A new community safety program aimed at preparing communities to protect residents' health and wellbeing during major bushfires has been developed using Charles Sturt University (CSU) research.
On Friday 17 June, the NSW Minister for Emergency Services, the Hon. David Elliot, will launch the B SAFE report, alongside Blue Mountains community representatives and researchers led by CSU emergency management experts, Dr Valerie Ingham and Dr Sarah Redshaw.
The Minister will also launch the associated Get Ready! Guide that provides tools to help communities and the community sector prepare for emergencies.
"The Blue Mountains Sustainable Approaches to Fire and Emergencies (B SAFE) project aims to help households become better prepared and more responsible for this preparation in the wake of the 2013 bushfires in the lower Blue Mountains," said Dr Ingham, who is with the University's Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security.
As part of the B SAFE project, three fire awareness programs delivered in various Blue Mountain settlements were monitored in 2015 to identify the type of people attracted to each program and the number of households who subsequently put fire preparedness plans in place. As each program proved effective in their own ways, each program has become a feature of B SAFE.
The Meet Your Street program is a 'ground-breaker' to raise neighbourhood awareness of the need for preparedness activities. It is held in local parks with community and emergency services attending.
The researchers found that this should be followed by the delivery of More Than a Fire Plan, an informative workshop seminar focused on changing behaviours such as creating emergency plans, whereby participants are required to meet in a venue outside of their immediate street.
"The workshop provided residents with a more detailed idea of the planning required, an understanding of the emotional and psychological impact that an emergency situation evokes, and the effect this can have on decision making," Dr Ingham said.
Finally, the Heads Up For Fire (HUFF) program requires a committed local resident from within specific street areas to facilitate genuine connections between residents, the emergency services, local community groups and the local Neighbourhood Centre.
The B SAFE research has resulted in "the development of a Community Action Framework and various tools to collect data, engage community groups and improve community discussions.
"It is now available through the NSW Government for other communities prone to bushfires and other natural emergencies," Dr Ingham said.
The B SAFE research report and Get Ready! Guide will be launched on Friday 17 June in the Workshop Room, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, 30 Parke Street, Katoomba, starting at 10.30am.