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Book Review
Applying Risk Management Standards
to Disaster Management

The Australasian Journal of Disaster
and Trauma Studies
ISSN:  1174-4707
Volume : 2001-1

Review of:

Disaster Risk Management.

by : Zamecka, A. and Buchanan, G. (1999)
Queensland Department of Emergency Services.
ISBN: 0-7242-9341
Available from: Queensland Department of Emergency Services,
GPO Box 1425, Brisbane, Queensland 4001, Australia.

Reviewed by: Douglas Paton
School of Psychology,
Massey University
New Zealand
Email: D.Paton@massey.ac.nz

This book provides a practical and comprehensively illustrated guide to applying the Australian/New Zealand Standard for Risk Management (AS/NZS 4360: 1999) to disaster planning and provides a guide to understanding key concepts in disaster risk management. It adopts a proactive approach aimed, primarily, at facilitating the readiness component of a comprehensive emergency management approach. The inclusion of practical, worked examples of each stage of the process enhances both an understanding of the process and its application. The generic content of each section ensures that the model can be easily applied to any local government context and, indeed, to any organisation considering mitigating its vulnerability to natural and technological hazards by enhancing the capacity of its risk management procedures. Each section commence with a summary of key points, adding to the practical utility of the manual.

The manual commences with an introduction to the Standard and the modifications required to facilitate its application to disaster management. The key elements in the model are then introduces and illustrated as precursors to the more detailed discussion of the application of the components. Discussion of the implementation process commences with a review of the processes of communication/consultation and monitoring and/review that provide continuity within the application of each stage of the model. The communication/consultation section provides comprehensive descriptions of the groups and agencies likely to be involved. Communities, however, tend to be discussed as rational, homogenous entities and this section does not address diversity in relation to the needs and interests that will require the adaptation and customisation of material. It does, however, provide a sound framework to begin analysis and it does discuss the need to consider the social and cultural context, including those relating to core issues in consultation, social justice, but not the mechanisms by which this process can begin (Paton et al., 2001). While the detailed discussion of these issues lies beyond the immediate scope of this manual, it would have been useful to included a section identifying areas for further development and to signal their importance for the effective analysis of issues and the implementation of strategies.

Subsequent sections address the model components: establishing risk management context; identifying risks; analysing risks; evaluating risks; accepting risk; and treating risk. Concise descriptions of issues are provided and practical, worked examples are provided throughout, so providing a sound framework for the systematic analysis of the core issues that must be addressed and their application to disaster management. The generic nature of the material, and the inclusion of comprehensive examples, facilitates the adaptability and applicability of the contents to any local authority.

Given that the effectiveness of the implementation of the issues addressed in previous sections is a function of the quality of information and decision management, it is surprising that the coverage of this topic is consigned to an appendix. The rarity and complexity of hazard activity means that risk management activities, and indeed the management of hazard activity, is characterised by uncertainty. In this context, the inclusion of a section introducing reliability and uncertainty management is welcome.

The section on disaster risk management information emphasises the importance of information. While alluding to the implications of gaps in information for risk management, this section could have been expanded to outline the issues that have to be addressed in regard to the audit of information needs for rarely occurring and atypical events that often require agencies, most of whom having little or no contact with one another under normal circumstances, to interact with one another. Similarly, the specific issues involved in developing information and decision management (Paton et al., 1999) capability (including accessing data under crisis circumstance, collating and interpreting data and information in possibly rapidly escalating management contexts) could have been included in this section.

The manual also provides an illustration of the use of GIS technology and how it can be used for interactive modelling of hazard and risk data. Although not covered here, this approach could be expanded to include data on social vulnerability, expanding the management capability of the process to include physical, environmental and social aspects.

The process of implementation is comprehensively summarised and illustrated. Appendices contain blank copies of documentation derived from the analysis of the process to disaster risk management for use in customising material to deal with local circumstances and contingencies. A companion volume "Disaster Risk Management Guide: A how-to manual for Local Government" is also available.

Overall, despite containing several omissions pertinent to the analysis of risk issues and the development of risk reduction strategies, this is a well written introduction to the application of the Australian/New Zealand Standard for Risk Management (AS/NZS 4360: 1999) to disaster planning. It provides clear and concise information for the performance of this important task. It should, therefore, be read by all those involved in emergency management and the management of risk from natural and technological hazard activity.


Paton, D., Johnston, D., Houghton, B., Flin, R., Ronan, K., and Scott, B. (1999) Managing Natural Hazard Consequences: Information management and decision making. Journal of the American Society of Professional Emergency Managers, 6, 37-48.

Paton D., Johnston, D., Smith, L.& Millar, M. (2001) Community Response to Hazard Effects: Promoting resilience and adjustment adoption. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, in press.


Douglas Paton © 2001. The author assigns to the Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies at Massey University a non-exclusive licence to use this document for personal use and in courses of instruction provided that the article is used in full and this copyright statement is reproduced. The authors also grant a non-exclusive licence to Massey University to publish this document in full on the World Wide Web and for the document to be published on mirrors on the World Wide Web. Any other usage is prohibited without the express permission of the author.

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