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Contents & Abstracts
Volume 2004-1

The Australasian Journal of Disaster
and Trauma Studies
ISSN:  1174-4707
Volume : 2004-1

Editorial : Proactive response to contemporary hazards: Perspectives from military peacekeeping, humanitarian aid and emergency management contexts
by Douglas Paton


The Ruapehu lahar emergency response plan development process: An analysis
by Ian Galley, Graham Leonard, David Johnston, Richard Balm & Douglas Paton

Keywords: Ruapehu, lahar, Crater Lake, Tangiwai, planning, emergency response, psychology, development, disaster, ERLAWS

Achieving a high state of emergency response preparedness is imperative as the breach of the barrier restraining Crater Lake, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand draws near. A number of key planning issues are identified here that will influence the effectiveness of the Emergency Response Plans (ERPs) currently at various stages of completion for the agencies that must respond to this event. A Southern Response Lahar Planning Group of organisations with statutory response obligations has been convened to facilitate a unified response. The tephra barrier formed during the 1995-96 eruptions at Ruapehu, and the lake has been gradually filling since (it was emptied during the eruptions). If the barrier breaches catastrophically it will send a lahar (dense volcanic-ash-saturated flash flood) down the Whangaehu river posing a hazard to life which is particularly high at several points down stream. A similar lahar in 1953 damaged the rail bridge at Tangiwai and lead to the deaths of 151 train passengers.

The Eastern Ruapehu Lahar Warning System (ERLAWS) utilises three separate lahar sensors high on the mountain to automatically trigger lights and gates at the key road bridge and rail bridge at Tangiwai, to give warning and activate response agencies’ response plans. The emergency response involves a set of over a dozen agencies each with distinct but interrelated responsibilities in the event. Once the alarm is triggered it has been calculated that the lahar will reach the Tangiwai road and rail bridges within approximately 90 minutes. This event is somewhat unique because (a) it has a relatively short window of probable occurrence, a matter of months, once the lake rises above the base of the tephra dam, and (b) once the alarm is triggered the core response agencies have a particularly short period of time (< 90 minutes) in which they must respond at Tangiwai (the time is shorter on the Desert Road and the mountain itself).

The key issues that will influence the effectiveness of the ERPs are grouped into three categories: (1) coordination issues, (2) communication and information management issues and (3) training issues. These are in addition to physical factors beyond the scope of this study (e.g. equipment performance, human error, event size). The most imperative coordination issue to accommodate is the diversity of organisations involved (Department of Conservation, Police, power generation and transmission, TranzRail, district and regional government, roading and a variety of others), several of which have multiple functional boundaries of authority within themselves. This diversity exacerbates the other key issues: perceptions of the required response and the nature of the event will differ between organisations and individuals; lines of, and protocols for, communication need to be explicit within and between organisations; and loss of knowledge, experience and interpersonal connections occur with staff turnover, which is relatively frequent (often every few years) in the larger organisations. Training must address these issues, and others outlined herein, to develop a common mental model of the event and the response. In doing this it will be most effective to conduct full field exercises, and repeat them as needed.

The complexity of developing and maintaining effective ERPs is highlighted. It is clear that a reliable and effective warning system is not enough in isolation. An integrated system of (a) warning system maintenance and enhancement, (b) education, (c) research and (d) response planning is necessary. This integrated system is seen as an essential model for warning system development for a wide range of hazards and this event, therefore, should serve as a model and case study for future integrated warning-system/response implementation.

Link to full paper

Risks Associated with the Psychological Adjustment of Humanitarian Aid Workers
by Colleen A. McFarlane

Keywords: Humanitarian aid workers, traumatic stress, mental health, risk factors, wellbeing

Contemporary humanitarian aid personnel increasingly work in complex environments where problems related to prolonged civil conflicts, poverty and disaster are rife. These conditions place humanitarian staff at risk of experiencing traumatic and daily cumulative stress. As this field of inquiry is relatively young, this paper aims to provide a conceptual overview of common themes that have begun to emerge from recent works. Eleven areas of situational and individual risk are proposed that are likely to have applicability across different contexts, countries and people. Psychological adjustment, medical health and staff security are discussed in relation to each of these factors and ways of promoting safety and wellbeing outlined.

Link to full paper

Occupational Stress and Peacekeepers
by A.J.W. Taylor

Keywords: peacekeeping, philosophy, selection, training, organisational support, occupational stress

Peacekeeping is a political and humanitarian development with a hybrid derivation of functions performed by military and paramilitary agencies. This article touches upon its emergence, training, and application against an entanglement of conflicting expectations. It reviews the available evidence of peacekeeper stress and of brief talking cures for its relief, and considers factors that have to be taken into account when designing projects to monitor efficacy and efficiency of outcomes. The hope is that more psychologists might be encouraged to study the complexities of peacekeeping and make a contribution to measures intended to minimize the role conflict and maximize the functional efficiency of those in peacekeeping situations.

Link to full paper

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