Over the past 12 months Epping Fire Brigade has engaged with hundreds of students from Al Siraat College to deliver fire safety information that’s culturally appropriate and age specific.
“If one of the kids takes the message home that’s a win,” according to Deb Azzopardi who is an operational member and the brigade’s community safety co-rdinator.
Around five or six members deliver the presentation that’s adapted from CFA’s Fire Safe Kids program.
“There are a lot of resources available online that we download and use. I don’t think brigades realise just how many resources are available to them,” Deb said.
It's important to be sensitive to cultural differences and if you’re uncertain Deb advises checking with others to make sure the approach you plan to use will work with your audience.
She recounts her first experience at Al Siraat with a group of foundation students.
“I remember talking to the preppies about the dangers of candles and using the example of candles on a birthday cake. At the end of the session the teacher pulled me aside and said, ‘we don’t celebrate birthdays that way’.
“Now I always run through my approach with the teaching staff beforehand to make sure it’ll work and if not make the necessary changes for cultural fit. I encourage others to do the same.”
Al Siraat College is a co-educational, foundation to Year 12 school for students from the Islamic faith. With students ranging in age from 5 to 17 years it provides an opportunity to deliver different fire safety information to various age groups.
“With the younger ones the angle is more about avoidance of danger. We also incorporate Triple Zero and tell teachers to reinforce that Triple Zero should only be called in an emergency. This is to counter any ideas around calling it just so the big red fire trick can come to their house.”
For secondary students, the team runs through a PowerPoint presentation in the auditorium before taking them out to see the fire truck.
“The older students have more life experience and you can ramp up the messaging around what you can and can’t do and how to avoid fire risks.
“One of the things that surprised me was that some of the students and their families have never experienced things like camping. Our campfire messages have no impact because the concept isn’t recognised in the same way it would be for those familiar with the activity. We’ve modified our messages and delivery so it’s more appropriate based on their cultural understanding.”
Deb believes local level support and assistance is important with this kind of work.
“Alex Reid is our community education coordinator and she’s been amazing. Incredibly supportive and encouraging of the work our brigade does.
“Programs like this are a win-win for everyone – for our communities and for our brigades.”