Logistic lessons learned from TC Debbie

Preparation is key – particularly when facing a potentially devastating natural disaster.

Tropical Cyclone Debbie made landfall in March, bringing with it cyclonic winds and flooding, and causing damage to thousands of properties across Queensland.

But the cyclone, which crossed the coast as a Category 4 system, was unusual in that the logistic challenges were slightly less than would normally be associated with such a major weather event.

“The logistic response was actually quite impressive, not least because the cyclone gave 2-3 clear days’ notice of its arrival,” said Professor Peter Tatham from Griffith Business School.

“As a result, there was time to undertake the necessary preparation activities – for those likely to be evacuated, for example.”

Professor Tatham, a global expert in humanitarian logistics, said that responses were tested and generally found to be satisfactory under the circumstances.

“In that sense, it was a useful rehearsal for the next – and potentially more challenging – event.

“This is incredibly important because Far North Queensland doesn’t get hit by cyclones too frequently, and so there is a danger that lessons identified are forgotten in the intervening periods.

“Also, it’s likely that changes in individual and organisational responsibilities can easily result in a loss of institutional knowledge and expertise.”

To further improve the emergency response, Professor Tatham recommends establishing a common catalogue of items likely to be required – one that can be accessed by each of the responding agencies.

“This will minimize the need to seek urgent supplies from a distance when they are actually available locally.”

Another key recommendation is simple: “training, training, training,” he said.

Professor Peter Tatham, who is also part of the new Cities Research Institute, will take part in a public panel discussion on the environmental and social impacts of Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

“What did TC Debbie do?” takes place on Tuesday May 30, 6pm-8pm in Room 4.23, Business Building (G42), Gold Coast campus.