Reaching out to people with a disability – The Melbourne Disability Expo

Member News image Engaging people at the Expo


“Why are the fire services here?” was often the first question at the CFA and FRV stall at the Melbourne Disability Expo (25-26 November 2022).



Then there were plenty more questions: how many smoke alarms do I need? What type should I buy? What about smoke alarms for people who are deaf or hard of hearing?

CFA and FRV attended the Melbourne Disability Expo for two main reasons. First, to talk directly with the public – specifically with people who have a disability.  Second, to engage with the many organisations across Victoria that provide in-home care for people at higher risk in a fire. 

People with a disability are at a higher risk in a house fire. Between 2003 and 2017, house fire fatality data highlighted that 62 per cent of people who died had a disability. This alarming statistic has been a call to action for the fire services.  

At the Disability Expo, CFA and FRV staff engaged with more than 180 people about home fire safety and provided tailored advice. With more than 3000 people attending the Expo, many more people took away fire safety information.

On display at the booth was a specialised smoke alarm for people who are deaf. It has a strobe light and a special vibrating pad that can be placed under a pillow. Also available were the new Home Fire Escape Planning templates for people at higher risk.  

“These sparked many conversations and it was great to be able to tailor advice to the needs of people who have a disability,”Kelly Stoner from CFA’s Community Engagement team said.

Organisations that provide in-home care are in a unique position. Every day they engage and support people who are at higher risk of fire. As a result, CFA and FRV have created free home fire training for care providers, such as the Prevent Detect Escape – home fire safety for people at higher risk e-learning module launched in June 2022.  

The Disability Expo was the perfect place to promote this free training resource to the multitude of service providers across Victoria.  

“speaking to service providers was always positive," Elissa Jans from CFA’s Community Engagement team said. "They are so grateful the online training is free and provides a certificate for their staff. Hopefully, we convinced a few more service providers to add this training to their suite of induction training.”

This new home fire safety training complements CFA’s Bushfire Safety for Workers course, which has been widely accessed and used by the care sector workforce.  

Improving fire safety for people at higher risk requires a partnership approach between the fire services, individuals and the people who provide in-home care and support. Both CFA and FRV came away from the Expo with a heavy bag full of business cards and contact details for more than 100 provider organisations, large and small.  

Now comes the  task of following up these people and building their skills to improve fire and emergency preparedness for people at higher risk.
3 December marks International Day of People with Disability. It is a reminder that people with a disability have the same rights as everyone else to education and safety. As a fire service, we need to keep asking ourselves whether our services and community information are accessible for people with a disability and what more we can do.  

If you want to hear more or get in touch, contact Angela Cook or Kelly Stoner at



  • Member News image
  • Member News image
  • Member News image
Submitted by Angela Cook