EMPA Australia Awards for Excellence in Communication

The Annual EMPA Awards for Excellence in Emergency Communication have been established to recognise those who have made a significant contribution to emergency communications in Australia and New Zealand.

VIEW PREVIOUS YEARS’ WINNERS: 2020  |  2019  |  2018


The Australian EMPA Awards 2021 were presented at the conference dinner and awards evening on Thursday 3 June 2021. 

For emergency communication – Readiness and Resilience

A project or activity that contributes to improved community preparedness and / or resilience.


Articulous – Tourism Crisis Communication Toolkit and crisis communication workshops

To enable Queensland Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) to improve communication to visitors and better assist tourism operators before, during and after a range of disasters and crises, Australia’s first comprehensive Tourism Crisis Communication Toolkit for RTOs was developed.

The online, digital and printed toolkit provides a one-stop shop including crisis checklists, communication protocols, messaging, communication templates, emergency contacts and case studies all tailored to 12 different disaster and crisis scenarios.

TEAM: Sue Monk & Emma Andrews (Articulous) and Damian O’Sullivan (Dept of Tourism, Innovation, and Sport)

Tourism Crisis Communication Toolkit project highlights

ABC Emergency – ABC Emergency takes a leap

The 2019-20 bushfire season increased awareness of the fact that emergencies do not observe state borders. By this stage, the ABC had already commissioned its in-house developers to build a single national platform to display localised warning information to Australians, regardless of where they are.

The new ABC Emergency site builds upon the ABC’s proud record of publishing emergency information to audiences when alerts are issued. This includes alerts from fire agencies, emergency services, the Bureau of Meteorology and Geoscience Australia.

The new ABC Emergency website

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Victoria – Gippsland Interagency Summer Preparedness Video Series

Summer 2019/20 was an extremely challenging bushfire season for Gippsland, seeing severe loss and devastation throughout the community.
On top of this, was the notable trauma experienced by the community members impacted by the fires, seeing significant impacts in the health and wellbeing space.This was amplified by the fact that the state of Victoria was in the midst of heavy lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning a number of the usual ways that emergency services would engage with the community and be visible at a local level was diminished.

To mitigate these issues within the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, Forest Fire Management in partnership with CFA, Parks Victoria, SES, Bushfire Recovery Victoria and East Gippsland Shire Council developed a four part interagency video series.

DELWP Victoria YouTube Channel

For emergency communication – Response

Communicating effectively during an emergency response.


Bureau of Meteorology – NSW Flood Emergency: 2021

The New South Wales flood event of March 2021 required a comprehensive and nuanced communication effort to help communities prepare and respond to the impacts of intense rainfall.

The Bureau’s success in doing so was the result of a long term commitment to enhancing its communication capability and understanding the needs of communities.

Video communications example from BOM YouTube channel – one of the many avenues & media used for this campaign

Kempsey Shire Council – Flood Communications March 2021

From 18 – 26 March 2021, Kempsey Shire experienced heavy rainfall and storms that lead to widespread flooding. As a result, the New South Wales Government issued a National Disaster Declaration for Kempsey Shire on 20 March 2021. Following this, a secondary event occurred in a part of the shire with contaminated flood water.

During the flood event, 3 separate evacuation orders were issued. 

A resident of Kempsey during the floods

NSW State Emergency Service Public Information Unit – Response to the NSW Floods

Following advice received from BOM on 10 March of the potential for severe weather to hit Metropolitan Sydney and other regional areas of NSW, a communications plan was put in place by the NSW State Emergency Service.

The severe weather hit on March 18 and caused a significant and prolonged flood event for the Mid North Coast, Hunter, and Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley prompting the service to activate its Public Information Unit –  comprised of Media and Communications Team members – to coordinate and action the ongoing communications needs to respond to the severe weather and floods.

The NSW SES Public Information Unit allowed for a coordinated and collaborative approach to planning, producing, and distributing crucial public information for the communities affected.

NSW SES added a section directly responding to weather events on the front page of their website – Disaster relief and recovery

NSW Government disaster relief and support content is historically fragmented, both in terms of the agencies who provide support and the way those agencies communicate the available options.

Examples include webpages that provide citizens direct links into many different siloed 3rd party websites that each provide a small portion of the available assistance options.

Given the stressful situation citizens are in when this content is relevant and the impact that stress has on their cognitive capacity, this fragmentation of content and journey is crippling.

During the NSW storms and flooding event of Autumn 2021, users were arriving at in search of content to help them respond to and recover from the disaster.

At the time we had great content to help them with their Disaster Relief and Support journey, alongside good relevant content provided on 3rd party websites, but the journey to discover that content was extremely fragmented and simply not possible from one website location.

A central location for all disaster relief and recovery assistance and support

For emergency communication – Recovery

Supporting the recovery of a community impacted by an emergency.


Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience – Supporting community recovery following the Black Summer bushfires

The Black Summer bushfires were a crisis that required the entire disaster resilience and emergency management community to contribute to support response and recovery efforts. As a knowledge centre and a builder of national capability for disaster resilience, AIDR identified an ability to contribute by highlighting and sharing information and resources in a variety of different ways to assist practitioners to support communities as they moved into recovery.

Some of the projects AIDR established during this time are:

    • ‘Knowledge-into-Action briefs’ that could be quickly read, understood and put into practice.
    • ‘Recovery Matters’ webinar series to explore key issues in disaster recovery. A broad range of expert speakers were invited to share their experience and insights on disaster recovery, followed by an extended Q&A session for participants. 
    • Together with the Social Recovery Reference Group, AIDR established ‘Possibility Lab’, a Community of Practice to support people working in community recovery.
    • AIDR partnered with Emerging Minds to create trauma informed guidance materials that support educators in bushfire affected communities, and curated a collection of resources on the AIDR website to support schools in recovery.
    • AIDR also collaborated with ABC and Red Cross to create the ‘Everyday Helpers’ Play School series that shared early-childhood safety messages relevant during times of emergency.

Video communications example from BOM YouTube channel – one of the many avenues & media used for this campaign

For media

In-depth and balanced coverage of a topic that increases public understanding of a hazard or an emergency response.

Comprehensive and accurate reporting before or during an emergency response, contributing to public safety.


DMA Creative, Northern Pictures, ABC – Big Weather (and how to survive it)

From the frontlines of Australia’s Black Summer of 2019-20, three-part TV series BIG WEATHER (AND HOW TO SURVIVE IT) delivers an urgent and entertaining message of how our weather is changing and what we can do to survive it.

Presenter CRAIG REUCASSEL charts the season as oppressive heatwaves set temperature records that lead to Australia’s worst fire season on record. Over 20 million hectares of forest go up in flames: a fifth of the continent’s forest and an area twice the size of Belgium. Then in a violent contradiction, catastrophic fire is followed by severe storms and flash floods.

Sharing stories from frontline disaster crews, experts and communities dealing with the effects of our escalating climate emergency, Big Weather (and how to survive it) seeks to answer some big questions: Why are these events becoming less predictable and more intense? And what can we do to prepare, survive and adapt into the future?

Big Weather (and how to survive it) is a dynamic and emotional series showcasing nature at its most destructive and spectacular. Fusing tales of tragedy and triumph with practical tips and survival scenarios, Big Weather brings the lived experience of an historic summer into every living room, to help communities adapt, survive and thrive in the new era of climate extremes.

ABC Perth & ABC Emergency – Woorooloo Bushfire Coverage 

The Wooroloo bushfire was a complex emergency event in a populated semi-rural region of the Perth Hills covering six local government areas and coinciding with a snap COVID-19 lockdown.

Coverage began on Monday 1st February at 12:50pm during the Afternoons program on ABC Radio Perth, and regular updates were broadcast for this rapidly changing fire until the evening of Saturday 6th February when the fire was finally downgraded to Advice level.


Snippets of emergency broadcasts during the Woorooloo bushfire coverage

Sydney Morning Herald – Flood coverage 2021

During the week of heavy rain and floods that devastated NSW, The Sydney Morning Herald led coverage of the looming threat, how it unfolded and those who were left behind. At each stage, the newspaper and online platform provided a rich vein of unforgettable images, live blogs and articles – anchored by the work of Sarah McPhee and Laura Chung. Their efforts were aided by their journalist and photographic colleagues: Josh Dye, Megan Gorrey, Lucy Cormack, Peter Hannam, Nick Moir, Wolter Peeters and Louise Kennerley.

Sydney Morning Herald Live Blog from Laura Chung and Sarah McPhee

For published research that advances emergency communication by

Improving community preparedness and/or resilience

Increasing the effectiveness of communication during an emergency response;

Enabling agencies to better support communities recovering from an adverse event.


Country Fire Authority –The use of bushfire self-evacuation archetypes research as a lens to inform community safety approaches

The project has involved the use of bushfire self-evacuation archetypes to support community safety approaches at CFA and more broadly in the sector. A Safer Together funded research project tested the use of the archetypes research in three key areas (community engagement, program evaluation and bushfire modelling). The project developed evidence based approaches for each of the three areas and identified pathways to embed the research into practice. CFA has subsequently been working to embed the research in collaboration with sector and research partners. A key contributing factor to the success of the project has been the development of a research overview video to communicate key aspects of the research and practical ways in which the findings can be used. This has created a platform to discuss the implications of the research with a broad range of stakeholders and helped to create an awareness and understanding of the value of the self-evacuation archetypes to enhance community safety approaches.

CFA YouTube video of their research overview

Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC Flood risk communication

The Flood risk communication study, conducted by Dr Mel Taylor (Macquarie University), Dr Katharine Haynes (University of Wollongong), Dr Matalena Tofa (Macquarie University), Gemma Hope (Macquarie University) and Dr Mozamdar Arifa Ahmed (Macquarie University) from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, has developed an understanding of the motivations, beliefs, decision making processes and information needs of at-risk groups for flood fatalities. It covers both age and gender, including an understanding of what a Plan B would look like when confronted with floodwater, how to motivate proactive decision making ahead of the journey, what the current challenges and barriers are to this, and what further support and information is needed. Specific high risk behaviours include those driving and entering floodwaters, and those recreating in floodwaters.

The Research into Practice briefing papers were circulated to end-users from SES agencies across the country through the AFAC SES Community Safety Group and available publicly on the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC website. 

Final project report