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Drought, dust storms and soaring temperatures are a recipe for disaster. By playing the Mt Resilience experience, you can learn how to make your town bushfire-ready, whilst also making it a better place to live.
Create a greenzone
Mt Resilience is surrounded by a green zone of parks, playing fields and farms. These spaces create a natural firebreak around the town, and are cleared of flammable material such as wood and leaves. Whilst they can't prevent a fire, these green zones can slow its spread by providing vehicle access for firefighters to keep flames at bay.
Greenzones also impact community wellbeing, boosting health, recreation and allowing people to enjoy nature. By providing a place for people to meet and work, greenzones can also help to create community bonds crucial both day to day and in an emergency. The person most likely to help you survive a disaster will often be a neighbour or passer-by. By building a support network of people in your community you can help each other get by during, and after, an emergency.
Build strong and transparent local government
Strong and inclusive local councils can better plan for crises such as bushfires, and galvanise and support communities during a crisis. In its report on Australia’s Black Summer bushfires, the Bushfire Royal Commission found that whilst state and territory governments hold the primary responsibility for protecting life, property and the environment, local councils also have important roles to play. For example, local governments have a more detailed understanding of local risks, vulnerabilities and available resources, and are often also responsible for coordinating evacuation and relief operations.
The residents of Mt Resilience and the local council work together, so anyone can get in touch with the council at any time.
Everyone is welcome to send in ideas and request meetings. And the council holds regular meetings that are open to all.
The council employs liaison officers who work with all the community groups and businesses to identify projects that will benefit the town. They coordinate emergency plans, and seek added support from state and federal governments if they need to.
Develop community centres
Australia spends on average $18.2 billion each year on disaster recovery.
Community-owned centres help Mt Resilience residents prepare for and recover from disaster, coordinate volunteers, liaise with disaster teams and work to connect everyone: from government services, to local councils to schools.
And if there’s a pandemic, these centres could help separate residents depending on their health needs; for example, by providing spaces for patients who don't need to be hospitalised to isolate in.
Stronger together: Cobargo
The community in the historic town of Cobargo, south-eastern NSW, is a striking example of the kinds of recovery that can be advanced through a community working together. The people of Cobargo are proud of their capacity to work collectively in the years since the fires at the end of 2019 to plan, to meet regularly, help the business owners who lost everything to get back on their feet, and decide on rebuilding priorities and a unified approach to design a new main street. One of the features in planning is the Cobargo Resilience Centre, including a story centre and café, and plans have been submitted for a community centre that doubles as a bushfire refuge centre. Through the ongoing tough times community organisers keep applying for government grants and find ways to keep supporting each other. On Cobargo’s signs on the approach to the town, the population number has been crossed out – it now reads “Population: Strong”.
Watch their heartening story in the “Rebuilding Cobargo” video on the ABC website.
One of the biggest concerns during an emergency is communicating with everyone about what to do and when.
Contact Emergency Services
If you need assistance during a severe storm event, call your local State Emergency Service (SES) on 132 500 or Triple Zero in a life-threatening situation.
Develop an Emergency App
Communities can develop an Emergency mobile App for all residents, which is accessible to all cultures, languages and platforms. An emergency communications plan could also involve a phone tree - an organised way of contacting people in your neighbourhood to make them aware of the threat of an emergency. See the Australian Red Cross website on how to make one for your community. Organising a WhatsApp group for your street is a good way to keep in touch, alerted and informed (it can kick off through a letterbox drop), or consider other web-based platforms like Telegram. With a mobile phone-based group established for messages and conversation, organising will be easier - whether it is establishing a safe assembly place to gather if the mobile network fails or setting up a street party!
Two way radio or walkie talkie
Two way radios or walkie talkies are a great back up in case of power failure. They can keep family members or groups in touch with each other. Have spare batteries in your emergency kit too. Remember that lower-range walkie talkies only cover a few hundred meters; higher-end versions can cover 13kms and beyond depending on the model.
ABC Emergency has the most up to date information on events as they happen. Consider buying a wind up radio in the event of power loss to stay informed.
Lifeline Australia and other helplines
Lifeline Australia: Dial 13 11 14 for help dealing with trauma and grief, or connect with helplines relevant to your situation.
Look after local wildlife
Around three billion animals were affected by Australia’s Black Summer bushfires.
The residents of Mt Resilience value and protect habitats. Irrigated areas around bush houses provide food and shelter. Green corridors throughout ensure animals don’t get trapped.
And local landcare, urban bush care, and animal rescue groups maintain habitats and care for sick and injured animals. You can consider donating or becoming a volunteer for WIRES for example, Australia's largest wildlife rescue organisations.
For more on how to protect your home before and during a fire, read the ABC's guide on how to prepare for a bushfire.