This week saw Livingstone Shire Council’s Centre of Excellence for Disaster Management (The Hub) host its first large-scale multi-agency exercise in preparation for the upcoming storm season and a full-scale workout of the Local Disaster Coordination Centre’s (LDCC) operational capabilities.
The exercise, code-named Operation Isa Keppel, was modelled on the scenario of a Category 4 Cyclone and associated 4-metre storm tide impacting directly on the Capricorn Coast at the highest astronomical tide of the year (HAT).
A first of its kind for the state-of-the-art facility, the exercise involved 53 participants from a broad cross-section of emergency service and community support agencies along with key specially trained staff from Livingstone Shire Council.
What also made this exercise unique was the embedding of a group of Central Queensland University (CQU) students who came from all parts of Australia to participate as part of their advanced diploma and diploma studies.
The primary purpose of embedding the students in the exercise was to give them an in-depth insight into all aspects of a large-scale event by working directly alongside seasoned multi-agency professionals and operational staff.
Importantly it also provided an opportunity for the students to also put their university training into practice and contribute their ideas into how to best deal with the complex aspects that the exercise scenario presented.
Running from Tuesday morning to Thursday afternoon, the simulated disaster centre activation included meetings of the Livingstone Shire Local Disaster Management Group (LDMG) and sub-committees, development of an exercise evacuation plan and identification of recovery priorities and the implementation of a recovery plan.
This exercise not only played a key role in testing and showcasing the capabilities of our region’s emergency service agencies in conjunction with Council, but also highlighted the significant education and training role that ‘The Hub’ can play as one of the most technologically advanced facilities of its kind in regional Australia.
Securing partnerships with tertiary institutions like CQU to take education and resilience building to the next level by also embedding advanced Research Students has always been a long-term goal for the centre and this exercise has bought that goal another step closer to being realised.
Other aspects of the exercise included evaluation of the coordination of disaster operations, communications capabilities at the Yeppoon Public Cyclone Shelter, located at Yeppoon State High School and radio operators who were able to make contact with local aged care facilities as part of the exercise.
As Chair of the Local Disaster Management Group, I must commend everyone involved in the success of this week’s exercise. It was clear from the outset that lessons learned from previous disaster events have been embedded and embraced by those involved.
The Hub is setting new national standards of excellence in both disaster management coordination training as well as community education, preparedness and resilience for extreme weather events, and this exercise is a promise of more exciting opportunities to come.