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The value of Community Fireguard
In its 22-year history, CFA’s Community Fireguard Program (CFG) has notched up some special achievements.
By Paul Huggett
At its launch in 1993, the program helped pioneer what we now call ‘shared responsibility’ by encouraging groups of neighbours to get together and take responsibility for the bushfire risk in their own backyards.
Over the life of CFG, 2,100 groups have been established, and many have been adapted for use on a smaller scale in South Australia, New South Wales and in Tasmania.
Now, a study published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction has placed a dollar figure on CFG’s value to the community: $732,747 per CFG Group in predicted savings from reduced property loss.
John Gilbert of CFA’s Knowledge and Evidence team and Angela Cook and Catherine Nelsson of CFA’s Community Development team developed the study with population health academics from the University of Melbourne and health economists from Deakin University.
John said many of the program’s benefits were already well known, particularly those involving preparedness. What was missing were some of the economic and social costs and benefits.
“Six years after Black Saturday, we’re in a good position to make use of the large body of research that has taken place. This enables us to start to examine the economic dimension,” John said.
“This study shows that community safety programs have the potential to deliver significant social and economic benefit.”
The study states: “Totaled over 10 years, the cost per Fireguard Group for the program is $10,844 (with a range of $2,697-$19,071) and in the event of a major bushfire the predicted savings from property loss [per Group] is $732,747.”
At the household level, the study drew on the previous findings from Black Saturday experiences. These findings calculated that active CFG participation compared to no participation reduces the risk of property loss from 35 per cent to 21 per cent.
John Gilbert said studies of this type were a model for the future. “With increasing demand for resources, we need to demonstrate the effectiveness and value of our programs. This type of study provides a stronger evidence base from which to base resource allocation decisions.”