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Disaster Response Report For Western Sydney University Lab Explosion
  • 3

  • Course Code: PUBH7028
  • University: Kaplan Business School
  • Country: Australia


Length: 1500words +/- 10% ( submissions >10% excess content will not be read or graded)

- The assessment should follow a report format as outlined in the resources provided to you on vUWS (Assessment 3 folder). A report contains an executive summary (up to a maximum of 150 words) which does not count towards the word count. 
- Submissions must be the student's own authentic and original work. 
-Your submission must be your original work. Please see the note about the use of generative artificial intelligence (AI Chat generators) in the Assessment Summary Section. 
- Once submitted through Turnitin, all submissions will be assessed for academic integrity, originality and authenticity.
- Students are permitted word count leeway of +/- 10% for this task (In-text citation does count toward the word count but the reference list is not included in this word count). 
- Assessment documents must be submitted as a MS-Word file. (Please note that PDF and other formats will not be accepted).  
- Document submissions must be typed, and have 1.5 line spacing using either Calibri, Arial or Times New Roman fonts (11 or 12 point size).  
- APA 7th referencing style is required. 
- Conventions of academic writing (spelling, grammar, formatting and scholarly writing) are required.



When a disaster event occurs, it is often the emergency response efforts that gain the most attention, particularly in the media.  However, what is often not viewed as widely are the massive efforts that are put into disaster preparedness and planning  before the event occurs or the coordination and communication among stakeholders, logistical challenges, safety challenges, special considerations for vulnerable populations, and more that occur during the response or the recovery efforts after.  

This task provides students with an opportunity to witness a disaster preparedness training simulation video (enacted by the Paramedicine department). This allows students to observe first-hand some, the many complexities that arise from a mass-casualty incident response scenario. 

Students are required to critically reflect on a disaster response (see video below) and consider this with regards to a future professional role they are considering.
This assessment consists of two parts.  Each part has been outlined below:

Part 1: Critical Analysis

Describe and Discuss:

Give a brief description of the disaster and the initial response. This should include some discussion as to the type of disaster that was witnessed, the possible causes  and contributing factors, whether it can be classified as a natural, environmental or man-made disaster; identifying local plans, agencies, stakeholders involved, etc. 


Reflect and provide a critical analysis of the disaster simulation event supported by scholarly and grey literature. You may wish to consider:
How was this managed and brought under control by the emergency response personnel (command, communication, organisation, safety, medical and psychological care etc.)?  
Was this plan well executed or appropriated for this event?  If not, what should have been done differently?
Were there sufficient resources available?

Consider the Incident Command and areas of operation throughout the scenario.  What areas of operation were established during the event?  What was the response plan for this event?  
Was this plan appropriate for this type of disaster? If not, what should have been done differently?  What other aspects of disaster response planning should be considered for this type of disaster event (resource management, psychological first-aid, animal welfare, etc)?  

Part 2: Disaster Response in regard to a future professional role

Consider your professional role and the discipline in which you are studying (i.e. Public Health, Health Services Management, Medical doctor, Nurse, Pharmacist etc.).

Define your role as a health professional in relation to this disaster response scenario.  Discuss what your response plan would be to this event and how you might manage this within your professional role.  

Detail your plan as though you were overseeing command for your professional body in this event.  Use APA 7th referencing style to support your discussion using evidence from existing scholarly and grey literature.

Marking Criteria
Critical analysis of the disaster event and response and recommendations for improving the effectiveness of the response
Linkage of disaster response to future professional role
Academic writing and formatting
APA 7th Referencing

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Executive Summary

On October 9th, 2021, an explosion at a Western Sydney University lab tested the mettle and readiness of emergency response teams. This analysis delves into the disaster's nature, the immediate response, and the efficacy of the intervention.

Key findings indicate commendable rapidity in initial response but observable inefficiencies in on-ground execution. The Incident Command System, while structured, revealed discrepancies between planning and actual rescue operations.

The lens then shifts to a Public Health perspective, emphasizing a comprehensive approach to disaster response. A Public Health professional's role is multifaceted, addressing immediate needs, psychological implications, environmental safety, and long-term health outcomes.

The disaster underscores the need for effective planning, swift execution, and the imperative role of Public Health in bridging immediate care with long-term resilience strategies. 

1. Introduction

On October 9th, 2021, an unforeseen catastrophe struck when a university lab in Western Sydney experienced a sudden explosion. This calamity not only highlighted the fragility and unpredictability of life but also tested the readiness and efficiency of emergency response systems.

The event, amidst the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, underscores the imperative need for robust disaster preparedness, timely response, and the significance of multi-agency collaboration in the face of such crises.

2. Literature Review: Comparison & Contrast

Disasters, both natural and man-made, necessitate a multi-agency approach. Quarantelli (1985) differentiated between types of disasters, highlighting distinct response requirements for each (Paciarotti & Cesaroni, 2020).

The Incident Command System (ICS), as explored by Buck, Trainor, & Aguirre (2006), offers a structured response mechanism, while Aldrich & Benson (2008) stress public health's broader role beyond immediate medical care (Chang & Trainor, 2020; VanLandingham et al., 2022).

Norris et al. (2002) delved into the lasting psychological impacts of disasters, emphasizing the need for mental health interventions (Wilks et al., 2020).

However, Reynolds & Seeger (2005) respectively noted challenges in resource management and effective communication (Enander, 2021). Modern-day disaster response, especially in the context of overlapping crises like a pandemic, presents unique challenges, as discussed by Brooks et al. (2020) (Boin et al., 2020).

These works, while underscore the importance of preparedness and a comprehensive approach, differ in their focal areas, from resource management and communication to psychological interventions and public health's role.

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3. Critical Analysis

3.1 Findings and Discussion

3.1.1 Identification of Stakeholders and Their Roles

On that fateful day at the Western Sydney University, at precisely 11:42 AM, alerts were sounded regarding an explosion in a science lab. Within minutes, the local fire brigade was dispatched, reaching the scene by 11:51 AM.

Their immediate priority was to restore power and gauge the structural integrity of the affected building. By 11:58 AM, the first paramedic crew had arrived, indicating a swift initial response to the emergency.

Given the circumstances, classifying this disaster as a man-made disaster was apparent, likely resulting from a mishap or oversight in the lab, since it was not an act of nature or environmental occurrence.

The response to this disaster was coordinated among multiple agencies, with the fire brigade taking the lead in the early stages, followed closely by paramedics and, subsequently, the State Emergency Services (SES) – the establishment of the Incident Command by 12:08 PM was pivotal in orchestrating the subsequent rescue and relief operations.

3.1.2 Psychological Stressors and Vulnerabilities

However, the situation inside the building presented a stark contrast to the organized response outside. Inside, a scene of chaos unfolded. Distressed individuals were frantically searching for classmates amidst the rubble and debris, their cries echoing through the corridors. The need for a swift, coordinated, and compassionate response was evident.

The disaster brought to light the potential vulnerabilities present even in seemingly secure environments like a university. It is also a sobering reminder of the importance of having local plans in place, ensuring that agencies like the fire brigade, paramedics, and SES are not only equipped but also trained to handle such sudden emergencies.

3.1.3 Management of Resources

Upon examining the flowchart, it is evident that a hierarchical structure was in place, with the University, NSW health, and Incident Command at the top tier, subsequently branching out to various specialized units. This hierarchy is essential for clear communication and efficient decision-making (Bahrami et al., 2020).

However, the actual on-ground execution seemed to deviate from the expected streamlined operation that such a structure should facilitate. The decision to erect relief-tents based on injury severity was commendable.

3.3 Reflections

The disaster simulation at the Western Sydney University offers a profound reflection on the multi-faceted challenges that accompany any mass-casualty incident. Analysing the response through the lens of scholarly and grey literature, one can discern several areas of concern, but also notable strengths.

Firstly, the rapidity of the initial response was commendable (Huo et al., 2021). Within minutes, the local fire brigade was on-site, swiftly followed by paramedics and the State Emergency Services. Such rapid deployment is crucial in disaster scenarios, where the 'golden hour' can mean the difference between life and death for many victims (Forrester et al., 2019).

However, while the initial response was swift, the subsequent execution of the rescue operation seemed disjointed and inefficient. The scene inside the building was chaotic. Injured individuals, desperate for assistance, were left waiting, their pleas for help seemingly falling on deaf ears.

One might argue that the emergency personnel were possibly waiting for more reinforcements or specific instructions. However, in such scenarios, every second counts (Hassler & Ceccato, 2021). The visual of the man in the white shirt, bleeding and slowly losing consciousness while rescue workers passed him by, paints a distressing picture of the priorities of the rescue operation.

This scene raises questions about the training and preparedness of the emergency personnel. Were they equipped to handle the psychological stress of the situation? Did the command structure provide clear guidance on how to prioritize victims?

Another point of contention was the lack of crowd control. The scene where a distraught woman broke through the lines to reach an injured person could have been avoided with better barriers or more personnel designated for crowd management.

Such emotional outbursts are expected in disaster scenarios, and preparedness plans should account for them (Sultan et al., 2020).

However, it is also crucial to note the logistical challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The fact that resources were limited due to the outbreak might explain some of the shortcomings in the response. But this again raises questions about the adaptability and flexibility of our disaster response mechanisms.

In a world where multiple crises can coincide, our systems need to be robust enough to handle such compounded challenges (Price, 2022).

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3.4 Considerations

The Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response (Burgiel, 2019). Evaluating its application during the university disaster simulation provides significant insights.

For instance, areas of operation such as primary and secondary triage, treatment teams, and barrier/crowd control were established. Yet, the observable delay in attending to the injured, especially the critically wounded, contradicts the essence of triage, which is to prioritize care based on the severity of injuries (Leppäniemi, 2021).

Additionally, while the introduction of color-coded tents for the injured was a commendable decision, ensuring a faster transition of victims from the site of the incident to these relief-tents should have been a priority (Butler-Gallie, 2023). Every moment counts in such situations, and the observed delays could mean a difference in outcomes for the victims.

Furthermore, while considerations like resource management and psychological first-aid were evident, with the University Culture and Diversity Team intervening and the on-campus café providing drinks, more pressing concerns, such as immediate medical attention and efficient evacuation, seemed to have been overlooked.

The disaster also brings to light the importance of other considerations, such as animal welfare, especially in a university setting where lab animals might be present. Though not mentioned, any comprehensive disaster response plan should account for this (Vieira & Anthony, 2021). 

4. Disaster Response in Regard to a Future Professional Role

In the realm of Public Health, the role is distinct from immediate medical responders (Adalja et al., 2020). A Public Health professional focuses on the holistic well-being of populations, prioritizing prevention, efficient health services delivery during crises, and addressing both immediate and long-term health concerns (Søvold et al., 2021).

Their responsibility encompasses not just physical health but also psychological well-being, environmental safety, and disease prevention, especially in the context of a disaster amidst a pandemic.

Given the university explosion scenario, a Public Health professional would play a multifaceted role. First, their primary concern would be to ensure that the immediate health needs of the affected are addressed. This does not merely refer to physical injuries but also encompasses psychological trauma.

Incidents of this magnitude often leave scars that are not visible (Drožđek et al., 2020). Quick interventions, like deploying mental health first-aid teams and counsellors, can help mitigate the long-term psychological impacts.

5. Tailored Disaster Response Plan for the Specified Role, Including Management Strategies

Ensuring an environment that minimizes further harm is crucial. Given that the disaster occurred amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and no one was seen wearing masks, it raises a concern of potential disease spread (Liao et al., 2021).

A Public Health professional would prioritize the distribution of masks and ensure that the triage areas, treatment zones, and evacuation routes adhere to infection prevention protocols.

In addition, they would also liaise with the Incident Command, providing insights on health implications and guiding decisions.

For instance, while the decision to erect relief-tents based on injury severity was commendable, a Public Health perspective would also consider segregating individuals based on their risk of developing complications, ensuring vulnerable groups like the elderly or those with comorbidities receive specialized attention.

Moreover, post-disaster, there is a need for surveillance (Kumar et al., 2020). Monitoring the affected individuals for any latent health issues, be it respiratory problems from smoke inhalation or stress-induced ailments, would be paramount (Song et al., 2019).

This is where the Public Health professional's expertise in epidemiology could be invaluable, tracking and managing any potential outbreaks or long-term health consequences.

Lastly, as someone overseeing command for the Public Health body, it would be my responsibility to ensure that there is a robust communication channel between the health department, emergency responders, and the public (Yeh & Lee, 2023).

Disseminating accurate information, dispelling rumours, and guiding the population on the next steps post-disaster would be key components of the strategy.

6. Conclusion

In the aftermath of a disaster, the role of Public Health professionals extends beyond immediate intervention, emphasizing holistic well-being and long-term resilience.

By integrating immediate care with strategic planning, they ensure both recovery and preparedness, safeguarding communities against future adversities and ensuring sustained health outcomes. 


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7. References

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Bahrami, P., Ardalan, A., Nejati, A., Ostadtaghizadeh, A., & Yari, A. (2020). Factors affecting the effectiveness of hospital incident command system; findings from a systematic review. Bulletin of Emergency & Trauma, 8(2), 62. https://doi.org/10.30476%2FBEAT.2020.46445
 Boin, A., Lodge, M., & Luesink, M. (2020). Learning from the COVID-19 crisis: An initial analysis of national responses. Policy Design and Practice, 3(3), 189–204. https://doi.org/10.1080/25741292.2020.1823670
Burgiel, S. W. (2019). The Incident Command System: A framework for rapid response to biological invasion. Biological Invasions, 22(1), 155–165. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-019-02150-2
Butler-Gallie, B. (2023). Rapid Deployment Disaster Relief Housing (Doctoral dissertation, ResearchSpace@ Auckland). https://researchspace.auckland.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/2292/64537/BUTLER-GALLIE%2c%20Brianna_682923479_MARPF.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y
Chang, R. H., & Trainor, J. (2020). Balancing mechanistic and organic design elements: The design and implementation of the Incident Command System (ICS). International Journal of Mass Emergencies & Disasters, 38(3), 241–267. https://doi.org/10.1177/028072702003800301
Drožđek, B., Rodenburg, J., & Moyene-Jansen, A. (2020). “hidden” and diverse long-term impacts of exposure to war and violence. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00975
Enander, A. (2021). Psychology of crisis and trauma. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.1642
Forrester, J. D., August, A., Cai, L. Z., Kushner, A. L., & Wren, S. M. (2019). The golden hour after injury among civilians caught in conflict zones. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 13(5–6), 1074–1082. https://doi.org/10.1017/dmp.2019.42
Hassler, J., & Ceccato, V. (2021). Socio-spatial disparities in access to emergency health care—a Scandinavian case study. PLOS ONE, 16(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0261319
Kumar, J. S., Kumar, S., Choksi, M., & Zaveri, M. A. (2020). Collaborative data acquisition and processing for post disaster management and surveillance related tasks using UAV-based IOT Cloud. International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, 34(4), 216. https://doi.org/10.1504/ijahuc.2020.108579
Liao, M., Liu, H., Wang, X., Hu, X., Huang, Y., Liu, X., Brenan, K., Mecha, J., Nirmalan, M., & Lu, J. R. (2021). A technical review of face mask wearing in preventing respiratory COVID-19 transmission. Current Opinion in Colloid & Interface Science, 52, 101417. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cocis.2021.101417
Paciarotti, C., & Cesaroni, A. (2020). Spontaneous volunteerism in disasters, managerial inputs and policy implications from Italian case studies. Safety Science, 122, 104521. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssci.2019.104521
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