Are you Bushfire Ready?
The Pelverata Bushfire Ready Expo on Sunday, November 8th at the Pelverata Hall was a great success with many locals attending to learn more about preparing for the coming bushfire season.
To get to Pelverata, you turn off the Channel Highway past Huonville and drive through the lush pastures of Woodstock. The scenery is green and pastoral but as the road winds further into the valley you begin to realise that Pelverata is completely surrounded by steep, wooded hills. It is peaceful, idyllic and seems miles from anywhere, but it’s very easy to imagine the speed with which a wildfire would rip through on a hot, windy day.
Pelverata has been identified the Tasmania Fire Service as a high-risk community and chosen as a venue for the Targeted Community Engagement program. This program is all about helping communities to be prepared for bushfires and emergencies. Organised jointly with the Judbury Hall committee, the Bushfire Ready Expo was a one stop shop for getting information from a range of organisations, including -Tasmania Fire Service, Cradoc Rural Fire Brigade, SES, DPIPWE, Parks & Wildlife, St Johns Ambulance, Huon Valley Council, Red Cross, UTAS and RACT, as well as some private businesses.
Lesley King, Community Development Officer with the Fire Service Community Education Division, organised the Expo. She explained that bushfire awareness is something that fire prone communities need to talk about so people can develop effective plans for themselves, their animals and their neighbours. It is really all about getting people talking and thinking about how they will survive if a catastrophic bushfire hits their area.
Parks & Wildlife Officers from the Huonville office gave advice about fuel reduction and information about their program of preventative burning throughout the Huon Valley and surrounding areas. There were demonstrations about the use of pumps and provided advice on fittings and connections for keeping water flowing in an emergency. The Red Cross was a wealth of informations about preparing for emergencies in general.
Eileen Wronski from the Animals and Livestock section of DPIPWE talked to people about preparing a plan for their animals in a bushfire. Eileen explained there was no one right way to care for your animals in an emergency but that by thinking about what is feasible and realistic you can make effective provision for your animals. For example it may be that leaving animals behind is the only option but you can make provision for water and food if you plan ahead. One thing not to do is release livestock onto roads, as that can become a serious hazard to people and animals, particularly in conditions of poor visibility.
Eileen also suggests that people camp for a night with the only the things included in their plan to test drive how effective it is, and to note any important items or procedures that were overlooked.
Mark Brown from the University of Tasmania was kept very busy with his interactive map table that allowed people to view aerial photos of their properties in relation to surrounding areas, overlaid with contour lines and fire history data. Mark completed a PhD based on research into how to use interactive mapping to motivate and inspire people to get fire prepared. The benefits of interactive mapping include visualising distances and landmarks, working out flammability risk factors, and identifying defendable zones on properties.
Mark says that one of the most valuable things to come out of his work is how studying interactive maps can get neighbours talking to each other to overcome obstacles and make joint preparations.
The Cradoc Rural Volunteer Fire Brigade covers Pelverata as well as Cradoc and was on hand to give information about their activities and what their role is in the community. This volunteer unit attends fire events in the area as well assisting the SES in road crashes. The Cradoc Unit was actively recruiting volunteers on the day, encouraging people to think about contributing to this vital community service. All ages are welcome but a reasonable standard of fitness is required. There are many opportunities for training in a range of fields including, first aid, communications and vehicle handling. The brigade trains every Monday night from 7-9pm and every third Sunday. If you are interested phone Grant Pearce on 0407 287 126 or Nigel Goodwin on 0417 863 576.
The Pelevarata Bushfire Ready Expo may become a yearly event and other communities could consider hosting similar information and community connection events. If the worst happens we will all need to be prepared and to help each other.
If you are in the Geeveston area there will be a Community Bushfire Ready night on Thursday, 19 November 2015 from 6:30pm at Geeveston Fire Station, School Road.
For more information about getting Bushfire Aware and Ready, visit the Tasmania Fire Service website at http://www.fire.tas.gov.au/