include backing up
data, having emergency contacts up to date and
quickly available and a thought out preparedness and
continuity plan which is rehearsed and reviewed.
Measures such as these, she says, can give a company
the confidence to plough on.
But Muszkat stresses that community backing is
important. “Small businesses need to know that the
council will pass on information as quickly as possible
and make their facilities available if they are needed.
They must be confident that the council is going to be
able to deliver on these things,” she says.
She believes there is room for improvement. During
the recent flooding, many small and medium-sized
businesses were indirectly affected by road closures and
food shortages. “While the RACQ website was being
updated all the time, you never knew until you got
there, whether a road was closed.” Another problem
was panic buying in the shops and the consequent
shortages of certain foods that undermined businesses’
ability to operate. “It would be interesting to see if there
is a way for council to centralise information to make
it more effective.” At the end of the project, Muszkat
intends to deliver an action plan report and disaster
resilience toolkit for local businesses.
The crucial role of mobile networks, in particular,
has been highlighted by the recent natural disasters.
When the power fails people resort to their mobile
phone to pass information around. Michelle Samson
is another recipient of a Gladstone Regional Council
scholarship who is working on developing social media
communication tools to relay information during
natural disaster events and clean up operations.
Samson says the idea came from watching coverage
of natural disasters in the media. “As the mobile
network seemed to be the most reliable communication
source, I wondered why councils and governments
weren’t using social media to communicate information
as it can still work when electricity is down, as long as
your smart phone is charged, of course!”
The familial nature of social media helps to create
a bonding “we’re all in this together” effect on
communities, so Samson wants to find out initially
to what extent sites such as Facebook and Twitter and
mobile devices are being used. Like Muszkat, she has
sent out an online survey to determine the attitudes
and preparedness of the community in the event of a
natural disaster. “The survey will also ask what sort of
information the community would like available on these
tools and also if they would join/follow on Facebook/
Twitter or download a mobile app,” says Samson.
While modern technology will no doubt aide
communities in building resilience in the future,
Michael Turnbull believes that we have a lot to learn
from Australia’s Indigenous communities whose
experience of extreme weather and its effects is
far greater. “They use their Dreamtime mythology
to propagate the knowledge down through their
wHy COuNCiLS aND
SOCiaL MeDia TO
and Safety student
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