BSAFE: Blue Mountains Sustainable Approaches to Fire and Emergency

Impact: Environmental Impact, Social Impact

Impact story summary

BSAFE evaluated three fire awareness programs as they were rolled out in communities across the Blue Mountains by local neighbourhood centres. Charles Sturt University provided expertise to evaluate these programs.

BSAFE developed a transferable community action framework for improving individual emergency preparedness, enhancing self-responsibility and building community resilience. In order to generate the Framework, the BSAFE project evaluated and analysed multiple preparedness strategies implemented after the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires, engaged extensively with the community and emergency services and based on the findings, developed the community action framework.

In the BSAFE research, Neighbourhood Centres and community organisations with strong community development expertise were identified as the most appropriate organisations to work as enablers in developing and implementing sustainable approaches to preparedness and readiness. This is because Neighbourhood Centres have strong existing connections with vulnerable community members and groups across their locations of interest. In addition, it was recognised that Neighbourhood Centres have experience in developing and delivering community education and development programs and a strong focus on networking and capacity building strategies with both individuals and groups.

The BSAFE Community Action Framework depends upon a partnership approach with local grass roots community organisations such as Neighbourhood Centres, and their incorporation of resilience and preparedness as core business. The BSAFE Community Action Framework sees Neighbourhood Centres working in partnership with emergency services and emergency mandated welfare services to deliver four core community action strategies carrying the key messages around emergency preparedness:

1. Community Education - targeting individuals including vulnerable individuals - Volunteer/worker Assisted Learning for Safety, More than a Fire Plan, Develop your Emergency Plan clinics
2. Community Engagement - within streets at the peri urban interface – Meet your Street; Heads Up for Fire
3. Community Participation - within neighbourhoods - Heads up for Fire; Meet your Street
4. Community Capacity building - within communities – More than a Fire Plan

The local community neighbourhood centres and the RFS were able to see the benefits of working together: by reaching out through community organisations, emergency services can reach more people with the preparedness message. By working with emergency services, neighbourhood centres can support their clients to be more prepared for emergencies.

The networks and working partnerships established through the research are continuing in the Blue Mountains. The Resilience and Preparedness Working Group, established after the 2013 fires, continues to operate partly as a result of the research findings. In addition, the RFS and the local neighbourhood centres now collaborate on an ongoing basis to plan and deliver community emergency preparedness activities and information expos.

For the community members, some of the big impacts in preparedness included:
• more than 700 households in the Blue Mountains were reached
across the three preparedness programs;
• an increase of 29% of people reporting that they were actually
prepared for an emergency, including an 11% increase in people
having a written plan to deal with an emergency;
• a 19% increase in people actually practicing their fire and/or
emergency plan;
• a 17% increase in people having an emergency kit accessible;
• 14% more people had made contact with their neighbours.
Impact date2015
Category of impactEnvironmental Impact, Social Impact
Impact levelBenefit

Keywords

  • fire safety
  • bushfire awareness
  • emergency planning

Countries where impact occurred

  • Australia