Community sector organisations and Emergency Management

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1 Community sector organisations and Emergency Management August 2013

2 About VCOSS The Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) is the peak body of the social and community sector in Victoria. VCOSS works to ensure that all Victorians have access to and a fair share of the community s resources and services, through advocating for the development of a sustainable, fair and equitable society. VCOSS members reflect a wide diversity, with members ranging from large charities, sector peak organisations, small community services, advocacy groups and individuals involved in social policy debates. Authorised by: Carolyn Atkins, Acting Chief Executive Officer Copyright 2013 Victorian Council of Social Service Victorian Council of Social Service Level 8, 128 Exhibition Street Melbourne, Victoria, For enquiries: Bridget Tehan Policy Analyst - Emergency Management E:

3 Contents About VCOSS... 1 Executive summary... 3 Emergency management in Victoria... 5 The role of community sector organisations in emergency management... 2 Community sector organisations and planning for emergencies... 6 Victoria s Emergency Management reform... 8 VCOSS and Emergency Management... 9

4 Executive summary This paper provides an overview of the current emergency management arrangements in Victoria and the critical role that the community sector plays in emergency management. Community sector organisations provide support and assistance to Victorians on a daily basis from mental health, family violence and disability services through to aged care. Community sector organisations are also called upon to provide support to individuals and communities following an emergency. From immediate assistance at relief and recovery centres through to long term counselling, community sector organisations bring significant local knowledge, experience and connections to people and communities. In addition community sector organisations remain in their communities for the longer term, providing ongoing support. However few community sector organisations have the resources or capacity to manage the risks associated with emergencies such as business continuity planning, staffing, insurance and funding certainty. In addition engagement with the community sector in emergency management planning requires improved at the local, regional and state level. The State Government is currently undertaking major reform of Victoria s emergency management arrangements. VCOSS is working with the State Government to ensure that the role of the community sector is acknowledged and incorporated into emergency management planning at all levels.

5 About VCOSS... 1 Executive summary... 2 Emergency management in Victoria... 5 The role of community sector organisations in emergency management... 2 Community sector organisations and planning for emergencies... 6 Victoria s Emergency Management reform... 8 VCOSS and Emergency Management... 9

6 Emergency management in Victoria While Australia is a resilient nation, emergencies can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of individuals and communities. Natural disasters, extreme weather events, accidents, major health threats and acts of violence can all cause physical, financial and psychological hardship. The impact of emergencies on disadvantaged people and communities is more severe, as they have a reduced capacity to cope, adapt and recover. All levels of government, community sector organisations (CSOs) and the private sector have important roles to play to prevent, respond to and recover from emergencies. Each state and territory in Australia faces different risks, and each operates its own Emergency Acts. The Emergency Management Act 1986 is the governing legislation for emergency management in Victoria. Following recommendations made by the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and inquiries relating to the floods across Victoria, the Victorian Government is undertaking major reform of the state's crisis and emergency management arrangements. Victoria s current framework for emergency management is complex and involves multiple agencies. A range of responsibilities lies with state, regional and local governments, as well as with community sector organisations, private organisations, and individuals. The State Government is in the process of reforming Victoria s emergency management arrangements and this is discussed toward the end of this paper. Emergency management in Victoria embraces the whole of government and whole of the community. The Emergency Management Act 1986 describes its objective as being: to ensure that [prevention, response and recovery] are organised within a structure which facilitates planning, preparedness, operational co-ordination and community participation. Phases of Emergency Management Emergencies are recognised world-wide as operating in three main phases: Prevention: the elimination or reduction of the incidence or severity of emergencies and the mitigation of their effects. Response/Relief: the combating of emergencies and the provision of rescue and immediate relief services. Recovery: the assisting of people and communities affected by emergencies to achieve a proper and effective level of functioning. Examples of emergency management activities and their relationships under each of these three clusters are set out in the diagram below:

7 Prevention Risk management Legislation and regulation Land use controls Enforcement Recovery Counselling Personal support Material aid Community programs Financial assistance Response/Relief Firefighting Rescue Flood sandbagging Searches Examples of emergency management activities that fall within more than one of these areas include: Recovery and Prevention Rebuilding Restoration Community action Advocacy Response/Relief and Recovery Evacuation and/or Relief Centres Temporary accommodation Registration of individuals Psychosocial supports Prevention and Response/Relief Warnings Fuel reduction burning Prevention, Response/Relief and Recovery Planning Preparedness Community awareness Training Exercising Finance All levels of government, community sector organisations and the private sector play important roles across each of these areas. Emergency management activities do not take place in any particular sequence - the phases of Prevention, Response/Relief and Recovery do not necessarily follow each other in order and can operate at the same time.

8 The Prevention phase of emergency management operates on a continuum. Following an emergency event, Response/Relief activities commence as soon as possible, peak to full effort quickly and often cease promptly when the physical emergency has been dealt with. Recovery activities commence at or soon after the time of impact and peak to full effort more gradually and often much later than response activities. Recovery activities can continue for a considerable period of time, gradually tapering off and merging into normal community activities some weeks, months or even years after the initial emergency impact. Recovery is defined as the process of assisting individuals and communities to manage the reestablishment of those elements of society necessary for their wellbeing. Recovery is planned across four environments: social - the emotional, social, spiritual, financial and physical wellbeing of individuals and communities economic - the revitalisation of the economy of the community built - the restoration of essential and physical infrastructure natural - the rehabilitation of the environment. The model below demonstrates the three phases of emergency management across time Response Recovery Prevention Impact Time The Victorian Emergency Management Branch a shared service of both the Victorian Department of Human Services and the Department of Health is currently the coordinating agency for both emergency relief and recovery at the state and regional level.

9 The role of community sector organisations in emergency management Community sector organisations deliver a wide range of social support, community resilience and education services across Victoria. Services include: local community health services mental health support housing support child and family services youth services family violence services legal services aged care migrant and refugee services disability support financial counselling neighbourhood houses and learning centres. The community sector plays an important role in supporting community wellbeing and provides vital services to disadvantaged and socially vulnerable Victorians. Support needs of communities vary widely, and can include broad, targeted, simple or complex assistance. Community sector organisations bring significant local knowledge, experience and connections to their work and communities. In emergencies, community sector organisations are at the forefront of immediate responses and remain for the long haul, providing a range of supports that communities need to recover. At these times, their role in assisting vulnerable people and communities is particularly critical. For many people, these organisations are often the primary connection to the broader community and form the basis of their resilience to everyday adversity, as well as in times of crisis. Community sector organisations are embedded within their communities and their knowledge of local people, history, risks and vulnerabilities, makes them best placed to understand and identify support needs. It is not just the obvious community sector organisations, such as housing providers, that help to ensure the safety and wellbeing of individuals and communities in emergencies. Neighbourhood houses and learning centres, community health services, and organisations providing child and family, financial counselling and youth support services all play important roles, providing vital advice and information about emergency preparedness, relief and recovery over the short, medium and longer term. Many continue their support long after formal emergency response agencies have withdrawn their services.

10 Prevention The community sector participates in a range of activities under the Prevention phase, from public planning and preparedness activities through to internal risk management and staff training specifically for emergency events. Community sector organisations are also involved in emergency planning at the local government level with representation on emergency management planning committees, including for Municipal Emergency Management Plans, and at the state level, with representation on a number of government committees. Response/Relief During the immediate Response/Relief phase following an emergency event, personal support workers from local community sector organisations can provide support at an emergency site, if it is safe to do so, or at relief and recovery centres. Organisations are able to use their pre-established connections within communities and with other community sector organisations to target assistance on a needs basis and provide immediate relief through activities such as outreach. This is particularly important for those members of the community who are vulnerable, such as those who are socially isolated, homeless, aged, have disabilities, are newly arrived migrants or refugees, suffer from health or mental health issues or live on low incomes. Linking people into services early improves their ability to manage and recover from emergencies. Recovery Community sector organisations provide a broad range of services to individuals and communities to assist them as part of the longer term Recovery phase. These can include organisations whose operations are either quite specialised and/or are available mainly in a specific locality. During Recovery all levels of government, community sector organisations, other agencies, and communities work together to assist those affected move towards a healthy, safe and functioning environment. Local connections within communities ensure that support is targeted, relevant and effective. Recovery is the longest phase in emergency management. It is the phase that places most demand on local community sector organisations but is the least-recognised and documented in current emergency management arrangements, not only in Victoria but throughout Australia. It is important to note, for example, that four years after the 2009 Victorian Bushfires, significant recovery work is still underway, with local community sector organisations playing a significant role. The Emergency Management Branch of the Departments of Health and Human Services works in collaboration with local government and local community sector organisations, some of which have Memoranda of Understanding in place (with either department), for the provision of support services following an emergency. There is significant evidence that support services are especially important for communities and individuals already experiencing disadvantage prior to an emergency event. Community sector organisations are at the forefront of strengthening disaster resilience, helping local individuals and communities to cope with, and recover from, emergencies.

11 Community sector relationships and services Insight into local communities Established relationships with volunteers Information and understanding of vulnerable people Established service networks Established relationships with local government In emergencies, community sector services provide: Personal support, information and advice Psychological 7irst aid Emergency food and heatlh care Outreach Temporary accommodation General and specialist services, including counselling Linking and referring people to services Social support Community building Emergency management preparedness information and education Local emergency management planning assistance Access to remote or isolated communities Critical service provision Access to private sector resources Information provision Access to disabilitiy services Local issues responsiveness Communication in languages other than English Community-based approaches are vital to successful emergency management. Local communities are often the first to respond when a disaster occurs and are acutely aware of the specific vulnerabilities, needs and demands of local communities. Local communities and the community sector organisations that work with them have the skills, knowledge and resources to provide support to those who need it most.

12 Case study: Recovery resources Grampians Community Health Service Grampians Community Health Service has significant experience in working with their community around the longer term effects of emergencies, having provided support to individuals and local communities through the 11 year drought and following the 2006 Grampians bushfires, the 2009 Victorian Bushfires and the Victorian floods. Drawing on these experiences, Grampians Community Health developed a resource kit for organisations dealing with emergency situations. The kit allows for a quick set-up of the paperwork required to track people and information through organisational systems in an emergency situation. It provides detailed and practical information about what to do and what will be needed in specific situations, is available to any organisation and can be used or adapted as required. Case study: Local networks Whittlesea Community Futures The Whittlesea Community Futures group provides an example of the value of local networks. Whittlesea Community Futures is a network of over 40 human service organisations, communitybased groups and state government departments working with the City of Whittlesea to deliver projects to increase local community capacity and resilience. Following the 2009 Victorian Bushfires, the relationships and communication networks established through Whittlesea Community Futures increased the effectiveness and coordinated use of local resources and services to best meet the needs of individuals and communities affected in not just the immediate Response phase but longer term as well.

13 Community sector organisations and planning for emergencies Local governments are responsible for the local management and delivery of recovery services for individuals and communities affected by emergencies under the Emergency Management Act As part of this, local governments are required to establish multi-agency planning committees to prepare and maintain Municipal Emergency Management Plans. These plans identify local resources that can be used during emergency response, relief and recovery operations. Resources can include: local agencies that have agreed to participate in formal emergency relief and recovery arrangements, including community sector organisations local community agencies that have a capacity to assist people affected by emergencies, including community sector organisations local government-owned or controlled assets local government council-employed or contracted personnel private businesses and organisations with a capacity to provide emergency response, relief and recovery services or activities. Both local governments and community sector organisations have insight, knowledge and understanding of their communities. They are best placed to plan for the response, relief and, importantly, recovery following an emergency. However, engagement by local governments with community sector organisations in emergency planning is ad-hoc and varies significantly across Victoria. Improved coordination, partnership and communication at the local, regional and state level is required to strengthen emergency management planning in Victoria. A number of local government authorities have well developed Municipal Emergency Management Plans based on strong and active engagement with local community sector organisations to identify the services and support they will provide following an emergency. Further work is required to ensure that all local governments adopt this best practice approach. It is critical that relevant community sector organisations are actively engaged in local level emergency planning to ensure coordinated emergency responses are implemented early. To achieve this, investment in the emergency management capacity of community sector organisations similar to that provided to/by local government is required. Support is also required to develop understanding and awareness among local governments of best practice approaches in municipal emergency management planning. Many community sector organisations are being asked by their communities to support long-term recovery, however most community sector organisations are not well prepared for emergencies.

14 Few have the resources or capacity to manage risks associated with emergencies, including planning, staffing, insurance and funding certainty. Whole of government approaches to emergency management are also needed which meet the needs of the most disadvantaged in the Victorian community.

15 Victoria s Emergency Management reform The Victorian Government is undertaking major reform of the state's crisis and emergency management arrangements and released a Green Paper to this effect in VCOSS lodged a submission to the Green Paper highlighting the pivotal role of local community sector organisations in emergency management. The Victorian Emergency Management Reform White Paper, released in December 2012, makes a number of recommendations to improve Victoria s emergency management arrangements. It contains the following key strategic priorities for Victoria s emergency management: A new understanding of shared responsibility and a collaborative approach between individuals, communities, emergency services organisations, business, industry and government in terms of emergency management. A new vision for emergency management emphasising a sustainable and efficient system that minimises the likelihood and consequences of disasters and emergencies on the Victorian community. Three underlying principles: Community, Collaboration and Capability. A further recommendation is the creation of a new overarching control body, Emergency Management Victoria (EMV). VCOSS welcomed the Government highlighting the need to strengthen its partnerships with the not-for-profit sector, community sector organisations and the private sector. The Government also emphasises the role of local government in emergency management. Community sector organisations provide many of the key services required throughout the relief and recovery phases of the emergency management cycle. As key service delivery agencies, it is critical that the community sector be included in all emergency management planning processes, particularly at the local level. Stronger structural mechanisms are required to ensure timely delivery of vital support services and ensure organisational capacity. Lack of capacity in the community sector undermines the resilience and efficiency of Victoria s overall emergency management arrangements. VCOSS has responded to the White Paper and will continue to work with the Victorian Government as it undertakes reform of Victoria s emergency management arrangements, ensuring that the role and needs of the community sector and disadvantaged Victorians are addressed.

16 VCOSS and Emergency Management VCOSS has played a role in emergency management since 2005, particularly around the long-term drought and the 2006 bushfires in the Grampians, Gippsland and north-east Victoria. VCOSS was also significantly involved in government planning and policy following the 2009 Victorian heatwave and bushfires. This included community sector consultation processes and a submission to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. VCOSS was also active in the Victorian floods. VCOSS has participated in a number of government committees and reference groups, including the: Victorian Bushfire Psychosocial Recovery Advisory Committee Victorian Bushfire Case Management Coordination Committee, and Evaluation Advisory Group Victorian Bushfire Psychosocial Recovery Plan, Child and Youth Advisory Committee State Social, Health and Community Recovery Planning Sub Committee. VCOSS plays an important role in communicating emergency management policy changes, emerging directions and challenges between both government and the community sector, as well as across diverse parts of the sector. VCOSS is focused on improving connections and partnerships across state and local governments and the community sector, and to foster more collaborative and coordinated approaches to emergency management at local, regional and state levels, with a focus on disadvantaged people and communities. VCOSS has established relationships across key state government departments involved in emergency management, as well as a number of local governments and local government peak bodies and, of course, a broad range of community sector organisations throughout Victoria. VCOSS is working to provide the community sector with information about emergency management, and to inform State Government policy and program development for future emergency management. In particular, VCOSS aims to complement existing emergency management policy evaluation with perspectives from the community sector and the most socially vulnerable by documenting experiences which will inform and improve approaches and processes.

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