How can communities help one another prepare for the upcoming bushfire season? - DisasterWISE
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How can communities help one another prepare for the upcoming bushfire season?


Australian communities take great pride in how they help one another during emergencies, and
rightly so. Over the last few years during bushfires, floods and pandemics, there have been great
examples of people helping one another in moments of need. There are high profile community
efforts, such as Sikh groups giving out hot meals to bushfire victims, celebrities raising millions in
donations, and world champion surfers rescuing people from floods.

Less visible are the examples of communities helping one another on a much smaller scale.
However, if you’ve experienced a bushfire, you know that it will be your neighbours who check in on
you and lend you a generator; it will be the local pony club that provides food in the days after the
fire; and it will be local pub that becomes the much-needed social hub. As we head into the 2023/24
bushfire season, it’s worthwhile thinking about some practical steps to take now, to ensure you and
your community are prepared.

Do a risk map of your neighbourhood

During a bushfire, things are unlikely to unfold as you envisaged. Thinking things through
beforehand can be enormously helpful. Climate Wise Communities, an online resource used by
several LGAs, recommends creating a neighbourhood risk map. Map neighbourhood strengths such
as local water supplies, risks such as power stations, your own support network, and people (and
pets) in the area that you know will need assistance. The webpage takes you through a series of
great questions to consider as you do the mapping. It also provides a map template for you to begin.

Plan your own support network

Not everyone can evacuate an area before a bushfire easily. For instance, if you are a person living
with a disability, you may need to begin preparing your own support network now. There is the
excellent Person-Centred Emergency Preparedness (P-CEP) toolkit to help begin those planning

Set up community connections

Being in direct contact with your neighbours before, during and after a bushfire emergency can be
enormously valuable. If you don’t already have a communication channel set up, do it now. The
Australian Red Cross has a great guide on setting up a telephone tree, but you may want to tailor
this to your communities’ specific communication needs and access. WhatsApp groups could work,
as could UHF radio channels.

Plan ahead for volunteering

These days, Australians seem less inclined to be part of formal volunteer groups, and more likely to
volunteer when they see it’s needed – like during and after bushfires. If you think that might
describe you, plan ahead. Register now to work with vulnerable people, so that if you want to
volunteer to help community efforts during an emergency, you will be eligible.

If you are part of a formal group of community volunteers, maybe start having conversations with
the group. What support could you all provide for the community? It could be as simple as running
some sausage sizzles. What planning do you need to do now to make that happen?

Everyone is hoping, of course, that the 2023/24 bushfire season is going to be relatively uneventful.
However, even small bushfires can have disastrous effects on communities. Building these social
connections will help next fire season, but they may help provide a sense of belonging and
community that reaches well beyond the next six months.


Author: Zoe D’Arcy is a research fellow with Fire to Flourish, working on the assessment of community disaster resilience. Based close to Canberra, she is close to submitting her PhD thesis on fire-adaptive communities in the Australian landscape. Her research into the various fire-adaptive initiatives designed and run by Australian communities is inspiring her to work on ways to make her own community Disasterwise.


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