Every 8 minutes



Every 8 minutes, a disaster happens somewhere in the world.

We spend 7 days with the people who respond


6 X Half Hour





























Sammy Ringer

52 Palm St

Maleny 4552

0498 313 068

Email: sammy@ausbushfoods.com


Every 8 Minutes


They come from every part of the world and every walk of life. They’re known, loosely as ‘International Disaster Response’ teams. Their job is to go to the worst places on earth. Towns, cities and countries experiencing flood, earthquakes, war, diease or drought.



15,000 tents, three field hospitals, 45,000 blankets and 16 tonnes of food – 7 doctors, 12 paras and 3 sniffer dogs – just part of the manifest for today’s flight by the Emergency Response Unit of the IDR. These people spend their lives flying round the world to disaster areas. Often at an hour’s notice.

You see them in the evening news, anonymous figures moving in the background.

But who are these people?

What is life like for the teams who know nothing but catastrophe?

While the backdrop is the dramatic sweep of flood, earthquake and war, the focus is on the people who attend disasters and the challenges they face. This is the frontline crew. The first on the scene. Their efficiency and calm can often mean the difference between life and death for thousands of people.

For 7 days, we work with IDR teams who travel to disaster spots around the world. For twenty four hours, we get to know these people – people like you and I who have chosen a most demanding and heartbreaking job.

Behind these teams are literally hundreds of volunteers who organize, pack, count, manifest and fundraise. Who are they?

There will be five camera teams waiting to join five IDR units as they pack up, kiss their family’s goodbye and fly off to – who knows where.

There are disaster relief teams everywhere – from the National Council of the Uniting Church in Australia (seven Disaster Coordinators) to Disaster Relief, who have operations around the world and of course the International Committee of the Red Cross and the many sub-groups that work with them. 

The outlines below are based on a range of case histories.

Indicative Episode Snippets

Obviously, we don’t know what disasters will happen next – but we do know they will happen.

  1. We are in a Chinook helicopter, flying low over a ravished landscape. Dr Larsky is edgy and annoyed. He’s come to this small African state from Ireland. Customs delayed them for three hours. Now they’re flying a small medical team and supplies into a remote village that has been destroyed by flooding. Communications are bad. They don’t really know the number of casualties and it looks as though land access to the village is gone.
  2. In a makeshift office, Lee Emers from Kansas City, sets up his communication gear and swears. The translator hasn’t arrived and the ERU (Emergency Response Unit) are already on their way to the disaster site. He has to find a boat to take in the larger supplies. He tries the few words he knows of Spanish but the locals shake their heads in dismay. The earthquake outside the town of Cotopaxi, has killed dozens and wounded hundreds. Lee should be coordinating half a dozen teams arriving to help but, without a translator, he’s powerless to do much but fume.
  3. In a small mid-western town, the members of the local Uniting Church have given up another Saturday to pack rations. They do this with practiced skill, overseen by Deacon Sauder. They’ve sent more than 40,000 ration kits around the world in the past year alone, each of them made up according to a Red Cross Guide. Plastic cutlery, bottled water, dried foods and vacuum packed meals form the bulk of the contents of each pack but the women of the parish always add a personal touch. This Saturday, there’s an extra buzz in the air as they work – Dora Thiel, seventy in the shade, is leaving tomorrow to deliver these rations in person to a remote village in the Philippines, destroyed by mudslides.
  4. In eastern Africa, Isabelle Bourgeois of the International Committee of the Red Cross, coordinates a massive team waiting to get the call. The call has come. Less than a year after 128 people died in an outbreak of Ebola fever in the western Republic of Congo, the virulent disease has struck the same region again. A total of 43 cases have been reported in Mbomo District. 10 dead so far and rising. This is no ordinary disaster and Isabelle’s not happy about the camera crew going into the area…Then the ICRC chopper gets stranded in Kinshasa and the camera crew’s little Bell is the only way to get a doctor to the district quickly.
  5. In Ust Kut, things are going a little better. The Catholic Relief Services cargo arrived on that morning. 23 trucks carrying 500 family tents, 8000 family food parcels, 10,000 blankets and nearly 2000 paraffin heaters. A chartered plane is expected to arrive later that day carrying a further 32 tonnes of relief items, including medical supplies to treat several thousand casualties. The Red Cross is sending a family-tracing specialist with several satellite telephones to the city. He will work with the ICRC to help survivors re-establish contact with their families.

The earthquake at Ust Kut wasn’t that large – but large enough to destroy most of the dwellings. Even that didn’t spell the disaster – it was the winter storm that wrapped the flattened village in gale force, twenty degree below winds. Francois Degradae had wanted to evacuate the surviving population but the storms precluded air-lifting and it would take days to garner enough trucks and buses…

Francois pulls on a high tech parka and climbs into a 4WD with the familiar Red Cross on its roof. With the supplies and the teams organized, he’s going to make the 2 hour trip to Ust Kut – if he can get through the storm…


  1. Slightly closer to home, devastating floods have hit Bangladesh, triggering massive landslides and killing hundreds. In Darwin, Mark Hanrahan overseas a hastily formed group to co-ordinate Australian aid with the equally hastily formed Humanitarian Coordination Task Team in Bangladesh. Communications are dismal.  Not knowing what they might need, Mark decides to take everything; inflatable rafts, life jackets, submersible searchlights and the usual emergency kit used for just about everything. Will he have medical assistance? He’s still waiting to hear. Divers? Not likely.  He’s not even sure who his group will be sharing the RAAF C-130J-30 Hercules with.  Medicen sans frontieres, he hopes. Or Superman.