Nuff Nuff

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Prepare Act Survive – Bushfire Township Protection Plan Meeting

I went to a bushfire meeting tonight, at the local CFA. It was very short notice, only 24 hours from when the notice landed in our letterbox. But I made the time, as I figured it would be a good gauge as to what people are thinking three years out from the 2009 Black Saturday Fires that devastated the state of Victoria.

My thoughts before I entered were split three ways, there would be those that cared a lot, those like me who were there for curiosity value and those that only cared about themselves. I thought it would be an even mix. I was wrong. 80% of the people were only there for themselves. 15% were there out of genuine concern (mostly elderly residents) and then there was the lonely 5%, which was me and perhaps 1-2 others. Who were there for spectator value.
The information provided was exactly what has been provided by news and media outlets for the last two years. There’s been a little bit of tinkering at the edges, but essentially not a great deal has changed.

The things I learned:-
.           There are 140 high risk bushfire areas in the state of Victoria
.           City of Whittlesea are the only council to place THESE signs (which are now incorrectly located due to changes in bushfire overlays)
.           There are only two (2) fire refuges in the State of Victoria (I don’t know where these are located) They are DIFFERENT to NSP’s
.           An unsealed road is often mapped as a track on fire maps. Check with local authorities if your road is marked or not.
.           People who are vulnerable and receive council services, they will be placed on a special watch and evacuation list, but if you don’t received council services you WILL drop through the cracks.
Things I already knew:-
.           CFA only provides key messages and points, not advice
.           Fire doesn’t obey lines on map. Yet people still insist in lines to define areas
.           Pets are not welcome at fire refuges or other areas that you may attend in case of high risk days (Code red Days) Please make other arrangements
.           Make sure you have a telephone that does not require 240V to operate, in other words get a handset that does NOT require power to operate.
.           You will not get a mobile phone warning if your billing address is outside the area affected by fire on the day.
.           Council services will not operate on days of Code Red (Was stated at this meeting)
.           Don’t rely on emergency services to care for your elderly neighbours, they may have fallen through the cracks.
Things in the “will people never learn area” (Sarcasm):-
.           It’s the council’s fault that people don’t leave on high risk days, they don’t want to leave their animals. The council MUST provide shelters are animals friendly (noting the 3 people discussing this were referring to horses)
.           The council should be consulting with people (and groups) who own horses to sort out places they can take the horses on high risk days/
.           Will the CFA web-based site work in the future when it wasn’t in 2009? (when the fire is moving too quickly to track it’s a bit hard)
.           What will old people do? They don’t use the internet or mobile phones. (but they do listen to the radio and TV & have friends not focused on the internet)
.           Apparently growing hay in areas close to the city should be outlawed, as the grass grows too long. (Note that 1st cut hay is done in November) well before the fire season!)
.           Neighbourhood safer places are places of last resort and you should not attend unless the fire is at your heels
.           Dead end roads should have a fire access cut through them to allow for people to ‘escape’ (the problem with is – who will maintain it, who will pay for it and in this area most dead end roads lead north, directly into the likely path of an oncoming fire!)

This meeting got quite out of hand at one stage and a two-fingered whistle has to be used to get the meeting on track.

People seemed only interested in what the emergency services could do FOR THEM… not what people could do to protect themselves or make themselves more aware.

The attendance was very low, BUT considering that there was only 24hours notice, due to Australia Post delays and also being school holidays, attendance was acceptable I think.

The focus didn’t seem to be centred on houses or people, but predominantly animals, and large ones at that, which I found concerning. The biggest danger with horses and cows is that they are unpredictable when it comes to smoke and noise and things that scary for humans. Animals have a fight or flight mode and will use both. Horses at fire refuges are dangerous, yet people refuse to recognise this and still demand equal rights with people.

For me to attend the meeting was possibly not needed, in that I have always had emergency plans in place, I have a generator, fire fighting pump and gravity fed water. I have lived my entire life in high risk bushfire areas and believe I understand the risks involved in staying or going and am capable of making the right decision at the time.

The CFA did a good presentation and having Victoria Police, the local council fire officer and also the local councillor gave the meeting an air of authority.

My only complaint was that as these meetings are CFA area targetted, then it might be a good idea for the CFA to state this on their written material to avoid public upset when people from other CFA areas do attend. (My only complaint)