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Kids and emergencies
What effect would a major emergency have on your child? What is the best way to support them? How can you minimise long term psychological effects?
During emergencies, children and young people have very specific needs. It is often difficult for parents and teachers to know how to address these needs while they are also dealing with the complexities of recovery.
The Macclesfield Disaster Recovery Group was an initiative of Macclesfield CFA. Formed in 2013 to ensure that in the event of a serious emergency the community will be prepared and self-sufficient during the critical first days after they’re impacted, the group is now led by the local community and has been critical in the development of community resilience, preparedness and recovery.
The group found that local families and schools often had limited understanding of the fire risk in their area. They were also unsure how to best support their children’s needs during and after an emergency.
“If we experience a serious local or large scale event, we understand that teachers within the local schools will play a crucial role in supporting children, young people and their families” stated Fiona Sewell, (Macclesfield Brigade Liaison to The Macclesfield Disaster Recovery group), “as such, we wanted to provide a community-led outlet for staff and parents to learn how to engage with our younger and often more vulnerable members of the community.”
Partnering with Macclesfield CFA and Macclesfield Primary School, MDRG held an interactive information session in early February specifically targeting local families and schools. The ‘Supporting Children & Teenagers in Emergencies’ session was developed to increase participants’ awareness of how to support children and teenagers as they recover from emergencies.
“The forum was an ideal opportunity for families to more deeply consider their emergency management planning and the importance of both understanding local risks and including younger family members in practising household plans and preparedness” said Fiona.
The evening also included two guest speakers. The first was Steve Pascoe from EMV, who provided a brief insight into the experiences of parents and teachers who supported children in the aftermath of the 2009 bushfires in Strathewen.
Clinical Psychologist Rob Gordon then spoke about understanding the impacts of disasters/emergencies on children and young people and what local families and teachers can do to better support them before, during and after emergencies. Rob has been involved in the field of trauma and critical incidents for 30 years and has consulted on over 30 large scale events such as the Bali Bombings, East Asian Tsunami and Black Saturday.
Over 40 people attended the event including parents, teachers, students, chaplains, welfare workers, Red Cross volunteers and CFA members. Overwhelmingly participants felt the forum was informative and worthwhile. One Red Cross Volunteer said: “Excellent presentation, steps that anyone/everyone is able to follow (including various support agencies) before and well on after any traumatic event, especially road or fire.”
Due to the overwhelming positive response to the forum, Macclesfield Disaster Recovery Group will be running another forum on Thursday March 3 at Macclesfield Primary School. The keynote speaker for the evening will be Steve Pascoe, and the session will include family fire safety planning for the community.
Macclesfield Disaster Recovery Group received funding for the event through the Summer Fire Safety Local Initiatives program. This program provides brigades and selected community organisations with small, one-off funding grants to deliver highly localised projects that build and empower community leadership and develop awareness, shared responsibility and self-reliance to ultimately strengthen resilience. The program is currently funding 17 projects across the state.