All want a better warning system

TO SAY the second Community Flood Forum held, and attended, by worried Bundaberg region residents was needed would be an understatement.

The robust conversation and questions posed at the forum on Friday showed people need their voices to be heard.

To give our politicians their due, it did not turn into a talkfest but was a true forum at which each voice was as valid as the next, and where show-of-hand votes were held on core issues at the heart of people's fears and desire to move forward into a safer, more secure environment.

One in which residents are not scared, even terrified, each time it rains.

One issue that, I believe, took our politicians - which included Mayor Mal Forman, State Police Minister Jack Dempsey and Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett - by surprise was the depth of feeling expressed around the need for an early warning system which would aim to give people enough time to get to safety should a flood be imminent or even possible.

It was made clear that no amount of SMS, internet or other alerts that rely on technology would suffice.

The early warning system needs to be loud, it needs to be able to reach all parts of the community about to be directly impacted, and it cannot require electricity, phone or internet coverage to send out the call.\

A point was raised by Mr Bennett around the psychological impact of such a system.

But as a person with WHS qualifications and considerable experience in behavioural safety, I believe that we need to first acknowledge the risk: accept that we are a flood-prone region (which hopefully will diminish as mitigation processes including regular dredging of the Burnett are implemented).

From there we manage the risk, in WHS parlance to As Low As Reasonably Practicable. Part of that process will be the implementation of clearly understood and accepted flood evacuation warnings and drills so our residents know a plan is in place, what their role is, and what support they can reasonably expect from the disaster management team.

We do need sirens, and drills to ensure the system works, and we need them to be put in place quickly so people can feel a little safer as the anniversary of the 2013 floods approaches.

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