Improvements in risk management processes can and should be made to avert the next bushfire catastrophe, says Dr Les Coleman, in the wake of the release of the bushfires Royal Commission interim report. "It comes back to looking at the risks, putting in place mechanisms to try and reduce those risks ahead of time, and recognising that when these extreme events start to unfold, its really beyond anyone's physical resources to handle every part of it."
"It's hard to be critical of people under these circumstances. The Royal Commission has spent a lot of time looking at risk - and will spend more time looking at it - as risk is a major part of this issue: how do we understand it, quantify it, and work out what to do."
However Dr Coleman, a senior lecturer in finance and a risk and crisis management expert from the Department of Finance, says criticism of the CFA is harsh.
"The CFA certainly came in for criticism, but if you look at the resources deployed on the day, they were huge: around 15 000 firefighters, 1000 vehicles, 50 aircraft and so on. It's actually quite hard to work out what more they could have done. So I think a lot of the criticism of the CFA is ‘Monday Morning Quarterbacking’ if you like, looking back on how to handle something that, at the time, they really couldn’t get more information about and didn’t have any additional resources."
"It would have been very very difficult to improve their management on the day.