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Report of Operations 2007-08 - Fire Ready Victoria

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Street meetings and community meetings

Areas established targets for the interactive elements of the Fire Ready Victoria (FRV) program to treat their identified risks. Areas aimed to deliver 727 interactive FRV meetings but exceeded their targets to deliver a total of 1,075 meetings to an audience of approximately 17,711 people from 8,050 households. Details of the meetings held across the State are shown at Table 3.

Table 3. Number of FRV meetings and participants 2007-08

CFA Area Meetings Participants
Barwon Corangamite 66 889
Gippsland 61 586
Midlands Wimmera 142 6,930
North East 141 92
North West 66 1,215
Outer Metro Norwest 51 758
South West 243 3,056
Westernport 151 1,768
Yarra 154 2,416
Total 1,051 17,711

Figure 6 illustrates that a decrease in bushfire activity during the 2007-08 season was reflected in a decline in meeting attendance, from 43,264 people in 2006-07.

Figure 6. Service delivery for FRV meetings 2003-04 to 2007-08

Service delivery for FRV meetings 2003-04 to 2007-08

Bushfire planning workshops were successfully trialled across the State. These workshops will now form part of a suite of options available for areas to offer the community.

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Community Fireguard

A regular newsletter has been developed this year to improve support for Community Fireguard facilitators. The newsletter provides information about updated resources, and provides a focal point for facilitators across the state. Any new items of interest and importance are able to be communicated via the newsletter, for example the position recommended by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) on sheltering in vehicles during a bushfire.

There were 504 Community Fireguard sessions delivered throughout the summer season. Comparative data are shown in Table 4.

Table 4. Service delivery for Community Fireguard 2004-05 to 2007-08

CFA Area 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08
Barwon Corangamite 44 80 73 48
Gippsland 13 27 33 10
Midlands Wimmera 245 205 222 184
North East 38 25 46 19
North West 34 2 11 6
Outer Metro Norwest 19 37 42 24
South West 6 3 4 20
Westernport 51 51 64 52
Yarra 199 309 345 141
Total 649 736 840 504

Community Fireguard continues to be an important part of the Fire Ready Victoria strategy catering for those who require a more intensive program with more detailed information about how to prepare for and respond to bushfire

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VicEmergency Hotline

The FRV strategy aims to generate calls to the VicEmergency on several issues, including preparedness activities, fire restrictions and Total Fire Bans (TFBs), and significant incident information. The number of calls both during major fires and on a day-to-day basis throughout summer demonstrates that the VicEmergency is providing a valuable service to the community and continues to be an important component of the FRV Strategy.

Figure 7 shows the number of calls received in the 2007-08 summer period represented a decrease of 72 per cent from the previous year which was a very busy and extended fire season.

Figure 7. Number of calls to VicEmergency over Summer Period 2004-05 to 2007-08

Number of calls to VBIL over Summer Period 2004-05 to 2007-08

Between November 2007 and March 2008 the VicEmergency received 18,073 calls in total, including 8,215 which were answered by operators as shown in Table 5. The interactive voice response (IVR) service is used by the public to order bushfire safety packs which are posted to their address.

Table 5. Service delivery for VicEmergency over summer period 2007-08

Month IVR Customer Service Operator TOTAL
November 1,481 988 2,469
December 2,302 1,795 4,097
January 2,449 2,844 5,293
February 1,158 408 1,566
March 2,468 2,180 4,648
Toatl 9,858 8,215 18,073

A breakdown of calls by CFA area is shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8. Regional service delivery for VicEmergency over summer period 2007-08

Regional service delivery for VBIL over summer period 2007-08

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Internet access by the community

The internet is a major channel for disseminating information to the community both before and during wildfire.

Figure 9 shows public access to the CFA website during the months of January and February, for the relatively quiet 2007-08 bushfire season compared with access during the major campaigns in 2003 and 2006-07. Despite the quiet season, usage of the CFA website for bushfire information has clearly increased significantly since its introduction.

Figure 9. Public access to the CFA web site - comparing 2007-08 and recent campaigns

Public access to the CFA web site - comparing 2007-08 and recent campaigns

Table 6 shows a breakdown of public access of the CFA website over the 2007-08 summer period.

Table 6. Service delivery for CFA public website - summer 2007-08

  Dec 07 Jan 08 Feb 08 Mar 08
Total no. visits 266,911 474,079 217,013 342,895
Avg. no. visits per day 8,610 15,292 7,483 11,061
Max. no. visits in single day 33,856 66,416 14,846 39,840

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ABC Bushfire Awareness Phone-in Day

ABC Bushfire Awareness Phone-in Day was conducted on 1 November 2007. It featured interviews with CFA, DHS and Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) personnel and community members about community and individual preparedness for the summer fire season.

Heavy promotion of the VicEmergency on the day generated 282 calls.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Campaign

In line with government requirements, a bushfire awareness campaign targeting culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups was run during the season.

A CFA radio advertisement was translated into eleven languages and run on SBS radio over a seven week period. Copies of the translated messages were also distributed to nine regional CALD community stations for community announcements.

Eleven community spokespersons from CALD communities were selected with the assistance of LOTE Marketing Pty Ltd, and briefed on CFA summer fire awareness messages. The community spokespersons were interviewed on SBS radio in their own languages, and provided scripted information to the CALD communities about the fire danger period and TFB days. Four interview scripts were translated and supplied to both the community spokespersons and the language groups at SBS Radio. The spokespersons also promoted the VicEmergency and the CFA website.

Promotional Resources

Resources developed during the initial stages of the FRV strategy continue to be used successfully. These include the Living in the Bush workbook and interactive CD, wallet cards and fridge magnets promoting the VicEmergency and bushfire safety information for travellers.

Posters focusing on key bushfire safety messages were also widely distributed and displayed in high bushfire risk areas.

Media and Communications

An extensive media and public relations campaign is a key component of the FRV strategy. In 2007-08 the campaign targeted all residents living in high wildfire risk locations, tourists travelling into high wildfire risk areas and residents living in close proximity to public land.

Total campaign spend was approximately $900,000 (inclusive of extended FRV funds). MFB and DSE also contributed to the costs. The campaign focused on three strands as follows:

The summer media campaign was implemented through a multi-phased approach:

Flexibility was built into the campaign design, allowing CFA to respond to specific risks such as haystack combustion and grassfire, and ignition minimisation and driving safety issues around bushfire during the Australia Day long weekend and Easter period, with intensive short-term campaigns.

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Extended FRV

Additional funding to extend the FRV campaign was again received in the 2007-08 season. CFA partnered with other agencies to extend the campaign to vulnerable, remote and at risk communities.

Approximately $500,000 was distributed to CFA areas and $500,000 was spent on a media and communications campaign to enhance the FRV message. CFA areas used these funds to meet local issues and needs, including the following:

These activities added substantially to the scale and reach of FRV across the State and enabled areas to develop local initiatives and address local issues.

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Fit to Drive

The 'Fit to Drive' program aims to contribute to a reduction in the over-representation of young people in Victoria's road user fatalities and serious injuries. CFA participates in the Fit to Drive program with partner agencies including Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria, MFB, VicRoads and the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport.

Fit to Drive is run in Victorian secondary schools. Many schools in CFA areas have requested the Fit to Drive program, and a project officer was appointed to coordinate the CFA road rescue component of Fit to Drive, based on a model delivered by MFB.

Fire Ready Victoria Framework 2008-2012

CFA is leading the development of a new whole of government FRV framework that will govern all awareness, education, engagement and empowerment activities relating to wildfire and prescribed burning. The framework and associated strategies will be the delivery agent for all engagement and education activities of the multi-agency Bushfire Strategy.

The framework involves a partnership agreement between CFA, MFB, DSE and DHS, who will work in partnership with other key stakeholders including the MAV, Victoria Police, Tourism Victoria and VicSES.

Arson Reduction Strategy

CFA has developed a project plan for the development of a Whole of Government approach to the problem of arson-related fires. It has been developed in response to research from the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) which identified a number of limitations in relation to arson management, such as:

Consultation with Victoria Police will form a critical component of the development of the Arson Strategy.

Research into community attitudes to bushfire safety

Research was undertaken into community attitudes towards bushfire safety and bushfire preparedness in the following four high fire-risk areas of Victoria:

Two linked telephone surveys were conducted:

Table 7 shows the proportion of households that reported undertaking some bushfire safety measures.

Table 7. Bushfire Safety Measures Undertaken by Households 2007-08

Measure taken Pre-Summer Post-Summer
Clear gutters of leaves 88.0% 95.4%
Move combustible fuel away from the house 86.9% 92.8%
Get equipment such as ladder, buckets and mops for spot fires 86.8% 91.5%
Remove leaf litter, undergrowth etc from 20-30cm round house 88.0% 91.1%

While more than 90 per cent of respondents reported that they have a bushfire plan in place, only about one-third of respondents had their plan written down or had practised it. As a result, CFA has developed a 'Bushfire Planning' workshop to assist residents in high bushfire risk areas to prepare comprehensive bushfire survival plans for their household.

The research found that the majority of households still have high expectations of assistance from fire services during a bushfire. In both surveys, more than one-half of the respondents thought it was likely or very likely that a fire truck or a firefighting aircraft would come to protect their property in the event of a bushfire.

There was little significant difference between the pre- and post-summer responses for most aspects of the surveys. This could be a reflection of a very quiet fire season which may have meant that the majority of respondents did not get highly involved in the issue of bushfires. As behaviour change to increase bushfire preparedness is complex and requires time and multiple levels of engagement, it would also be unlikely that significant attitudinal and behavioural changes would be detected over a period of four months.

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