Well not so much the blog, as the blogger. For the next month I will be in the United States asking questions about post-event learning to inform research that colleagues and I are undertaking with the support of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (http://www.bnhcrc.com.au).
My trip begins with a week in Sacramento taking part in a course on ‘Learning from Unintended Consequences’ run by the National Advanced Fire and Resource Institute (www.nafri.gov). This course will explore Facilitated Learning Analysis (FLA). In the FLA Implementation Guide, part of my pre-course reading, they say:
How an agency responds to an accident is enormously important. The leaders’ responses will either vector the agency toward a Learning Culture or away from it. If the leadership assumes the accident happened because someone failed to do something right, then the natural response is to determine (in dazzling hindsight) what rules or protocols were broken. We can then identify (or blame) the rule breaker and return the system to safety. All that’s needed are better rules or better compliance. End of story—until the next accident.
Alternatively, leaders can see that while accidents are very rare, risk is ever present. It is ubiquitous. … Understanding this, progressive leaders can treat accidents and other unintended outcomes as precious opportunities to look deeply into the operation to better understand how employees perceive and manage risk. This view enables deep learning and with it, an accident can become a safe opportunity for those involved to share their story.
This course will involve learning how to implement FLA and encourage people to ‘share their story’. This process can be used in what might be considered traditional accidents and near misses but can it applied at a larger scale, when all of community is involved? Is there a method here that can be applied to large scale events such as Victoria 2009 or Coonabarabran 2013? Apart from taking part in the course I hope to have the chance to talk with the presenters and other participants on their experience in post event learning.
For a very different change of pace, I travel from there to Monterey to the 9th Annual Wildland Fire Litigation Conference. (http://www.wildlandfirelitigation.com/) This conference is intended to bring lawyers who act for both plaintiffs and defendants together to build their mutual understanding of relevant issues, science and evidence in order to help ensure litigation is more efficient and focussed on relevant issues. I do expect to get a very different view on post-event learning from the participants there. As I am a lawyer, though, this conference will be with my professional peers and I’m honoured to give the opening key-note address on the litigation from the Victorian 2009 bushfires.
After that I will be in Tucson to spend a week visiting the Widland Fire Lessons Learned Centre (http://www.wildfirelessons.net/home) to discuss their role in ensuring lessons are shared with the wildland fire community. Again I am interested in exploring whether there is a model there that may be useful in Australia but not only to identify lessons from, and for, firefighters, but also for the whole community.
I then travel to Berkeley to spend a week visiting the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment where a number of scholars with an interest in law and disaster management are working. Some family time will be followed by a two day workshop at Stanford University looking at the question ‘‘How Can International Environmental Law Reduce Disaster Risks?’
I’ll be back in Australia on 24 May after a month away; but if that’s not enough, two weeks later I’m off to Rome for an ‘Experts Meeting on the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters’ where I’m privileged to be counted among one of the experts.
After that workshop I will be a guest of the University of Bologna’s International Disaster Law project (http://disasterlaw.sssup.it/about-us/project-overview/) where my colleague, Federico Casolari (http://disasterlaw.sssup.it/the-team/unibo/federico-casolari/) is organising a forum on regional cooperation in disaster management. International law says that fundamental responsibility for disaster management lies with the affected state, and there has been pressure for a universal, multi-national law similar to the Geneva Conventions with their universal application in times of war. This forum will, I anticipate, explore the role of the middle ground, between nation states and the collective world community to consider how regional cooperation can enhance disaster management.
After that there is one more trip when, in July, I’ll be travelling to New Zealand to address the Forest and Rural Fires Association (http://www.frfanz.org.nz/) Annual Conference.
Apart from these international engagements there’s also the Emergency Media and Public Affairs (EMPA) Conference in Sydney (http://www.empa.org.au/site/conferences_aus.htm) and the Australian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities (AFAC) and Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC conference in Adelaide in September (http://www.afac.com.au/events/conference2015/home).
That’s a lot of travel but I do hope that what I learn, and what I can share, helps the emergency service community, and the community generally, to help manage emergencies and in context of our current research, manage the post-event learning.