The Vinnies NSW Bushfire Recovery and Community Development Program (BRCD) is funded through a public appeal raised in 2019/2020. The program utilises a community development approach to enable long term, sustainable recovery for communities. Program Manager John Fenech shares how the program is supporting vulnerable households to prepare for emergencies and natural disasters through a partnership with the University of Sydney.
When a natural disaster takes place in a community, the people who are most impacted are often the most vulnerable. This includes people who live with disability, chronic illness and/or those who are socially isolated. When the Vinnies NSW Bushfire Recovery and Community Development Program (BRCD) commenced in early 2020, seeing vulnerable households better informed and prepared for future disasters was a real gap in emergency preparedness and hence an issue that the program has made a priority. “As the BRCD program commenced in the Kempsey Local Government Area (one of the worst hit regions during the 2019 NSW Black Summer Bushfires) partnerships and opportunities began to emerge to address this issue collaboratively and innovatively”, John explained.
During a bushfire recovery network, Vinnies NSW connected with the Centre for Disability and Research and Policy at the University of Sydney (CDRP USyd) and were introduced to the Person-Centred Emergency Preparedness (P-CEP) toolkit. The P-CEP program aligned well to the recovery work Vinnies NSW had commenced in the Kempsey region, and to the overall BRCD program objectives. The P-CEP helps to match emergency planning to the supports people need for their health and safety, in emergencies. “Importantly, the program is practical and accessible, and builds upon the strengths that are inherent within individuals and communities,” shared John. The P-CEP toolkit consists of three components 1) A Capability Wheel to generate discussions about disaster preparedness 2) Principles to guide person-centred conversations, and 3) A set of steps to bring emergency services personnel and people with disability together, along with services that support them to facilitate effective communication and disaster preparedness.
Vinnies NSW BRCD and CDRP USyd established a partnership to launch an action-research program on the implementation of the P-CEP program in the Kempsey region. Researchers from CDRP USyd will train Vinnies staff in P-CEP, who will then support 30-50 households through the stages of disaster preparedness. A 10-hour online training program for Vinnies NSW staff, community members from the Kempsey region and representatives from government and local services providers commenced in September. “Feedback from our staff and community members has been extremely positive so far. We are confident that with well prepared staff, we will be able to effectively engage the households P-CEP is designed for in the Kempsey region”.
Whilst the pilot is in its early days, it is anticipated that the initiative will strengthen relationships in the community, particularly between vulnerable households and emergency services. In other LGAs where P-CEP has been implemented, feedback has been positive. An example includes the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley where CALD communities were engaged with P-CEP to develop personal flood preparedness. The largest outcome was seeing conversations taking place where community members were able to start thinking about what they would need to do to prepare. This highlights that disaster preparedness is a process and an ongoing conversation. John concludes, “Along with our partners, our vision is to see no vulnerable household unprepared for an emergency or natural disaster if, and when, this next happens in the Kempsey community”.
Image Acknowledgement: The University of Sydney