At recovery from any emergency (Dawe, 1999). This

At the close of
midnight on 30th July 1997, a giant landslide swept down the Thredbo
Alpine Village putting an end to two lodges and killing eighteen people. The
tragedy called for an eight-day search and recovery mission from the debris. According
to Brown (2017), when compared to other life and property damages such as the
New South Wales floods 1955, the Federation drought 1895-1902 and Meckering
earthquake 1968, this tragedy remains one of the biggest and most challenging disasters
ever experienced by the Australian emergency services (Brown, 2017). As a
result, this paper is dedicated to explore Australian emergency management with
a core outlook on policies, frameworks and strategies that can help in
coordinating disaster operations and encourage diverse ways to keep Australians
and their properties safe.

Integrated Approach

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After the deadly
incident, New South Wales State Coroner Derrick announced that professionalism
of the emergency services personnel was key to the successful retrieval of the
victims trapped by the muddy debris and the recovery of the Stuart Diver who
was firmly pinned between two massive concrete reinforcing rods (Skertchly,
2001). Creation of Emergency Management Australia (EMA) from Natural Disasters
Organization (NDO) works best in emphasizing policies and laws on hazard
threats such as tropical cyclones, natural disasters, bushfires, and
floods.  It is the body responsible for
providing Australians with an overview of how the country addresses the risks
and impacts of disasters through a national collaborative approach to the
prevention of, preparedness for, response to an effective recovery from any emergency (Dawe, 1999). This can be confirmed
by the response recorded after the first 0000 call which was received in less
than one minute. A few minutes after the call, the scene of the disaster was
visited by a detachment of State Protective Group, the primary Rescue Unit in
Thredbo and Fire Brigade team in support by the police (Johnson, 1997). While
looking at this collaborative nature of rescue units, EMA has worked tirelessly
in integrating different governmental agencies, the private sector and the
community as a whole in order to fight vices in one voice.

EMA’s ability to drive
Australian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMA) where
pre-identified and pre-organized resources acquired from multiple agencies to
respond to both regional and national emergencies resulted in successful search
and recovery of the Thredbo Landslide. EMA’s integrated approach pushes for
policies that call multiple agency responses with diverse jurisdictional roles
from volunteers, local government, federal governments and local governments to
hold hands and neutralize the vice (Australian Fire Authority Council, 2004). 

Emergency Management

As seen above, there
are diverse organizational and governmental tiers (local groups, state groups,
federal groups and state groups) that are involved in emergency management
segment in Australia. A collaborative approach to emergency management has made
it possible for the region to improve its coordination, planning, and authority
so as to effectively unify disaster approach operation under the EMA umbrella.
Furthermore, to ensure the effectiveness of the Emergency Management Australia,
the institution is headed by the Director-General with four divisions under his
mandate (Dawe, 1999). These divisions include policy and planning, emergency
management liaison, knowledge management and business and community development
initiatives. For example, during Thredbo Landslide, the rescue teams were met
with anger and anxiety from the victim’s relatives in support by Thredbo
Villagers. According to the Villagers, the teams should have immediately
rescued the people who were calling for help right from the debris. However,
according to Steve Hyman
from NSW Fire Brigade, removing metals and timber through human chain would
increase the fatality numbers and especially from the rescuers thereby making
the entire. Therefore, the assessment and the wait of daylight to break helped
in reducing the number of casualties and disaster that would have emerged.

of Emergency Management in Australia

The 1997 Thredbo
Landslide has reflected Australia as one country with innovative, dynamic and
evolving emergency sector. For example, the committed approach is seen from the
NSW Police, the Healthcare System and the Emergency Management liaison proved
the nation’s ability to protect the safety and security of Australian people’s
life and property (Dawe, 1999). Additionally, the comprehensive approach to the
disaster showed the country’s strength in disaster response, risk assessment,
preparedness, prevention, and recovery. For example, after 2nd
August Diver’s recovery, sniffer dogs were introduced with an aim of searching
for any trapped bodies. However, due to the thickness of the columns and
pillars the strategy was proved unsuccessful (Pike, 2013). Nevertheless, the rescues
teams applied techniques learned from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing where
debris was removed through the use of a human chain to ensure that any possible
survivor trapped underneath is not injured by the heavy machinery. Better
decision making among the emergency management department has shown the
dedication of the country in ensuring the safety of its people.

Moreover, the ability
to keep the local community and the victim’s families and relatives on the know
also plays well in expressing the strength of Emergency Management Australia
(EMA) in keeping the country contented with the happenings. For example, after
the end of the search was announced on the early morning of 7th
August shortly after three bodies were discovered covered with concrete slabs,
the Commander in control Charlie Sanderson from the NSW Police held the last
press conference informing the public on the 18 death toll from the disaster. Finally,
the integrated approach made it possible for all people to collaborate and
achieve the success in conducting the search, rescue, and recovery.
Nevertheless, prior disaster public awareness, preparedness, and risk
assessment are critical in areas with increased risks of similar landslides (Cooper
& Robertson, 2007).

to Strengthen Emergency Management

The successful search
and recovery of the 1997 Thredbo Landslide was crowned by the multi-tiered
operations that had all emergency Operation Centre created in Jindabyne. This
is the center where rescue team resources and back-up were offered. Among those
hosted in this center included the Ambulance and Fire brigade, the NSW Police
Unit, the NSW Volunteer Rescue Associations, the Bush Fire Services and the
State Emergency Service. The core role of the State Emergency Service was
providing manpower need in removing all debris, sandbags and excavates drainage
systems and ditches in order to effectuate the rescue area while minimizing
water seeping through the operation area (Clucas, 1997). From this encounter,
it is clear that having a comprehensive strategic plan and framework is
critical in setting out multi-sector guidelines, responsibilities, and roles of
the rescue team hence giving a rapid, effective and well-coordinated response
to any emergency situation.

In addition, a disaster
management mechanism with workable administrative structure is a critical
pillar in coordinating operations in the event of an emergency. For example,
during the rescue, the extreme mountain weather was challenging for most
equipment. According to Mark O’ Connor, the -30°C wind chill and -12°C weather
at night resulted in hydraulic oil separation and diesel fuel coagulation. In
their plan, they never expected to be placed in such snowcapped areas with
extremely steep angles and cold temperatures (O’Connor, 1997). These challenges
suggest that other than well-coordinated structures in emergency management,
training of rescue units should be placed exposed to extreme conditions so that
they can be in a position to respond with speed and accuracy when challenging
emergency situation hits the region as seen in Thredbo Landslide.

collaboration with international emergency teams may also increase the response
time as well as the effectiveness of the rescue and recovery operation. For
example, the cooperation between Emergency Management Authority and Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) creates a new light in facilitating greater
coordination during significant emergencies and disasters in the country. Through
this, there is a higher chance of technical experts and specialists exchange in
emergency management. For instance, if this strategy was applied during the 1997
Thredbo Landslide a lesser number of victims would have perished.  Additionally, the collaboration offers an
opportunity for sharing critical information on emergency management thereby
increasing public awareness in relation to preparedness for natural disasters (Dawe,

The event of 2nd
August which involved the rescue of the Stuart Diver invites investment in
technology as another important factor to consider in increasing the
effectiveness of emergency management. During this rescue, the team of high
profile rescue team and paramedics used fiber-optic cameras to specifically locate
where the Diver was. Then, paramedics were held responsible for monitoring his
conditions every 20 minutes.  Regardless
of the fact that the Diver was rescued after about 12 hours after his discovery
and more than 60 hours after the disaster, investment in good emergency
technologies and robust public health infrastructure has some added advantage
into achieving rapid and accurate emergency management structures (Pike, 2013).

Emergency Management Lessons Learned from 1997 Thredbo Landslide

One factor that slowed
down the rescue and recovery mission was equipment failures. This happened in
the event where visitor rescue teams did not understand how to work in the
extreme sub-zero temperatures. Additionally, sending too many rescue team
professionals overdoses the procedure hence halting its effectiveness and
success. Therefore, for effective emergency management, the controlled must
service the hit area with enough personnel and schedule the rest as a backup (Dawe,
1999). For example, Wollongong rescue experts and who are specifically trained
in retrieving people from confined spaces and caves were called to Thredbo
after the discovery of Stuart Diver. However, instead of them getting assigned
to the rescue of Stuart Diver, they were tasked with clearing the debris and
assessing the movement in the rubbles.

On a positive note,
fast and accurate implementation of an emergency plan is critical in saving a
life in case of a disaster. Furthermore, the flexibility of an emergency plan
is important in the sense that it can effectively match to any presented
situation.  According to John Connell, the
District Emergency Officer of Southern Highland, better planning of disasters is
pillar number one for a team that is focused on success (Clucas, 1997). Also, in
any emergency condition, there is a need for the team to offer debriefing and
emotional support to the victim’s families, locals, and relatives. For example,
according to John Wasley, under the NSW Ambulance Association, the first 48
hours after the disaster were completely challenging to the paramedics’ team (Ritchie,
2017). Therefore, Emergency Management Australia (EMA) should always have a
logical support team that ensures all needs such as welfare issues, accommodation,
and transport of victims is well-planned.

Finally, training of
emergency services in various cases of natural disasters with case studies from
previous occurrences in the region would be essential in keeping them ready and
prepared to assist once a similar disaster occurs. Nevertheless, their
collaboration and integrated approach to the disaster proved their ability to
successfully solve any natural disaster that the region experiences (Ritchie,


The exploration has
proved that the response to the 1997 Thredbo Landslide was truly remarkable.  The events of this disaster may not only touch
on the life of the rescued but also the professionalism, heroism, and
capabilities of the rescuers. With Stuart Diver as a testament of how effective
emergency management is conducted, the incident expressed the need for
innovative rescue technologies, good training, effective decision-making
procedures, integrated and collaboration between diverse emergency response
teams and need for support from both from local and national government. In
entirety, effective emergency management should be reached via risk assessment,
public awareness, preparedness and plans to effect rapid response in case a
similar situation presents itself.