Our focus this month is on technology and how councils can improve digital practices. Increased connectivity is an obvious boon in many areas of our lives, but it can prove critical when disaster strikes. Needless to say, it has been a tumultuous summer for Australian councils that have been forced to deal with environmental disasters in their communities.
All across the map communities have been hit with trying circumstances – floods in the Northern Territory and Western Australia; bushfires in New South Wales – with local government set to deal with a lot of the recovery effort.
It is estimated that more than 100 councils were impacted by the flooding events in Western Australia in mid-February, with the bill for damaged local government assets running into the millions of dollars.
Preventing disaster may be impossible, but being prepared to react is critical for local governments and acting as a conduit for the dispersal of accurate information should be a primary concern.
Online dashboards that provide live updates are now proving a reliable way for councils to distribute information to residents, as is social media.
Two councils in our feature section this month discuss the way technology is assisting in their disaster management efforts.
The Shire of Esperance in Western Australia reported massive spikes in social media usage during the recent flooding events in the area. Facebook page views were up over 1000 per cent over the week that floods hit and council was able to easily and quickly update concerned residents.
In Queensland, Mackay Regional Council is implementing infrastructure to collect better data on floods and rainfall, so the council can provide more accurate public warnings.
Other councils such as Bundaberg Regional Council – which was hit by heavy flooding in 2013 – utilise geospatial mapping to provide interactive online maps available for the public to view.
As the capacity to both stay connected and collect accurate data increases, councils should push to remain innovative in the sphere of disaster management and strive to be a trusted source of information for residents.