In 1975, the State Government established the Queensland State Emergency Service (SES). This Service evolved from the former Queensland Civil Defence Organisation that had been in operation since 1961.
From its beginning in 1961 until November 1973, the Queensland Civil Defence Organisation was set up to deal with emergencies in the event of a nuclear war. It took no part in natural disaster operations other than operations following Cyclone ALTHEA in December 1971.
In November 1973, a tornado caused considerable damage in the Brisbane area and the Civil Defence Organisation was activated to assist in disaster relief. The Civil Defence Organisation saw a much larger involvement in natural disasters during the 1974 Brisbane floods
The Queensland State Emergency Service was established because there was a need for a service that was capable of dealing with natural disasters as well as undertaking a civil defence role in the event of armed aggression against the Australian mainland.
In 1975, the State Government introduced the State Counter Disaster Organisation Act, which was proclaimed on 11 December 1975. The Act established two organisations, the State Counter Disaster Organisation (SCDO) and the State Emergency Service (SES).
During 2002-03 the Department of Emergency Services undertook a comprehensive review of the State Counter Disaster Organisation Act 1975 in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. The review resulted in the development of the Disaster Management Act 2003 (DM Act).
The DM Act repealed and replaced the State Counter-Disaster Organisation Act when it commenced by proclamation on 31 March 2004.
The Disaster Management Act maintains many elements of the existing system established under the State Counter Disaster Organisation Act, while adding contemporary elements such as a focus on comprehensive disaster management, which includes disaster mitigation, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.