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CFA connects with local community
It’s been a busy six weeks both on and off the fire ground for the CFA. The past 40 days has seen CFA implement its largest ever fire response community engagement program following the Hazelwood open cut mine fire.
Since the start of the fire on February 9, our Community Liaison Officers (CLOs) have had 22,000 conversations with community members through more than 254 organised initiatives.
From visits to schools, shopping centres and aged care facilities, to attending community meetings, manning mobile education units and respite centres, thorough planning ensured no part of Morwell and the surrounding areas were left in the dark.
James Haley, CFA Community Safety Manager, said crews had worked tirelessly to deliver important information to the public so they could make informed decision to better protect themselves in the wake of the mine fire.
“Our work throughout the Hazelwood mine fire situation has likely been the biggest community response ever implemented by CFA for a single community and district,” Mr Haley said.
“CFA encompasses a lot more than just physical fire fighting. We have teams working throughout the year on community engagement and during the bushfire season, it’s even more important to have that framework in place,” he said.
CFA has engaged with more than 2,000 people through community meetings, more than 3,500 people through the mobile education unit and more than 5,000 people by CLOs simply walking the streets.
Staff have been busy informally discussing the fire situation with locals, addressing their concerns and assisting the community to take the appropriate actions.
“Through working with our Community Liaison Officers and staff from our partner agencies, we’ve been able to communicate, educate and comfort members of the Morwell community,” Mr Haley said.
The engagement response has featured teams of Community Liaison Officers (CLOs) who have pounded the pavement in Morwell, Hazelwood North, Moe, Traralgon, Boolarra and Churchill, and other surrounding communities. The teams, made up of CFA, MFB and EPA staff, work 12 hour shifts and spend their time talking to members of the public about the fires and see if they need help, support or answers to some of their questions,” Mr Haley said.
“The Community Liaison Officers have played a significant role in building confidence in the community and fires services during this tough time. There have been a lot of changes in the Morwell area recently, and it’s been great to have the CLOs out there in the community and helping people through the situation,” he said.
“They also collect feedback from those impacted which services to modify our engagement tactics and encourages community empowerment.”
In another effort to help the community, CFA has delivered 20 new vacuums with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air filtration) filters to organisations around Morwell for loan, after it was recommended people should avoid the household chore unless their vacuum has the specialised feature.
“These vacuums are just another example of what our teams are doing to help the community and provide them with the tools to help better protect themselves.”
This initiative was implemented as a direct result of gathering feedback from the community.
CFA has also worked closely with its partner agencies, including the EPA, MFB, Department of Health and Human Services and Latrobe City Council, as part of the engagement response.