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Spotlight on CFA's education coordinators
Community Education Coordinators (CECs) do a lot more than just coordinate: they champion, promote, oversee and empower.
By Leith Hillard
They’re the conductors of an orchestra, encouraging humble fire brigade members to blow their own trumpets.
Tiff Heeson operates out of the District 5 Hamilton office and has been a CEC for two years working to 137 brigades across districts 4 and 5 including the integrated Warrnambool and Portland brigades. She’s also no slouch in the volunteer stakes, doubling as the Dundas Group secretary and treasurer.
“Some of those brigades are on the Victorian Risk Register Level 1 and we work particularly closely with them,” said Tiff. “We want to hear about all our brigades’ initiatives but also what they need support with.
“I do a lot of miles and work closely with the catchment teams, ops officers and BASOs. They’re my eyes and ears.”
The major task of all CECs is local coordination of the summer program. Tiff has an excellent working relationship with her Country Fire Services counterpart in South Australia, working with her at shows and markets targeting travellers, and at the Community Engagement State Forum in Lorne.
She also invests in building vital relationships with health and wellbeing staff on local councils who work across areas from diet and aged care to youth and family violence.
“Like CFA, they have a strong focus on resilience and working with communities in relation to climate change,” continued Tiff. “They might be reaching people we don’t such as isolated elderly people, and we look for opportunities to overlap our fire safety messages. We really benefited from those connections when flooding hit last year.”
Operating out of Horsham in West Region, CEC Jenny McGennisken is also building relationships with a focus on the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) and Emmetts, a John Deere distributor. This is all in service to the CFA harvest workshops run by District 17 Headquarters Brigade Captain and farmer Kevin Bolwell which ran with great success across the region in 2016-17.
“We had a stand fronted by CECs at Horsham’s VFF State Grains Conference with information about harvest fires,” said Jenny. “We asked people to fill in a survey around farm fire planning, equipment and resources, and that’s helped us\ identify more material to include in our harvest presentations.
“They’re expanding into the north-west and south- west this coming fire season, so now a local success story is going to benefit farmers further afield. Westmere Group told me it was the best presentation CFA has ever given them.
“The CEC role allows itself for innovation and another example is our summer safe travel presentations given via shire health services to home care workers, regional nurses and stock agents.”
From 1 September, Jenny will be full steam ahead on the summer program rolled out through community events, displays, Fire Ready Victoria meetings and a media campaign. She’s been in the role for 15 years and, heck, she’s a passionate CEC.
“The role has evolved to now being a partnership between headquarters and CECs,”
she said. “We used to have to record the numbers we interacted with but after 2009 it became all about the risk.
“Each CEC works differently but we all partner with locals to come up with solutions; we’re not about telling people. The highlight is working with so many people in the Wimmera and our volunteers are at the centre. They’re the face of their local community.”