The Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety aims to facilitate and enable research collaborations, projects and engagement leading to an increased understanding of disaster, risk and resilience trends, challenges and solutions.
One of the key objectives of the research program is to use a multi-disciplinary approach to create a knowledge base that can be used to support further research activity, training and education programs.

Research priority areas

The Centre has identified through consultation with key stakeholders and an analysis and review of studies conducted on major disaster events, six key priority areas. These key areas reflect the research that is considered to be critical in enhancing disaster management practice and policy over the next three years.

Priority area 1: Understanding natural disasters

Natural disasters cause immense losses in terms of human lives and the destruction of both property and livelihoods, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. The Asian Development Bank Institute (2013) has identified that in 2011 approximately 80% of global disaster-related economic losses occurred in the Asia Pacific Region. Similarly of the 10 disasters with the highest death tolls occurring since 1980, 70% have occurred in the Asia-Pacific region (ADBI 2013). The increasing influence of global warming within the Asia-Pacific region and the potential to cause more severe and frequent disasters creates an urgent need to develop new understandings and insights of natural disasters. This priority area seeks to develop the base level data and knowledge which can drive the other five priority areas.

Topic areas for research:
  • Historic frequency and impact of natural disasters
  • Risk, hazard and vulnerability
  • Global warming and climate change
  • Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Climate Change Adaption
  • Complex disasters (primary disaster and the secondary impacts & issues)
  • Humanitarianism

Priority area 2: Enhanced decision making

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg/Released

A number of recent reviews of significant Australian disasters have shown that the various state and national emergency management arrangement tend to breakdown when confronted with significant events. It appears that tactical level decision making in the field is effective; however, decisions made at a strategic level have a mixed level of success. One of the key challenges confronting decision making at this strategic level is that public safety officials can be overwhelmed by the complexity and volume of information being presented to them during periods of high stress. This priority area seeks to develop new understandings on how to manage and present information and data in a way which can facilitate more effective decision making.

Topic areas for research:
  • Emergency Informatics
  • Decision Support Systems
  • Modelling and visualisation
  • Command and Control
  • Cognitive load
  • Human Machine Interface
  • Spatial Enablement
  • Spatial Data Infrastructure
  • Common Operating Picture
  • Situational Awareness

Priority area 3: Technology

New technologies are constantly being developed at a staggering rate and scientific breakthroughs are occurring on many fronts. Some of these technologies have changed the status quo of society and have transformed the way we live our lives. Public safety officials and policy makers need to understand these new technologies and how they can contribute to our understanding of emergencies and disasters including our ability to anticipate, prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from these types of events. This priority area seeks to examine new and emerging technologies to identify what works, what doesn’t and what is promising when applied to disaster management.

Topic areas for research
  • Sensors
  • Embedded Sensors and actuators in physical objects and things
  • Internet of Things
  • Smart Cities
  • Networked Systems
  • Unmanned systems (UAV, UGV, UMV)
  • Big Data
  • Wearable computers
  • Automated buildings and vehicles
  • Other new technologies

Priority area 4: Strengthening community resilience

LCpl Mark (Doc) Doran Image 20110126adf8439709_087
(left to right) Signaller Goldgan Ng from 108 Signals Squadron assists local volunteer Jacky Storer to sandbag the levee at Lake Boga during the Victorian Flood Relief.

The community, especially vulnerable members of the community, are at the heart of effective disaster management policy and practice. A failure in either disaster management policy or practices will have a devastating impact on the lives of thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands of people in a given area. Whilst some major disasters will overwhelm the resources of some governments, at least in the early stages of response and recovery, effective community engagement at all stages of disaster management can help to reduce the impact of the event on that community and help to build community resilience. This priority area seeks to examine how various communities can be effectively engaged and supported during all stages of disaster management. It also seeks to identify how communities can be empowered and included during the response to a disaster.

Topic areas for research:
  • Community Engagement
  • Community Resilience
  • VGI
  • Social Media
  • Gender Issues in Disaster Management
  • Vulnerable Persons
  • Supporting Communities in Developing countries
  • Impact Assessment

Priority area 5: Mission critical communications

(US Air Force photo by TSgt Michael Jackson/Released)
CHONBURI, Thailand (Aug. 26, 2013) Cmdr. Abu Taher Mohd Rezaul Hassan of the Bangadesh Navy works with U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician 1st Class Christ Roberts during an earthquake response scenario as part of Pacific Endeavor 2013.

Effective communications is critical to the successful management of any disaster. Traditionally, mission critical communications for response agencies has been largely based on radio-voice communications. Technological advancements have changed this landscape and mission critical communications now involves the capture, storage, retrieval, transmission and use of the full range of multi-media formats. Technological advancements and a range of portable devices are challenging traditional approaches to mission critical communications; however, there is no generally accepted theory or model of how public safety officials can best use or structure mission critical communications. This priority area seeks to develop a new model to guide the development of mission critical communications infrastructure and procedures for the next decade.

Topic areas for research:
  • Spectrum, Coverage & Capacity
  • Mobile Broadband
  • Spectrum Efficiency
  • Standards and Systems
  • Mobile Devices and Smartphone Technology
  • Applications
  • Virtual Teams and Response Support

Priority area 6: Policy

The task of planning for, and responding to, disasters is one of the most important, and challenging, tasks any government and public safety official faces. Disasters can occur at any time with little or no warning and generally involve multiple and cascading issues which are best described as complex disasters. To be effective policy must be based on accurate information sound evidence. Whilst there is a copious number of reports, studies, reviews and discussion relating to disasters there is no centralised knowledge base to guide the development of comprehensive and effective disaster management policy. This priority area seeks to develop a knowledge base that can be used as a key resource in the development of effective disaster management policy especially within the Asia-Pacific region.

Topic areas for research:
  • Planning and Land Administration
  • Disaster Management Policy
  • Risk Management
  • Strategy
  • Recovery and Long-Term Disaster Risk Reduction

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