Photo: Keith Pakenham, Country Fire Authority

Disasters and emergencies draw experts to Perth

Embargoed until: Publicly released:
Over 3000 people from Australia and New Zealand’s emergency management sector will meet at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre this week (5-7 September) to discuss the latest in disaster-related research and experience.

Journal/conference: AFAC18 powered by INTERSCHUTZ

Organisation/s: Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC

Media Release

From: Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC

Over 3000 people from Australia and New Zealand’s emergency management sector will meet at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre this week (5-7 September) to discuss the latest in disaster-related research and experience. 

With over 130 speakers on the program, AFAC18 powered by INTERSCHUTZ is the region’s largest emergency management conference and exhibition. Key speakers from emergency services, research and industry will explore topics such as prescribed burning, emergency warnings, bushfire modelling and climate prediction.

See below for the AFAC18 media kit, which contains speaker highlights. The full program is available on the conference website,  

AFAC CEO Stuart Ellis says AFAC18 powered by INTERSCHUTZ will bring together the combined wisdom of experience, research and analysis across the emergency management sector.

“The conference is about changing lives in a changing world, and we will hear from leaders across Australia and the world about the changes that are happening right now to improve emergency management performance into the future,” Mr Ellis said.

This year’s event also features the inaugural Australian Disaster Resilience Conference (ADRC), running concurrently with AFAC18. Hosted by the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience, the ADRC will explore the full spectrum of resilience in Australia – from grassroots community action to national strategic direction. Themes include managing animals in emergencies, education and new directions in resilience thinking.

Science and research is also centre stage; the first day is dedicated to the latest natural hazards findings. It is a day to learn about the latest scientific developments, says the CEO of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, Dr Richard Thornton. 

 “Natural disasters are mostly human caused because of where we choose to live and work. Much can be done to reduce their impacts, and mitigation is key. We need to keep asking questions, investing in research to find answers, and then act – the future is not just an extension of our past,” Dr Thornton said.

Alongside the speaking program, the trade exhibition will showcase the latest in equipment, technology and innovation, with over 170 stands and a program of live demonstrations (6-7 September). Conference partner INTERSCHUTZ, managed by Deutsche Messe, is Europe’s largest trade fair for fire rescue, civil protection and security.

The exhibition’s program of live demonstrations will allow attendees to experience firsthand the latest developments in emergency equipment and technology. Highlights will include firefighting robots, a virtual reality firefighter training simulation and innovative car crash rescue techniques from the Australian Road and Rescue Organisation.

You can follow the conference on social media using the hashtag #AFAC18, as well as @AFACnews and @BNHCRC. The Australian Disaster Resilience Conference hashtag is #ADRC2018 , along with @AIDR_news. 

Key AFAC18 conference speakers

Bushfire outlook for southern Australia 

What is the bushfire outlook for southern Australia this season? The Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook 2018 will be released by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC at the conference on Thursday 6 September, with a media conference at 11am AWST. The Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook 2018 covers bushfire risk in NSW, the ACT, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and southern parts of Western Australia and Queensland. Alongside Dr Richard Thornton from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC will be the Bureau of Meteorology and Fire Chiefs/Commissioners from Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, NSW, the ACT and Queensland. 


Bushfire and prescribed burning

How can we better model extreme fire behaviour? – A/Prof Jason Sharples (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & the University of NSW)

Extreme bushfires are among the most destructive and unpredictable of all natural hazards. They interact with higher levels of the atmosphere, exhibit violent pyroconvection and behave in unexpected ways, which endangers both firefighters and communities. While it is possible to model the types fire behaviour that drive extreme bushfire development, these models can take days to run on supercomputers, which makes them impractical for operational use. This research has developed a new model that can better predict extreme fire behaviour faster, which will help fire agencies keep a step ahead in managing these dangerous bushfires.

Dr Marta Yebra (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & Australian National University) – satellites to help show us when the bush is ready to burn

Research has developed the first Australian online system to assist land managers and fire agencies monitor live fuel moisture in vegetation – effectively contributing new information to help provide a clearer picture of immediate fire risks. The prototype system (currently a beta test version) uses satellite data, and will help fire managers in their prescribed burning efforts, pre-positioning of firefighting resources and assist fire behaviour analysts in predicting the behaviour of ongoing fires.

Reconstructing the Waroona bushfire to work out how the fire did what it did – Mika Peace (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & Bureau of Meteorology)

The extreme fire behaviour from the Waroona bushfire in south west WA in January 2016 was unexpected. So why did it occur? This research examines the meteorology and fire reconstruction in parallel, identifying the dynamic processes behind the extreme fire behaviour to provide valuable knowledge to apply during future bushfires. It also looks at how the model that is being developed can help understand extreme fire behaviour across Australia.



Emergency warnings – Amanda Leck (Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience)

When a disaster strikes, getting warnings out to the community is crucial. How this happens is changing across the country, backed by the latest research. Launched at the conference will be the authoritative national guide, the Public Information and Warnings Handbook, for those issuing warnings before, during and after disasters – including emergency service agencies, weather forecasters, insurers and the media.

What is floodwater? - Dr Katharine Haynes and Dr Mel Taylor (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & Macquarie University)

What is floodwater? It appears a simple question, but it is one that is surprisingly tricky to answer. This research is asking the public and emergency services what they consider floodwater, and why they would consider driving through it. An understanding of what the public thinks floodwater is, and what it looks like, is critical for developing education campaigns, with the findings to help emergency service agencies target groups who are known to take risks and drive through floodwater, such as those in 4WD’s or young males under 29 years old.



Emergency volunteering in the future – Dr Blythe McLennan (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & RMIT University)

What is emergency volunteering going to look like in 2030? How (and by whom) is it going to be organised? How can emergency service agencies best enable the value of this volunteering for communities - before, during and after emergencies - into the future?



Small actions to reduce large damage bills during a cyclone – Dr David Henderson (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & the Cyclone Testing Station)

We know from damage investigations that a lot of damage during a cyclone can be avoided through small actions taken prior. These simple actions can help homeowners reduce the likelihood of damage during a cyclone, and also save on their insurance premium. So what can be done to stop the water getting in?



Calculating your bushfire risk - ACT Emergency Services Commissioner Dominic Lane

Instantly analysing information including vegetation density, building footprints and slope data, a new tool is being launched to assist homeowners with a clear picture of where risks may lie for their property. Assessing the Bushfire Attach Level, the pilot tool is only available in the ACT. Launch taking place at 3.30pm Wednesday 5 September, at the EMSINA stand (stand 413).



The seven deadly sins of emergency management – Craig Fugate (former head of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency)

Why do we see very similar issues raised in most after-action reviews after disasters? With over 30 years of managing disaster responses, including Hurricane Katrina, Craig looks at common themes and challenges assumptions on how to prepare communities for disaster.


Are inquires the best way to learn? – Dr Michael Eburn (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & the Australian National University)

Following major emergencies, and in particular events with ‘unacceptable’ consequences, there is the inevitable inquiry. Although asked to lead during the response, the emergency management sector is led through the process of learning and directed as to what they will do in future. Is this the best way to learn? What are new ways of learning? And how the emergency management sector can take the lead to change the way post event lessons are identified and how the learning process can help restore affected communities and contribute to the process of recovery.


Are we prepared for a catastrophic disaster? – Andrew Gissing (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & Risk Frontiers)

The hallmarks of catastrophic disasters are death and destruction, large scale disruption, the displacement of populations and public anxiety. Often they occur with little to no warning, but we can be prepared. This research is developing better planning models for emergency services and providing suggestions for practical application by both communities and emergency services.



Disaster resilience education - Jane Hayward AM (Strathewen Primary School)

In a community reeling from the trauma and loss of Black Saturday, a local CFA volunteer saw an opportunity for collaboration between the local brigade and Strathewen Primary School. Through the program, students took ownership of a deeper understanding of their environment; recognising both risks and steps they could take to be prepared. Students shared their learning with the broader community, building resilience through meaningful connections and knowledge.

An Indigenous experience of disaster resilience, recovery and leadership - Phil Rist (Nywaigi Traditional Owner) and Dr Margaret Moreton (Leva Consulting)

In this armchair discussion, Indigenous leader Phil Rist will explore the challenges and opportunities brought by Cyclone Yasi in Queensland in 2011. Phil provides a window into the disaster recovery process as it unfolded, and the role of his community – particularly young Indigenous men and women – in the broader recovery of the region. This session is an open conversation about leadership, vulnerability, recovery and resilience.


News for:


Media contact details for this story are only visible to registered journalists.