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Red Cross flood response made possible by alliance with Griffith University

The recent floods and ongoing clean-up once again demonstrated the power of community and Griffith University also played a key part in both the response and the recovery by hosting Australian Red Cross emergency operations staff on their Nathan campus.

Mar 30, 2022, updated Mar 30, 2022

Australian Red Cross temporarily established its Emergency Operations Command Centre at Griffith’s Disaster and Resilience Management Facility (DRMF), which is housed in the University’s new Engineering, Technology and Aviation building.

Purpose-built for just such a scenario, DRMF was the first port of call when Red Cross realised its Milton office operations were compromised by the heavy rain event.

“It has been a five-year design and build journey to get to this point, and we were excited to welcome our Red Cross colleagues to the facility at a time when Queenslanders were really suffering from the consequences of flooding,” Professor Cheryl Desha, from the University’s School of Engineering and Built Environment, said.

“Taking that phone call and being able to say yes to allow them to move to an office where they could continue their important work was such a satisfying feeling as an academic.

“In our action research agenda, we set up for these types of things, but to be able to create a space for emergency services to do their fantastic work, felt like we were doing something valuable for our local university community and the greater community.”

Red Cross’ core operational team worked 24/7 from the disaster and resilience management facility (DRMF) during the peak of the flood event.

“This is the first time we have activated our disaster and resilience management facility at Griffith University for operations that are beyond our front door.

“Inviting Red Cross into this space provided us with the opportunity to observe how the features we designed as options for disaster response work in practice and allowed us to gather immediate feedback from the personnel using it.

“We really thought about creating spaces that provide good access to light and well thought out floor plans which allow movement between rooms, and operating teams, is fluid, but we can also have quiet spaces to work as well as active spaces where personnel are taking phone calls or communicating messages across the room or indeed into another room.”

“The screen technology that we have employed in the facility means that the central control room can broadcast particular information between the other two spaces so people can be looking at the same screen while working with colleagues off site, which reduces the potential for information to be received differently.”

Professor Cheryl Desha (L) with Red Cross State Emergency Services Manager and acting Queensland Director Collin Sivalingum at Red Cross’ temporary headquarters at Griffith University.

Red Cross State Emergency Services Manager and acting Queensland Director Collin Sivalingum said Griffith’s open arms ensured continuity of service during a tough time for the community.

“The facility was a safe place for our staff and volunteers, who could continue to help those most in need,’’ he said.

“Our teams worked tirelessly during this time.”

Professor Desha said Griffith worked with government and industry partners from the start of the building’s design to ensure it could activate the facility in emergency situations.

“It feels good to be using our university buildings to serve communities in crisis. The MOU between Red Cross and Griffith University defines an important partnership on a range of opportunities ranging from student placements through to research and capacity building.”

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