Emergencies and disasters rarely conform to jurisdictional boundaries. Local governments will always have a key role in the response to and recovery from an emergency or disaster event, usually in a broader state, territory or even national context.
Recent catastrophic natural disasters and the heightened security threat environment both point to the need to continually develop emergency management at all levels of government, to meet the new challenges and to ensure the latest technological tools are used.
The key elements of emergency management at the national level are the mitigation of risk, the promotion of community safety and warning systems, engaging partners and communities, protecting built and natural environments and an investment in community resilience. These are undertaken through a whole-of-government, multi-agency, "all hazards" approach.
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG)
COAG is the peak intergovernmental forum in Australia, comprising the Prime Minister, state premiers, territory chief ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA). Key recent COAG publications on emergency management include:
Emergency Management Australia (EMA)
EMA is the lead agency facilitating all-hazards emergency management at the national level. EMA advises the Australian Government and the broader emergency management community. The EMA website has a wealth of valuable resources to assist local government and others.
Among other functions, EMA provides training courses and educational activities specifically aimed at supporting the emergency management functions of local government. The nationally recognised program Emergency Management for Local Government has been designed to introduce leaders, employees and elected officials to some of the issues and experiences faced by local government when dealing with emergency management.
EMA has produced a glossary that includes explanations of many terms used in the emergency management field. It is Manual 3 in the Australian Emergency Manual Series.
Plans for emergency and disaster response
National contingency plans are in place to meet state and territory requests for Australian Government assistance arising from any type of disaster. These plans include the Commonwealth Government Disaster Response Plan (COMDISPLAN), which details procedures for provision of Australian government assistance through EMA in the event of a disaster in Australia.
Assistance to states and territories
COMDISPLAN includes the framework for states and territories to request Commonwealth assistance arising from any type of emergency.
Working Together to Manage Emergencies
In 2004, the Australian Government announced a new policy initiative, Working Together to Manage Emergencies, to foster self-reliance at both the community and local government level and enhance community safety. This initiative is being undertaken through a partnership between the Australian Government, and state/territory/local governments.
EMA administers the initiative that involves $49m in grants over four years, allocated under a Local Grants Scheme and a National Emergency Volunteer Support Fund. The funding supports local government, communities and volunteers involved in emergency management, and aims at enhancing Australia's capability to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies and disasters arising from any hazard.