Claire Knowles, Seville Brigade Community Safety Coordinator
It sounds like a pretty simple idea: have an afternoon tea at Seville Community House with the community in early November.
However, it was a little more nuanced than that, as Seville Brigade wanted to target people who may be at higher risk of fire because of their age, chronic medical condition and/or disability.
And it worked. Brigade Community Safety Coordinator Claire Knowles said, “we had seven community members, clearly older members or those living with disability, and this was exactly the target audience. Working in partnership with the Community House really helped to spread the word to those in the community we wanted to target most."
What they did next set this engagement apart from some of our more formal CFA programs. They simply asked the group what help they would like about fire safety. What followed was a very natural discussion about both home fire safety and bushfire safety, with the community members raising the concerns that mattered to them.
“The community blew me away with the level of engagement from the start. I made it clear it wasn't a lecture or presentation from me but very much finding out what they would like help with," Claire said.
"We started with a discussion about 'Prevent, Detect, Escape', which is all about home fire safety. After that we had a bit more of a chat about summer. It ended up being a very relaxed two hours, especially with the scones."
This type of approach has clear benefits to the community, including catering to individual needs and circumstances. One of the community members needed help to install smoke alarms, so the brigade offered to help. Several other community members were motivated to install extra smoke alarms themselves, and one person will replace faulty alarms.
As a result of the discussion, another person revised their fire plan for summer and his trigger to leave is now Extreme, not just Catastrophic, on the Fire Danger Rating system.
The community acknowledged they knew they should leave early on an Extreme or Catastrophic day. However, it was clear there were a number of barriers which likely meant they would not. Through the conversation they identified the barriers and then started to brainstorm ways to reduce them.
Having somewhere suitable to go and somewhere they can take their animals really matters if we want people to actually leave early. Several community members are now planning to organise what they would do with pets and are more confident of where they would go.
What was evident is that people took information to share with their neighbours and seemed truly invested in sharing what they had learned. The Seville Community House also wants to continue to work closely with the brigade to target people who may need the extra support.
It was a reminder that we should not underestimate the ripple effect in our community. And it clarified to the brigade that forging alliances with the local community and the Community House is fundamental to improving community resilience.
If you want to learn more about supporting people at higher risk visit the CFA website or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fresh scones for afternoon tea