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In June 2012, Perth and
south-west Western Australia
were struck by a one-in-
widespread power outrages to
homes, hospitals and businesses in
In Bunbury, Bethanie lost
electricity to two of its sites and
immediately organised for two
large industrial generators to be
transported to the facilities to
temporarily restore power.
The storm also damaged the
mobile telephone towers as well
as landlines and power lines in the
region, completely cutting the sites
off from all forms of internet and telecommunication.
As Western Power battled the biggest outage in its
history, the utility corporation warned households and
companies that the power outages would last several days.
"When I arrived in Bunbury the two facility managers
and the regional community manager had been in constant
contact and had ensured that all staff had been assigned
to maintain essential services and make care and safety a
top priority," says Chris Howe, Bethanie's Chief Operating
Officer, Residential Services.
Arrangements had also been made with local
providers so that fresh food was available and the
laundry service continued.
Without phone or internet contact, the organisation was
forced to rely on old-fashioned methods of communicating,
as staff from nearby facilities drove to Bunbury frequently
to inspect the situation and report back to head office daily.
"It is important for facilities to look at all areas of
communication available," says Howe. "Without effective
communication to a disaster site it is very difficult to co-
ordinate an appropriate response."
Since the severe storms, Bethanie now has satellite
phones so that communication can be maintained at
all times and a list of preferred suppliers of industrial
generators so that generators can be mobilised quickly in
the event of a long-term power failure.
In preparing for the future, Howe says ongoing training
is essential to good crisis management, as well as debriefing
and reviewing crisis management plans after a crisis. n
A city in darkness
What: Tornado and severe storms
When: June 2012
Where: Perth and south-west Western Australia
Who: The Bethanie Group
evacuation was required.
Blue Care Fraser Coast
General Manager Amanda
Farrar says ensuring sufficient
supplies was a key logistical
priority. "We learned this
lesson from previous floods, so
we stocked the facilities and
reminded our staff to ensure
their cars were fully fuelled
prior to the floods," she says.
"The preparation paid off as
basic supplies such as food,
milk and fuel were running out
in the community."
Obtaining accurate and up-to-
date information throughout
the disaster event was also a
out-of-date messages were
sometimes circulating on the
radio, on social networking
sites and via word-of-mouth. It
could also be difficult to reach
emergency groups on the
phone due to the sheer volume
of calls they were receiving at
once," she says.
Staff therefore heavily
relied on the social media
sites of local newspapers and
government authorities for
information. In particular,
the social media sites of
Bundaberg Regional Disaster
City Council, the Bureau of
Meteorology and the State
Emergency Service proved
Farrar says that despite the
severity of the floods many
clients in the community
did not fully understand the
dangers and still wanted to go
to the bank or visit their local
pharmacy or supermarket,
whereas others were panic
buying. This meant staff had
an important role educating
the community about the need
to be prepared but also easing
the anxieties of others.
Many staff members who
were not personally affected by
the floods chose to remain on-
site to ensure essential services
continued and assisted at the
evacuation centres in their own
time, Farrar says.
Though water lapped the
Bundaberg buildings there was
only minor damage caused
to the external property.
However, some of Blue Care's
staff were not so lucky, with
at least 40 staff members
completely or partially losing
their homes in Bundaberg and
the surrounding areas.
Reflecting on the events in
January, Farrar says two things
are essential to successfully
managing a crisis -- an updated
emergency response plan and
"This means you have to
share and obtain information
to manage the crisis, but you
also have to reach out to the
community after the crisis to
learn about their experiences,
share information and learn
from each other's responses."
Since the flood clean up,
minor updates have been
made to local emergency
response plans in response
to feedback from the
Bundaberg staff and the
central support team. n
Chris Howe, Bethanie's
Chief Operating Officer,
58 | NOVEMBER -- DECEMBER 2013 | AAA
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