Hazards scenario team plan for worst
They are the frightening scenarios which sound more like movie plots.
A mysterious flu epidemic grips WA. The workforce depleted, people are filing into hospitals and doctors’ surgeries around the State, presenting with symptoms of the disease.
Or perhaps it’s an earthquake, high on the Richter scale, hitting at the dead centre of Albany, putting at risk heritage buildings never designed to withstand the disaster.
Or even a tsunami triggered by a massive earthquake south of Java which threatens thousands of kilometres of coastline between Kuri Bay in the Kimberley and Bremer Bay in the Great Southern.
They are just some of the 27 hazards WA faces and which the team at the Office of Emergency Management are charged with preparing the State for.
While there are plans for hazards of a high likelihood — cyclones, fires and storms — there are others that are less than likely.
Liquid fuel supply disruption — there’s a plan for that.
Radiation escape from a nuclear-powered warship — there’s a plan for that too.
There’s even a plan for when debris re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere from space.
OEM executive director Mal Cronstedt said the plans were developed after extensive workshopping with field experts.
“There’s not only the plan to address the outcome, consequence of it, the response to it, but this analysis is going into a bit more depth,” he said.
“We’ve got a bunch of experts here, and the science-oriented people, who also have links into broader industry, so when it comes to a particular hazard they make it their business to examine it — the probability, the consequence — in a detail greater than just a cursory examination.
“When we get down to it we spend an entire day examining the hazard in excruciating detail.”
The office is directed by the State Emergency Management Committee, made up of highranking members of WA Police, and the departments of Health, Child Protection, Fire and Emergency Services and the Premier and Cabinet.
SEMC chairman Frank Edwards has a long history working with hazard preparation.
The former army officer and City of Perth chief executive has spent decades working in emergency response and management and he believes the State is “very well prepared”.
“You have to look at it in the context of likelihood and consequence; what is the risk,” Mr Edwards said.
“All hazards have plans prepared — a plan is the basis to cross the start line. You don’t know where the incident might be, or how bad it is, or what its particular nature might be. But if you have a set of plans reviewed regularly and exercised, you’ve got to do both. Then each time an incident does occur you then would normally review it afterwards to see how it worked.”
By the end of the year, the OEM expects to have reviewed eight preparedness plans, including for land and marine searches, road crashes and space re-entry debris.
And while a piece of space junk entering the atmosphere may seem unlikely, Mr Edwards justifies it with this fact: “Every single day of the year, a piece of space junk re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
“The majority of them burn out in the atmosphere and pose no threat. The probability is so low — well there is a plan for it, it is exercised periodically, it is reviewed periodically.
“But the consequences of it are not unlike the consequences of many other hazards.
“There are a lot of things out there that could happen, but the likelihood and the probability is low, so we’ve got to ensure that the mechanism is in place to respond either if we have warning or if we don’t.”
The hardest hazards to prepare for, Mr Cronstedt said, were the unpredictable ones.
“It’s the no-warning, highimpact high-consequence things that you can do all the preparation for, you can program people in the years leading up to it,” he said.
“But then it hits. So it becomes about the response.
“Look at the last couple of months of rainfall — it’s the talk around town, it’s so unusual.”