Combining emergency
management and safety

The role of Councilís Emergency and Safety Officer (ESO) is one that is proving to be a job that is both challenging and, at the same time, highly rewarding. The newly created position has resulted in the appointment by Council of Paul Dickson, former Regional Manager of Disaster Management Services in South Australia.

Having been in the position of ESO for seven months, Paul is in charge of emergency management and Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S). It is believed that this is the first time that these two positions have been brought together in WA.

Council decided to create the one position to provide a sole focus on the issue of emergency management. Prior to this the role was divided across a number job functions. A catalyst for creating the position was cyclone Vance, which struck the Shire in March 1999. The aftermath and recovery period took up much staff time in coordinating disaster relief, as well as normal Council duties.

Paul Dickson has prepared an emergency management manual and has undertaken a training needs analysis. He has also assessed preparedness and recovery plans covering the major risks to the Shire, including cyclones and bushfires. This position also requires the ESO to establish and maintain relationships with all stakeholders including service providers, pastoralists and Council staff, using the Community Emergency Risk Management approach, now used by all states in Australia.

Community Emergency Risk Management involves planning before events occur, and bringing people together through community consultation to develop plans to manage risks in the community.

The role of ESO has great responsibilities in dealing with events that can scale to huge proportions. However, Paul Dickson has the experience to work with the community in reducing the risk to life and property, and in the case of a major event, to coordinate a speedy recovery.