An ex-tropical cyclone, dam failures and widespread flooding spurred Cairns’ disaster response agencies into action yesterday (26 November).
The Cairns Regional Council’s Disaster Coordination Centre became a hub of activity as part of an annual two-day training exercise designed to prepare relevant agencies for a natural disaster.
Exercise Delta incorporated a hypothetical ex-tropical cyclone and an associated rain depression that dumped record-breaking rainfall into the upper reaches of the Barron River catchment.
As a result, water flowed more than 2.5-metres above the Tinaroo Dam spillway and caused devastating flooding to coastal communities in Cairns.
The exercise included the activation of the Copperlode Dam Emergency Action Plan and involved activation of evaluation facilities.
Chair of the Local Disaster Management Group Cr Terry James, said the exercise assisted in defining roles and responsibilities, should a real disaster threaten the area.
“We will go through the steps of activating the Disaster Coordination Centre and forming a multi-agency disaster response unit,” Cr James said.
“Participants will assume the roles they would take in a real disaster situation and carry out duties in accordance with a disaster scenario.
“Just a few days ago the Bureau of Meteorology confirmed that Queensland is in a La Niña phase, predicting wetter than average conditions and a higher likelihood of tropical cyclones.
“Based on this prediction, a flooding scenario resulting from an ex-tropical cyclone is an appropriate scenario for preparing for the wet season.”
Cr James said the exercise served as a timely reminder to residents that they need to prepare for possible flooding and cyclone events, and importantly consider where they will stay during an emergency.
“Firstly, people need to ‘know their zone’, which can be done online on Council’s website,” Cr James said.
“This will help to prepare for all eventualities, from storm surge and flooding, landslips and earthquakes to bush fires.
“People need to decide whether their home is safe, or if they will need to evacuate depending on the emergency.
“While Council has evacuation centres which provide basic facilities during an emergency, COVID-19 restrictions have added some additional challenges to their limited capacity.
“Wherever possible, residents should make arrangements now to stay with family or friends, rather than potentially spending 18 hours locked down in an evacuation facility.”
The second day of the exercise addressed how local communities would recover in the short to long term.