QLD Department of Premier and Cabinet

THE CHALLENGE

The Queensland Disaster Management Committee (QDMC) was established in mid-2014 as the preeminent committee to provide a clear and formal line of communication and decision making between the Queensland Premier and relevant Ministers and their Directors-General before, during and following disasters. The QDMC had replaced two cabinet level committees, however the new arrangements had not been tested in any form. With the 2014/15 severe weather season fast approaching, the Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) requested a strategic level exercise at short notice, to confirm the new QDMC format and function of the committee. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) engaged Noetic to bring together a diverse working group consisting of QFES, DPC, Queensland Police Service (QPS), and Inspector General Emergency Management (IGEM) to develop and deliver a high level strategic exercise.

WHAT NOETIC DID

Recognising the likely time restrictions on the Premier and Ministers, Noetic designed an exercise that simulated an actual meeting of the Queensland Disaster Management Committee (QDMC). Noetic developed a detailed and realistic scenario involving a significant tanker fire and oil spill in Gladstone Harbour, with associated environmental and population risks. In a short three week period, Noetic’s exercise team worked around the clock to engage appropriate subject matter experts, and local and regional stakeholders to build the General and Special Ideas that would effectively challenge the Ministerial level committee. To achieve realism, Noetic worked with the key individuals (State Disaster Coordinator) who would actually deliver key information to the QDMC, designing speaking scripts and detailed additional information fact sheets. Noetic incorporated realistic weather dispersion inputs from the Queensland Bureau of Meteorology, supported by a range of multimedia mapping and imagery. The exercise was short and intense; one hour in duration, but accurately simulated the constraints and pressure in which senior officials need to make significant economic and potentially lifesaving decisions. The Queensland Premier and Ministers were quickly immersed in the problem, from which they had to identify key strategic response actions, while managing the pressing public information demands.

THE OUTCOME

The exercise achieved its aim and objectives. The Premier and Minsters confirmed the new QDMC function and format and concurrently achieved an increased level of awareness of the demands that would be placed upon them in the event of an actual State-wide natural disaster. The exercise also identified several deficiencies in the QDMC arrangements, and these were able to be quickly actioned given the level of participation on the exercise. Furthermore, the exercise provided a forum for senior cabinet ministers and emergency response officials to meet and understand their collective roles and responsibilities. At the conclusion of the exercise, several minsters and agency heads remarked on the effectiveness of the exercise format, the degree of detail and realism achieved, and expressed an intent to make this style of exercise a mandatory biannual activity on the calendar of the QDMC.