Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Resilient Nation Strategy for Australia.

A new Google group has been founded by Andrew Boyd et al. to support the development of Resilient Nation Australia. For those of us in IT watching the horror of the 2009 bushfires in Victoria unfold, this represents something we can do to help prevent such an appalling death toll in the future. The UK has a similar project. What sort of framework will ensure that this is ordered but dynamic. The key to successful resilience lies in democratisation. Central control responds too slowly in true disasters and lacks resilience, although central support of communications can assist. Even with central support of communications, the content must be local to ensure relevance and speed.

What a cycle structure like this helps clarify is the difference between what and why. There are many actions in a contingency plan that can be taken, especially if there is planning. The investment to make those options available, however, needs to be made ahead of time, and have a clear basis. Pre-planning also allows decisions regarding escape routes and evacution options to be assessed more quickly and clearly because the criteria have been set.

Every pass of the cycle can add new Resilience strategy aspects. For many communities, the first will be raging bushfires followed closely by floods. The strategy will address communication plans and identify infrastructure such as web sites, radio channels, SMS and dedicated twitter signons. These requirements will fall naturally out of the design.

The resilience action transition phase basically means that infrastructure, training and communication is put in place. The only way this will be effective is if each focus or subcomponent has its own iteration of the cycle. Registering Twitter IDs for emergency services will only take a short while. Building websites may be quick, but content needs to be sourced, probably Service Level Agreements (SLA's) between organisations agreed (even if the service level is 'best effort'), and operators need to be trained. This timeframe is still shorter than construction of shelters or breaks. Therefore these actions need to be de-aggregated into an Agile process - work on what you can as fast as you can.

Resilience operation includes maintenance, and also application in the field - if required. Testing and continuous improvement are important aspects of this - but the most critical remains community awareness and involvement. Current technological support of business processes allows distributed, delegated actions that permit local community responsiveness (and therefore effective early action) that can still be aggregated into a high level picture (that permits efficient allocation of macro resources).

This project is just kicking off, and ideas will mature quickly.

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