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A Simple Plan Wye River Community Volunteers



From a humble beginning, an award winning fire safety strategy was developed and implemented. On Thursday 1 December 2011, Wye River Community Volunteers were judged winners of the 2011 Fire Awareness Awards at a gala presentation at the RACV Club in Melbourne. They took out the Community Preparedness Award, received a RACV Insurance grant of $5000 and were judged to be the winners of the Award for Excellence. This Award is presented to the most outstanding fire project across all Fire Awareness Award categories.

Wye River, a coastal hamlet surrounded by lush bush land and nestled in a cosy valley is a natural wonder. This natural wonder is also a potential killer in waiting with a population that swells in the tens of thousands over the holiday period, the majority who have little or no knowledge of the inherent dangers of a bushfire or flood. Armed with camping and beach equipment, this transient community is hardly ready for a significant emergency event.

So how do you develop an emergency plan that will equip the permanent and transient community of Wye River? A casual chat on the Wye beach after the traditional summer Pier to Pub training swim was the catalyst for the Wye River community volunteer group coming together. Local identity Peter Mitchell CFA Lieutenant and owner of the local ‘Deck House’ holiday accommodation along with Allan Briggs, a regular camper at Wye River discussed the challenges of planning and responding to a significant emergency in the Wye River area. Taping into local resources both permanent and transient seemed like a logical step and the seed was planted.

Peter Mitchell then went about developing a group that would be prepared to respond should an emergency arise. Volunteer details are recorded and their core skills noted. In the event of an emergency the volunteers are contacted via SMS to their mobile phone and will assemble at the Surf Life Saving Club. Core duties have been determined and volunteers who respond will be tasked accordingly. While there are gaps in this model such as a poor turn out or unsuitable volunteers for the tasks required to be undertaken, there is also great scope to draw upon the skills of people in the area, both permanent and visiting. The core duties will be tasked to local residents and all additional tasks allocated accordingly.

To date the Wye River community volunteers have received a $5,000 grant to purchase a marquee and tabards. They received a further $5,000 funds as winners of the Fire Awareness Awards, which will be put towards radios. In total $10,000 has been spent to equip a local community to manage their emergency situation.

As with all plans, it needs refinement as emergency plans are fluid; new procedures, techniques are constantly been developed and implemented. Wye River now needs to test their system under load. This means a simulation when there are a number of campers/tourists in the area. Credit to Peter Mitchell for following up on that informal ‘chat’ on the beach where some common sense and a just do it attitude gave birth to a community resilience model that with some refinement could be replicated across the nation.

Do you live or visit a community where a simple plan could be effective?

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