your community
for disasters
& emergencies

Northern & Yorke Regions of SA

Local Government Role

Councils’ emergency planning should include discussions with communities about service disruption and adjustment.

Councils, especially those in rural communities with small populations and large geographies, may feel overwhelmed by what they have to achieve with limited resources – and this often translates into an attitude of ‘just get it done’ rather than the more time-consuming process of working with communities to do it together.

  • Effective communication channels in an emergency
  • Road access (to homes and businesses)
    Storm water management
  • Waste collection
  • Redeploying community transport services
  • Animal management and temporary refuges/shelters
  • Whether community halls are equipped to provide shelter and refuge
  • Libraries and Visitor
  • Information Centres as information hubs and safe places
  • Council staff and Elected
  • Members who live in the community and their ‘official’ and ‘community’ responsibilities in an emergency
  • Lobbying for better disaster funding arrangements for local government

Build Back Better

The LGA supports a “build back better” principle for building disaster resilience into asset restoration. Rebuilding infrastructure to its original specifications is not sufficient to provide communities with the level of resilience they need in the face of more frequent and increasingly severe natural disasters.

Elected members’ role in emergency management


Enable the administration

Ensure the council administration is enabled and resourced to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies in partnership with the community and other levels of government.


Think strategically

Set a long term, holistic vision for emergency management that encompasses all phases of emergency management, the wide range of emergency risks that the community may be exposed to, and the wide-ranging consequences of emergencies on communities.


Communicate with the community

Establish clear communication pathways with the community to help communities prepare for emergencies, engender confidence in emergency services, and provide honest information in potentially difficult situations. It is important to recognise that operational (incident related) messages will be delivered by the control agency/emergency services, and not by council

Councils can drive community awareness & action

Council community grants can be an underutilised resource

In many Councils the purpose of these grants is poorly defined apart from a general requirement that they ‘benefit the community’. This is an opportunity to influence community priorities and actions.

Local government can secure or promote external disaster readiness grants as well as quarantining some of their community grant funding to cover:

  • Costs (including facilitation) of community information sessions and developing community-based emergency management plans
  • Upgrades to halls and other community buildings to make sure they can operate as local shelters and refuges (e.g. potable water, cooking and storage facilities)
  • Business continuity planning, especially for businesses that are essential in an emergency
  • Risks that could trigger an emergency or reduce community effectiveness in an emergency
  • Community centre governance training
  • Costs associated with a cross-council emergency preparedness group
  • Disaster preparedness information in libraries and information centres

Make sure new residents know the risks & what to do in an emergency

If your only mention of bushfire is the CFS website, 
you’re sending the message that bushfires are nothing to worry about.

A quick perusal of council new resident welcome kits shows a gap in information about disaster preparation, and a serious lack of commentary on bushfire preparedness, even in regions at high bushfire risk. Where welcome kits (or information aimed at new residents) do exist, they tend to focus on council services, rather than what new residents need to know about living in the district area – especially those who have moved from the city and face different risks and greater resident responsibility for preparedness.

Providing information for new residents about risk and preparedness, (including fire and flood preparations recommended by CFS and SES) is an easy win for councils, saving time and money in fire prevention, dealing with enquiries, and negative backlash when things go wrong.

See the Moving to the country – what you need to know RESOURCE.

How can councils target and support communities most at risk?

  • Use data to identify ‘at risk’ communities RESOURCE
  • Ensure new resident kits include disaster preparedness beyond specific council services.
  • Make disaster planning a condition of community group funding or leases.
  • Identify high risk communities and work with them to improve their disaster readiness.
  • Identify grants and support community group applications for disaster preparedness projects.
  • Ensure elected members know the preparedness of their communities and advocate for – and be involved in – joint council/community disaster planning.

Managing ‘spontaneous volunteers’ in a disaster

Spontaneous volunteers often see themselves as ‘first responders’ whereas disaster survivors generally need them not in the first 48 hours, but in the weeks and months to come.

(From the State Recovery Office “Guidelines for Managing Spontaneous Volunteers in South Australia” 2019)

Spontaneous volunteers are people who come forward to help after a disaster who are unaffiliated with the official emergency management response and recovery system. When appropriately deployed, the assistance of spontaneous volunteers can be invaluable. However many disaster victims speak about too much of the wrong help at the wrong time.

It is important that spontaneous volunteers can be directed to activities and support that are appropriate and effective, and Volunteering SA&NT has partnered with the South Australian State Recovery Office to manage spontaneous volunteers.

In a major event, if recovery agencies, local councils or other organisations are receiving offers of help from spontaneous volunteers, or spontaneous volunteers are just turning up at the scene of the disaster, the State Recovery Office can commission Volunteering SA & NT to:

  • Manage volunteer expectations against the needs (and timing) identified by the community
  • Register volunteers and ensure they have completed appropriate paperwork and briefings
  • Match volunteers to recovery agencies to boost their existing numbers (surge capacity)
  • Deal with media enquiries about volunteering for that disaster
  • And in smaller-scale events, manage volunteer deployment on behalf of the community

Before requesting the assistance of spontaneous volunteers, councils should ask:

  1. Does the benefit to the community outweigh the risks?
  2. What other information needs to be considered (e.g. from the State Emergency Information Call Centre)?
  3. Are SES or CFS still on the ground completing clean-up?
  4. Is it safe for unskilled people to be involved?
  5. What are the risks for a volunteer workforce?
  6. Do we have the infrastructure to manage the effort (e.g. venues, transport, catering)?


The disaster planning framework

Australian, state and local governments are involved in planning to identify and ameliorate the risk of disaster, and support effective response and recovery when emergencies do occur. While the focus of this toolkit is on local government and local communities, it is useful to understand the disaster planning framework – in particular what the different levels of government are responsible for, and where policy is driving grants and programs that affect communities.

National and state disaster planning processes generally focus on:

  • Cross border and inter-agency governance arrangements to make disaster response as seamless as possible
  • Building capability so that responsible agencies are prepared
  • Ensuring legislation and regulation supports best practice response efforts
  • Building and managing systems and data to support and improve preparation, response and recovery operations
  • Funding response agencies (such as police and fire services) as well as specific programs that address emerging risks – this is often where grants are targeted


Fitting in the grand scheme:

  • Knowing your role
  • Knowing state and commonwealth priorities (including funding)
  • Going for grants

While not strictly linear, the national and state framework for disaster planning looks something like this

Zone Emergency Management Planning

South Australia has established eleven metropolitan and regional Zone Emergency Management Committees responsible for strategic emergency management planning within their Zone. Each of these Committees is chaired by Local Government and includes additional Local Government representation as well as representatives from the South Australian Police, State Emergency Service and a dedicated Zone Recovery Planner. 

Each Zone has done an all-hazards risk study and developed its own Zone Emergency Management Plan. This planning framework and suite of assessment tools will enable the comparison of risks between Zones, as well as linking to State and Local Government emergency risk assessment processes and registers to support information and data sharing. In turn, this will result in communities that are informed of local risks within each Zone and ultimately more resilient communities.

 (From The National Strategy for Disaster Resilience)