Tag Archives: Bush Fires

Working Together

Today is Australia’s national day of mourning for the losses suffered during and after the ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires. The theme of the service of remembrance was ‘coming together’ to remember, to mourn and to give thanks to the 1000s who have, are and will contribute to the emergency and the recovery. The Australian people as one celebrated the courage, the compassion and the resilience shown by so many.

One tiny detail of the ecumenical ceremony that highlighted the joining together of the community in the face of adversity occurred as the group of religious leaders left the podium, a Uniting Church Pastor offered his arm in friendship to help an elderly Muslim Imam make a dignified and safe exit down the steps. Adversity often brings out the best in people and organisations, encouraging them to put aside differences and join together for the good of the community.

After the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, the Australian Institute of Project Management and the PMI Melbourne Chapter joined together to support the establishment of Project Aid. Project Aid (PA) is focused on training and mentoring people working for ‘not for profit’ organisations in the basics of effective project management. PA’s role is focused on knowledge transfer and skills development to help disaster relief and aid agencies to do their job better, not on becoming another agency in the field.

The original focus of PA was almost exclusively to support Australia’s aid agencies working overseas. Following the ‘Black Saturday’ Victorian Bush Fire Disaster, PA will expand its work to provide Project Management assistance to relief organisations to help them deliver their outcomes and through them, to help the 1000s of small and mediums sized businesses and community groups that will need project management expertise to rebuild, refocus and survive the aftermath of the fires.

It’s early days but if PA is to succeed in its aims, there will be a significant need for volunteers and increased funding to help make a positive contribution. PMI, AIPM and PA volunteers have already met and are working to deliver a focused program that will make a positive contribution. To follow our progress and contribute, watch for details on the PA web site at http://www.projectaid.org

Another dimension of PM responsibility

I am writing this from Victoria, Australia where, whilst the dying has largely stopped for now, the bush fires are still burning.

Hills of Fire

Hills of Fire

The fires started on our hottest day in recorded history. This day followed on from a week with 2 more of the hottest days ever and 5 years of drought and below average rainfalls. We knew the fires would be bad, gale force winds, temperatures of 47oC (117oF) and almost zero humidity guaranteed any fire that started would be big – we just had no idea how bad! Whilst these conditions are not unusual in the deserts of central Australia, in temperate woodlands it’s a totally different story; the resulting fires were hot enough to melt metal. Thankfully none of our immediate family or friends seem to have been directly affected, but some came close.

Melted Alloy 'Hot Wheels'

Melted Alloy 'Hot Wheels'

The disaster relief efforts are now gearing up and in themselves will require a major project management effort. We would certainly encourage every project manager and reader of this blog to help with donations, support and any other practical assistance. Donations can be made directly to the Red Cross at http://www.redcross.org.au

For a better idea of what happened the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has posted a lot of photos on their web site at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/photos/2009/02/06/2484555.htm And whilst Victoria burned, the North of Australia was flooded and the UK had some of the worst snows in 20+ years, the climate is definitely changing.

Trees Explode

Trees Explode

The thought behind this blog has a longer term focus though. The Project Management profession is about to be asked to deliver $billions of stimulus projects world wide – as well as doing a good technical job (see Can Bob the Builder Save the World Economy), I would suggest there is another dimension of responsibility needed in their delivery, an acute sense of environmental awareness! 

Managing our projects in as green a way as possible is, I suggest, an ethical and moral responsibility for every project and program manager. We may not stop the climate changes but we can limit the additional damage we do whilst we help save the global economy. After all, an economy without an environment to operate in has no future!

It’s up to all of us to do our best to make sure the 200 to 300 people killed by these fires, not to mention the injured and homeless are the victims of an exceptional set of circumstances, not the first of many similar climate induced disasters. We may not be able to influence the design of the various national stimulus packages, but we can influence the way we manage our projects to minimize their impact on the environment.