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A time to remember
While I wasn't with CFA last fire season, like so many other Australians I watched the events unfold with anguish and sorrow, but also with an overwhelming sense of pride in the response.
Last summer touched us all. As individuals, and as members of the CFA family, we were put under enormous pressure. The community's loss was our shared loss. We grieved as the state grieved. And we continue on the path to recovery as the rest of Victoria does too.
On 7 February this year, the day we remember, I will reflect on the 173 people who lost their lives, and their loved ones who live on.
I will also think of our people; of those who worked so hard to protect the community following the devastation of Black Saturday. Those whose efforts, in many cases, went unheralded, but not unnoticed.
Finally, I will think of all we have achieved since. We have seen twelve months of unprecedented change as our focus turned from response to recovery and preparation for the next season. Existing CFA programs were strengthened. New community safety measures and improved operational command and control structures were implemented, both in anticipation of and response to the interim findings of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
Among the new initiatives introduced for the 2009/10 fire season, including the 42 projects in the Bushfire Preparedness Program, were:
- a command and control structure for Bushfires in Victoria which is aligned with the state regional boundaries and in turn local government area boundaries, and which improves and strengthens the decision making and information delivery in bushfire settings
- an unprecedented number of Community Fire Guard and Fire Ready Victoria meetings across the state with a new online booking system for community meetings making it easier for people to gain information and access
- a new Fire Ready Kit, which provides comprehensive preparedness and community safety advice to help Victorians prepare for the fire season;
- an online household self-assessment tool to determine if a house has sufficient defendable space
- the introduction of Township Protection Plans for the 52 identified high risk bushfire locations in Victoria
- CFA working with councils to assess and establish for the first time ever, Neighbourhood Safer Places - Places of Last Resort
- a new national fire danger rating system with associated actions for the community to respond to and
- a new web-based messaging system that sends warnings simultaneously to the emergency service websites and media outlets that broadcast emergency information.
CFA will be represented at the only official event on the anniversary of 7 February at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne, and while this ceremony is important, it is even more important that you commemorate Black Saturday in your local communities in the ways they wish to so do.
Each of us has personal experience of last summer. Some of you were exposed to critical incidents; others were not. Some can draw positives from CFA's response, seeing it as a turning point when members put previously unknown resources to the test and achieved much, perhaps more than ever before. Each of these experiences is equally valid and needs to be acknowledged.
If your brigade or work group is intending to commemorate the anniversary, please do not hesitate to contact your Region if you need support.
However you choose to commemorate 7 February, please take time to also reflect on all you have achieved since that day.