The keynote focus of AFAC19 powered by INTERSCHUTZ was on the evolving role of emergency management in times of change. The Australian emergency management conference and exhibition attracted participants in record numbers.
The emergency management landscape in Australia is changing rapidly, and AFAC powered by INTERSCHUTZ is growing in order to keep pace. That much was clear from the record numbers of participants at this year’s four-day conference and exhibition in Melbourne. But the main picture to emerge from this year’s event is that the emergency management sector is tackling the challenges of the future with determination and innovative approaches to collaboration and cooperation.
“This year was the biggest conference we’ve ever had, and we explored a number of major issues affecting our society, including climate change and technological progress,” said AFAC CEO Stuart Ellis. “Apart from looking at our current work, we called upon the emergency management sector to look ahead and think about ways in which all actors in the sector can develop and adapt so as to be better positioned to deal with the challenges that lie ahead.”
This year’s AFAC powered by INTERSCHUTZ attracted more than 4,000 participants from 44 nations – a new record. It also featured a record 194 exhibitors. The conference speakers and exhibitors came from more than 17 nations, including the USA, Canada and Germany. The German exhibitors were clustered at a national pavilion organized by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) in partnership with the German Fire Protection Association (GFPA), which is also a co-organizer of the INTERSCHUTZ show in Hannover, Germany. The following companies exhibited at the pavilion: ALRO Engineering, askö, Crystop, Haix Group, Luitpold Schott Amaturenfabrik, s.tec Germany, Schmitz One Seven, Securemen, Skylotec, Stumpf & Kossendey Verlagsgesellschaft and Wagner Group. Another highlight was when Hartmut Ziebs, President of the German Fire Services Association (DFV), made AFAC history by becoming the first-ever German speaker – and a high-profile one at that – to take part in the AFAC conference program. Ziebs took the opportunity to outline Germany’s fire service model to an audience of international emergency management professionals.
The lead theme for AFAC19 was “A shift to the new norm: riding the wave of change” – a fitting motto for an event that successfully facilitated dialogue and exchange between emergency-sector actors from a very wide range of backgrounds. This year, the AFAC conference featured the Australian Disaster Resilience Conference among its streams and was, for the very first time, co-located with the IFE National Conference (Institution of Fire Engineers Australia). In another highlight, the latest research findings on natural disasters and resilience were presented at a research forum organized by Australia’s Bushfire and Natural Hazard Cooperative Research Centre.
“AFAC19 took the opportunity to initiate important dialogue on necessary development steps in emergency management,” Ellis said. Among much else, the dialogue focused on the need to foster greater diversity and integration, the need for better emergency preparedness, and ways of making populations more resilient in the face of emergencies and disasters.
A particularly well-received presentation on this topic area was the keynote given by Dr. Robert Glasser, a former head of the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction and the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction. Dr. Glasser spoke of the impacts that climate change will have on disaster and emergency risk management. “As our planet continues to warm, we will be entering an unprecedented time. An era of disasters unlike anything we’ve experienced before. It’s human nature to assume the future will unfold in the same way as the recent past. That is a dangerously flawed way of managing disaster risk,” he remarked.
With AFAC19 behind them, the organizers are now turning their attention to AFAC20, which will be themed “Connecting communities. Creating resilience”. AFAC20 will be held in Adelaide from 25 to 28 August 2020.
AFAC powered by INTERSCHUTZ is a joint project between the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC), the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre and Deutsche Messe subsidiary Hannover Fairs Australia Pty Ltd. Deutsche Messe adds value to AFAC by contributing its expertise in the management of major trade shows, while AFAC strengthens the international network based around Deutsche Messe’s INTERSCHUTZ show, held in Hannover, Germany.