Disability Inclusive Emergency Planning Workshop at Frankston City Council
CFA, Australian Red Cross and City of Frankston have partnered to pilot a new fire and emergency planning household service.
I remember when Veronica Foster, from Frankston City Council, Emergency Management first contacted me. She was determined to improve fire and emergency planning for people at highest risk in the community. She is still just as determined because she understands who is most likely to be impacted by fire and other emergencies.
Her leadership and determination are what led to the first urban pilot of the Emergency Planning Advice Service (EPAS) in partnership with CFA and Australian Red Cross.
Australian and international research highlights that people with a disability and people who are older and frail are at disproportionate risk in a fire or other disaster. People with a disability are two to four times more likely to die in a disaster than the general population.
This is why EPAS targets people who are older and people with a disability, particularly if they need support to remain living independently at home.
Since November 2022, EPAS has been delivered to just seven people. Some of you may be thinking that's not many. I want to reflect on why it matters for the people who have received the service to date and why perhaps the numbers are lower than first imagined.
The reason for running a pilot program is to learn important lessons from it and understand what approaches work well, for whom and under what conditions. The EPAS Frankston pilot highlights what needs to be improved so it can be received effectively by the people in our community who need it most.
Lucy is a quadriplegic. She lives in her own home and has a support worker to help her 24 hours a day. She had thought about an emergency plan and knew she needed one. What EPAS was able to do was help her to create a plan that was right for her unique circumstances.
Lucy knew how much it was needed after an incident earlier in the year when her support worker fell over and couldn't get up. She also relies on power for her assistive technology and she now has an action plan in place in the event of a power failure.
Jane also took part in EPAS. She lives with her daughter who is away every day at work. Jane has dementia and was keen to improve her fire and emergency preparedness, especially as she is on her own most days. Jane could not process a lot of complex information, but she was keen to pack an evacuation bag. Because of the EPAS program she now has a bag by the door and feels safer and more prepared.
Tamara Bush, local CFA EPAS facilitator said, “Some people in the community need the extra support to plan for an emergency. EPAS is about offering one-on-one support. Everyone’s situation is different, so you really need to work out what each person can do, what they are capable of and can do."
When CFA, Australian Red Cross and Frankston City Council first partnered to deliver the service locally it was anticipated that a lot of people would be referred. One of the reasons for the lower than expected numbers is that people do not often think about preparedness for emergencies until it actually impacts them, and they are reluctant to admit their vulnerability to situations outside of their control.
The council is working hard to establish and maintain relationships with local care providers, encouraging them to incorporate this free service into their planning for their participants. In-home care providers are best placed to refer their clients because they are in the homes of people at higher risk.
Veronica Foster from Frankston City Council sums it up as a critical service to target people who are at greatest risk in a fire or other emergency.
“I really want to see this tailored, discussion-based service continue to reach those we may consider to be most at risk in an emergency.," Veronica said. "When emergencies occur, if those at highest risk are well prepared I feel that as a whole, the community will be more resilient to the impacts and consequences.”
If you, or someone you know in Frankston City Council area needs support to plan for fire and other emergencies you can refer them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about EPAS visit the CFA website.
- Frankston City Council has a mixed risk profile of house fire, bushfire, flood and storm.