Queenslanders can prepare for the unimaginable with launch of disaster guidelines

25 June 2021

Stories of community leadership' impact' and triumph and in the face of adversity were shared at CQUniversity Townsville today (25 June) as researchers launched their new book and set of guidelines titled Preparing for the Unimaginable: Guidelines for Organisational Response and Staff Support Before' During and After Disaster.

More than 30 community members attended the launch where the publicly and freely available book was distributed to local businesses owners' leaders' and stakeholders.

Inspired by Townsville's devastating and unprecedented 2019 floods' project lead Dr Adele Baldwin explained the launch of these evidence based-guidelines will provide a flexible framework to help businesses provide the best support for their staff in future disaster situations.

"The Townsville floods were one of the worst natural disasters to ever impact the region. It highlighted to us the need for further research and strategies on how to help prepare both business and individuals for these situations'"

Dr Baldwin said.

"We saw first-hand how CQUniversity Townsville campus employees supported each other and received support from our colleagues at other campuses' but in both the literature and disaster management guidelines there was little information about employers' support for employees or colleague support."

While the researchers initially undertook a small internally funded project titled A sting in the tail' an initiative jointly funded under the Commonwealth/State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements allowed for further research in the wider community- specifically in Townsville City Council and McKinlay Shire Council areas.

Dr Baldwin explained that three key themes became apparent throughout their research and formed the domains of their guidelines:

1. (Un)assumed leaders
(Un)assumed leadership describes how people assumed leadership roles in multiple contexts by adopting diverse approaches. Notably' interviewees did not discuss leadership roles in the sense of it being a formal part of someone's job. Rather' these roles were about a person's ability to relate to others.

2. Known and being known
The importance of relief and recovery organisations having an existing understanding of the community and being recognised in the community was apparent throughout our data. The importance of localism was highlighted in several participants' reflections on how disaster relief was provided.

3. Recognising impact
Many people stated that they and their organisations were not directly impacted by the floods. However' as their stories started to unfold' it became apparent that they had been affected and whether by accident or design' had downplayed that impact through reference to the impact on others.

"Overall' these guidelines reflect that loss is a social rather than an individual thing - leaders emerge from places we perhaps don't always expect and that it's important we fully know the people we are trying to help during times of disaster'"

she said.