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Report on Government Services 2024


D Emergency management

Main aims of services within the sector

Emergency management services aim to reduce the risk of, and adverse effects from, emergency events on people, communities and the environment. An emergency event is one that endangers or threatens to endanger life, property or the environment, and requires a significant and coordinated response, for example, fires, rescues, medical emergencies and natural disasters.

Services included in the sector

There are various emergency services involved in the emergency management sector.

The Emergency management sector in this report includes detailed information in the 'Emergency services for fire and other events' section (section 9) on the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of service provision and the achievement of outcomes for:

  • fire services - prepare for, prevent, respond to and assist recovery from fire and other events
  • state and territory emergency services - largely volunteer organisations that respond to and provide assistance during and after emergency events.

Although this report largely focuses on emergency service provision by fire service organisations and state and territory emergency services, effective emergency management relies on the collaborative effort of a range of government and non-government stakeholders including:

  • local, state, and federal governments (e.g., fire and rescue services, land management agencies, reconstruction agencies)
  • volunteers and volunteer organisations
  • critical infrastructure owners and operators
  • the not-for-profit sector and non-government organisations.

A more comprehensive explanation of the roles and responsibilities of government and non-government stakeholders involved in emergency management is available in the Australian Emergency Management Arrangements Handbook (Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience [AIDR] 2023).

Ambulance services (for medical emergencies) and police services (for public safety issues) are also involved in the emergency management sector. The health section of this report presents further information on the performance of ambulance services (section 11) and the justice section presents further information on the performance of police services (section 6).

Hospital emergency departments also provide services related to emergency events. Further information on public hospital emergency departments is available in section 12.

Marine and lifesaving rescue and coast guard organisations also have some emergency management responsibilities. However, data on these services are not included in this report.

Government expenditure in the sector

Total government expenditure for fire services and state and territory emergency services (STES) in this report was $6.4 billion in 2022-23 (table D.1), an increase of 8.7% from the previous year. Fire services (including WA STES) was the largest contributor (93.1%) (STES contributed 6.9%, excluding Western Australia) (table D.1). For the 2021‑22 financial year (the most recent financial year for which data is available across all sections), this represented around 1.6% of total government expenditure covered in this report.

Information on ambulance services and public hospitals expenditure is reported in the Health sector overview and information on police services expenditure is reported in the Justice sector overview.

Emergency management policy settings

Three key legal frameworks guide Australian emergency management processes (AIDR 2023):

  • National Strategy for Disaster Resilience (Council of Australian Governments [COAG] 2011)
  • Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015)
  • National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework (Commonwealth of Australia 2018).

These frameworks outline key priorities and principles for emergency management policy including:

  • the need for a greater focus on natural hazard prevention, mitigation and preparedness
  • shared responsibility for emergency management between a range of stakeholders including community, business and government
  • the importance of managing disaster risk.

Shifting focus to prevention, mitigation and preparedness

Australia's emergency management arrangements are underpinned by what is known as the 'comprehensive approach' which recognises four phases of emergency management: prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery (PPRR) (AIDR 2023). These phases are not always distinct or sequential. For instance, activities that promote recovery by “building back better” can also mitigate the impact of future hazards.

In recent decades, national emergency management frameworks and inquiries including the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience (COAG 2011), the Royal Commission into National Disaster Arrangements (Commonwealth of Australia 2020), and the Productivity Commission's Inquiry into Natural National Disaster Funding Arrangements (Productivity Commission 2015) have emphasised the need to shift focus from response and recovery efforts to prevention, mitigation and preparedness efforts.

Prevention and mitigation

Prevention measures aim to remove or reduce the impact of future hazards. Mitigation measures accept that events will occur and try to lessen the inevitable impact of natural hazards. Examples of prevention and mitigation measures include:

  • community education and awareness
  • critical infrastructure protection
  • ensuring access to publicly available geologic and topographic mapping and hazard monitoring services
  • implementing specific hazard and disaster risk research studies (AIDR 2023).

Preparedness refers to the ability to be ready for, or plan action in response to or in recovery from a hazard. Examples of preparedness measures include:

  • developing household emergency plans and preparing emergency kits
  • developing tailored response and recovery plans
  • public warning systems (AIDR 2023).
Case study: Flood mitigation, prevention and preparedness efforts in Queensland

Floods are the most expensive and second most deadly type of natural disaster to occur in Australia (Australian Climate Service 2023). Queensland is one of the most flood-prone states in Australia. In the summer of 2021-22, South East Queensland experienced flooding that resulted in an estimated cost of $7.7 billion for the state. This figure includes tangible costs such as damage to residential, commercial and public infrastructure assets, as well as the estimated health and social costs (Deloitte Access Economics 2022).

Local governments hold primary responsibility for flood risk management in Queensland, but various state-level agencies play a role in policy making, governance and service provision, including the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA), the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning (DSDILGP), and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES). Together, these agencies are implementing flood mitigation, prevention and preparedness measures to safeguard Queensland residents and communities from future floods.

Flood studies

Flood studies are detailed technical examinations of flood behaviour that are essential for informing prevention, mitigation and preparedness efforts (AIDR 2017). After the devastating 2010-11 floods in Queensland, the Toowoomba Regional Council undertook flood studies for 30 townships and the Condamine River Catchment in one of the largest series of flood study projects undertaken by a local council in Australia (QRA 2023).

Community awareness

Increasing community awareness of natural hazards helps to mitigate the effects of emergency events by assisting individuals and communities to prepare. Examples of community awareness programs undertaken by government agencies in Queensland include:

  • The Queensland Reconstruction Authority’s Get Ready Queensland program, which promotes household and community resilience to a range of natural hazards including floods through local government disaster dashboards, emergency service expos, business continuity workshops, school visits and information resources for people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (QRA 2023).
  • The QFES 'If it’s Flooded, Forget it’ community safety advertising campaign, which ran between October 2022 to April 2023 to discourage driving in flooded areas. The campaign was broadcast widely on radio, television, digital and social media (QFES 2023).
Household preparedness

Creating household emergency plans is a key part of individual and family emergency preparedness and often an intended outcome of the community awareness programs run by emergency services. The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services' 2022 survey of community attitudes to hazard preparedness indicated that the proportion of Queenslanders who perceived the risk of flooding to be likely or slightly likely was 43%, and of these, only 21% felt very prepared for floods.

The survey asked respondents if they had made specific property changes to reduce the impact of natural hazards and found that:

  • 15% of respondents indicated that they had raised, relocated, replaced materials or sealed a building for flood protection
  • 15% had installed back up energy to power essential services to their homes
  • 14% had installed/maintained a storm/wind/flood/fire break (Ipsos 2022).
Flood warnings

Effective flood warnings alert communities and emergency services about approaching floods and encourage those at risk to take protective action. Flood warning infrastructure such as rain and river gauges monitor water height and rainfall levels in a catchment. This data is then used to predict the expected scale and location of a potential flood. Past reviews of the flood warning infrastructure in Queensland include:

  • a performance review of Queensland’s rainfall and river gauge network in 2015 which identified priority local government areas for future infrastructure improvements (Kellogg Brown & Root 2015)
  • the Fitzroy Regional Resilience Strategy (Flood) which reviewed flood warning infrastructure at the catchment level in the Fitzroy region of Queensland during 2019-20 (AIDR 2022).

These reviews have informed attempts to improve Queensland’s existing flood warning systems, including the Flood Warning Infrastructure Network (FWIN) (a program developing a network of flood warning gauges). In 2022, $7 million of the larger $75 million 2021-22 Emergency Response Fund for Queensland was designated for the Flood Warning Infrastructure Program. In addition, in 2023, the Australian government agreed to provide $236 million to improve priority flood warning infrastructure over the next 10 years across Australia (AIDR 2022; QRA 2023).


Australian Climate Service 2023, Floods, ACS website, (accessed 21 October 2023).

Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) 2023, Australian emergency management arrangements (third edition), East Melbourne, Australia, (accessed 21 October 2023).

—— 2022 Application of the Total Warning System to flood,
(accessed 21 October 2023)

—— 2017 Managing the floodplain: a guide to best practice in flood risk management in Australia (Handbook 7) (accessed 21 October 2023).

Commonwealth of Australia 2020, Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, (accessed 21 October 2023).

—— 2018, National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework, (accessed 21 October 2023).

Council of Australian Governments (COAG) 2011, National strategy for disaster resilience,
(accessed 21 October 2023).

Deloitte Access Economics 2022, The social, financial and economic costs of the 2022 South East Queensland Rainfall and Flooding Event, June,
(accessed 21 October 2023).

Ipsos 2022, QFES community insights survey 2022, 14 December, (accessed 21 October 2023).

Kellogg Brown & Root 2015, Performance review of flood warning gauge network in Queensland, 16 December, (accessed 21 October 2023).

Productivity Commission 2015, Natural disaster funding arrangements, Inquiry report no. 74, Canberra, (accessed 21 October 2023).

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) 2023, Annual report 2022-23, (accessed 21 October 2023).

Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) 2023, Queensland statewide assessment of flood risk factors: Technical report, (accessed 21 October 2023).

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 - 2030 (first edition), (accessed 21 October 2023).

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