Bushfire Safety for People with Special Needs

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Community Safety
TitleBushfire Safety for People with Special Needs
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsRosebaum, H, Goodman, H, Rhodes, A
AbstractFollowing the January 2006 Grampians fires, three agencies formed a partnership to carry out a small research study on bushfire safety issues for people with special needs. These agencies were Rural Access , the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Project C7 funded by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (BCRC), located at RMIT University. The “Grampians fires” include the 2005 New Years Eve fire (also known locally as the Deep Lead or Black Range fire) and January 2006 (Mt Lubra or Grampians) fire. The partnership broadly defined the term “special needs households” to include those households where a resident had a temporary or long term disability, illness or injury, or any other life circumstance such as social isolation, which was likely to impede the person’s ability to prepare for or respond to the threat of fire. The aim of the research was to identify and to better understand the factors that affect the safety of people with special needs in the event of a bushfire. The research team comprised Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, Research Officer, RMIT; Dr Helen Goodman, Research Fellow, RMIT/BCRC and Alan Rhodes, RMIT/CFA. Gilda McKechnie, Rural Access Coordinator from the Grampians Community Health Centre has provided advice to the team and convened key meetings during the research period. The research idea arose following the coexistence of three particular ingredients, alongside the willingness of many agencies and households to lend their expertise and support to participate. These ingredients included: the direct experience of Dr Helen Rosenbaum while acting in the role of Rural Access worker during the fires, and noting her own concerns and those of others about residents with special needs; a ready response by the CFA and the Bushfire CRC Project C7 in locating the funding for the research; and the willingness of the current Rural Access incumbent to host, support and carry the local idea through. The research entailed two key steps. One was an interview study of 9 households with a member with special needs, and the other was a workshop at which the researchers fed back the interview results and discussed them with agencies. At this workshop a decision was taken to hold Forums for households with family members with special needs, and five forums were carried out. This last step was outside the research brief, and this report deals with the interview study and the workshop feedback.