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New BMT role: get the support you need
When Will Vale’s captain asked him to nominate for the new Community Safety Coordinator role on the BMT, he agreed to put his hand up – even though (in his words) he’d never ‘done’ community safety in his life.
The Chiltern member was elected to the Brigade Management Team two years ago, one of the first people to take up this role when it was newly created.
In 2014-15, 697 brigades elected a Brigade Community Safety Coordinator and around 500 more will soon follow suit as they enter their election cycle.
While some brigades are taking the option to assign the role to a captain or 1st lieutenant, the change will see a substantial number of individuals take on the role in a standalone capacity.
Will, has considerable firefighting, comms and incident management experience but had never thought about the public education side of things.
That said, his operational experience combined with day to day interactions with people in the small community means he knows better than most what the consequences of a major fire would be for the area. That knowledge gives him the motivation to want to do more to raise awareness of the risk.
“The main aspects of community safety are saying ‘you are at risk’ and ‘these are the things you can do,’” says Will. “That has to be based on what’s here in Chiltern. I don’t think the big campaigns and slogans go very far.”
He reckons the brigade’s biggest fear is that a fire similar to 1950 will devastate the semi-rural community. “We’ve got a beautiful national park around the outskirts of Chiltern. The risk is huge.”
Darlene Pentland from CFA’s Member Engagement teamsaid the new role was about recognising the existing work that brigades were doing and did not necessarily mean an increased workload for brigades.
“There is already a lot of great work being done out there around community safety. Sometimes it’s not seen as ‘community engagement or education’, but that is exactly what it is,” she said.
“Every time a brigade member talks to anyone in the community – a neighbour, their family, the local newsagent – it is a chance to spread the word on fire prevention and community preparedness.
“Establishing this role will mean having that person as part of the leadership group who can be an advocate, an information source and a single point of contact for districts.
“Brigades are definitely not suddenly being expected to go out and organise lots of new activities.”
Two years on, Will remains a firm advocate for the introduction of the dedicated BMT role, and says the brigade is right behind the initiative. Recently he has worked with nearby Barnawartha brigade to run a highly successful on ‘Horses and Bushfire’ safety community meeting.
Newly elected Brigade Community Safety Coordinators can get support by:
Downloading the Community Safety Coordinator Toolkit - available via Brigades Online here.
Attending the CFA-SES Community Engagement & Hazard Awareness State Forum (Lorne, 6&7 August), register your interest here.