Home' ALGY : ALGY Edition 25 2018 Contents 126 • THE AUSTRALIAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT YEARBOOK EDITION 25
police may enable early intervention. State and federal agencies
usually get involved once someone else has raised the flag.
Local governments can pre-empt trouble by addressing
growing tensions. Taking the basis for complaints away from all
but the most entrenched extremists will reduce their ability to
radicalise others. Hopefully the community can be distanced from
the demagogue, reducing the likelihood of a follower committing
violence; leaders of radical groups rarely put themselves in danger
of harm or arrest. Assisting with community integration, and
providing access to resources and facilities are ways of countering
and preventing radical extremism.
When responding to terrorist incidents, regional towns do
not have immediate access to the technical law enforcement
and emergency capabilities available in large cities, but they do
have resources that will be critical in the aftermath.
Assuming that the event is something like a major bombing
or another mass-casualty incident, access to the scene and
wounded will probably require plant and other equipment.
Local governments own, or know where and how to obtain,
The local health system will be overwhelmed, requiring
coordination with other regional hospitals and health providers.
The number of fatalities may well exceed the local mortuary
industry, so how will the bodies be stored, considering that each
one will need to be investigated as a potential source of valuable
Road closures and detours will need to be coordinated
with police. Critical services, such as water, sewerage, power
and communications, may need to be diverted or repaired, or
temporary measures may need to be put in place. The local
government may need to coordinate these services with the
suppliers on behalf of the community. Emergency landing strips
and helipads may be needed. There will be a need to coordinate
with not-for profit, state and federal responses and aid agencies.
Coordination of all those who will descend on the town will
be required: government, media, emergency service personnel,
specialists and ‘helpers/sticky beaks’. Local government is well
placed to help to manage accommodation and catering even
if only by knowing what is available and perhaps suggesting
certain visitors be grouped in specific motels/hotels/halls et
cetera, based on their roles and need for proximity.
The local mayor may also end up being the spokesperson, at
least until a state figure arrives to front the cameras.
It is therefore obvious that a response to a terrorist incident
is similar to that for a natural disaster, with one major exception:
this was a deliberate human act. Imagine the reaction as people
realise the carnage was deliberate.
The other key difference to a natural disaster is the speed
at which the event unfolds. This will be more like an industrial
accident or lightning strike than a flood or fire, where there is
often some warning and preparation time. In some cases, it may
not be obvious whether the incident, damage and casualties are
the result of a terrorist incident or an accident.
The scene will need to be secured for inspection by
investigating agencies regardless of whether it is a criminal act
or an accident, and it may be local resources that provide and
enforce this initial cordon. It is worth confirming that the local
government has the legal authority to enforce such actions.
Probably the most important role of local government will
be mending the community after a terrorist incident: bringing
together the various sub-communities and helping to heal the
damage caused by one deliberate act.
Local government, because of its proximity to the people,
has the ability to detect a move towards extremism and prevent
an attack. Should an attack occur, the response considerations
are the same as those for a natural disaster. Local government
already has the ability to respond. The difficulty will be the shock
and inertia caused by recognition that this was possibly an
attack by a local. The way to prepare is to consider, as part of the
next disaster training session, how the local government would
respond to a deliberate mass casualty event. Particular emphasis
could be given to the longer-term social recovery aspects –
what happens once the big-city folk have left the town.
Local government is the key player; it is a pity that it is
not better represented in national counterterrorism planning.
Regardless, local government must still consider what is required
and how the existing emergency plans can be modified to meet
a terrorist attack.
Don Williams CPP RSecP ASecM is a recognised thought leader
in security, emergency management and related disciplines. His
book, Bomb Safety and Security: the Manager’s Guide, is available
from Amazon. Email Williams at email@example.com.
Local government, because
of its proximity to the people,
has the ability to detect a
move towards extremism and
prevent an attack
2298_ALGY Ed 25 2018.indd 126
16/5/18 2:02 pm
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