Innovating in an Emergency

It’s now two weeks since the beginning of the flood emergency in Brisbane. Somehow it doesn’t seem like two weeks. The first two days were pretty much a blur with trying to get my family to higher ground and then moving furniture and other stuff upstairs above the predicted flood level.

I was lucky because the water just came to my back fence but others in my neighborhood of Graceville were not so lucky. In my local goverment area of Tennyson, about 30% of homes were damaged by the flood. However, what has really amazed me is the speed of the cleanup operations. A lot of this is due to the goodwill of people in Brisbane donating time and resources but there is also an innovation story here.

Graceville Cleanup

A central part of the cleanup and support operations has been the parents and citizens committee of the local Graceville State School. Within hours of the floodwaters receding, the committee has mobilized to arrange support structures for affected people and to direct resources where they would be most effective. The first community coordination meeting was held on the next day (Friday).

In an interview with ABC News, the P&C president, Wayne Penning, described how rapidly they were able to coordinate a response to the disaster.

Basically through the P&C, which I’m the president of, we’ve mobilised a project team of about 20 core people across procurement, equipment, volunteering deployment, food allocation and also just some street reconnaissance and intel about what the needs were. We had a citizens assembly in our hall at 12.00pm (AEST) on Friday and since then we’ve mobilised probably about 12,000 people we’ve got into about 500 homes. And at 12.00pm (AEST) today (Monday) we just handed over that flood clean-up operation centre to the council

This is an impressive response but the key to it was that the committee usually organizes a large fund-raising fair every year. Instead of trying to do something new they adapted the management and operations of the fair.

Procurement expertise was already in place and instead of teams managing groups of stalls, they managed streets. Facebook was used to agregate information and then send it quickly to those who needed it.

Sometimes when there is an urgency to come up with a solution there is a temptation to design something from scratch. What I have seen in my suburb reminds me that to respond quickly, take a look around, see what’s already working and then adapt it.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

One thought on “Innovating in an Emergency

Comments are closed.