Emergency Management Consultants
FIRE-FITNESS STRATEGY – an introduction
Engine Room Solutions brings together the academic and field expertise of Dr. Rachel Westcott PhD and architect Emilis Prelgauskas who have over a decade of practical experience working in the Response and Recovery phases of bushfire emergency management in South Australia.
This introduction provides an overview of us as fire-fitness research-practitioners who use real-world knowledge and practical experience blended with theoretical understandings to help optimise solutions and outcomes. It briefly describes the proactive components of our fire-fitness program while emphasising that each application will be unique, requiring careful, collaborative assessment to design a bespoke fire-fitness plan.
Fire-fitness is a concept developed by Rachel. It is a process by which natural hazard preparedness is normalised amongst individuals, families, communities and other groups. We call these groups “social microclimates” – to capture the differing areas of society where individual core group members each spend some of their day – for example, home, school, workplace, sporting clubs, or gym.
Fire-fitness strategies can be started immediately, and aim to benefit people and their social microclimates over the medium to long term, by creating and cultivating an always-ready culture of preparedness and resilience to emergency events: this is the target focus.
Fire-fitness goes well beyond the usual advertising campaigns typically seen at the beginning of a natural hazard season – campaigns which necessarily attempt to raise awareness of risk among communities and encourage people to write and practise their bushfire survival plans. Fire-fitness is about embedding preparedness as a routine, everyday event – as routine as buying the groceries or fuelling a car. Normalising the awareness-preparedness-action axis in this way is the proactive opposite of complacency, and has the potential to save lives and reduce the trauma of experiencing a serious natural hazard event. We have worked, and continue to work, with a broad spectrum of groups, including Emergency Services, Local Government and Service clubs, recovery Committees, community groups, individuals and academia to achieve this.
Money for emergencies
Funds spent on Prevention and Preparedness can help to either forestall an emergency entirely or minimise its extent and impact; this is a small expenditure proportional to the cost of Response and Recovery. This does not mean that operational funds be diverted from Response readiness to Prevention/Preparedness tasks. It does however mean that the public cost of Response, Relief and the multi-year follow-on Recovery work is reduced wherever the funds for Prevention/Preparedness are spent effectively.
For many years fire authorities have applied funds to an escalating program of advice and advocacy to the community about Preparedness. However, reducing the awareness-preparedness gap is progressing only slowly, and is disproportional to the magnitude of public resources invested. Emergencies are erratic and do not occur every year, with community complacency gaining ground during the ‘uneventful’ years. This mitigates against the advocacy’s on-going effect, which may plateau and fade.
Engine Room Solutions takes the ‘fire-fitness’ concept developed in Rachel’s Doctoral research, and proactively applies it into the day-to-day world through applied strategic processes.
Normalising preparedness as an everyday routine has significant secondary benefits, including translating skills such as dynamic risk assessment into home and work life. Learning fire-fitness techniques and practices helps to build a resilient mindset in day-to-day physical and psychological behaviour, as well as teaching sound, safe decision-making when confronted with an emergency event.
Teaching and applying fire-fitness strategies to a range of social microclimates promotes a collective synergism: as uptake increases, momentum builds, the adoption of fire-fitness becomes routine and widespread and preparedness becomes normalised. This means safe decision-making, safe behaviour and post-event resilience are more likely to be evident during and after an emergency event.
Fire-fitness strategies can be equally applied to people who are “bushfire naive”, as well as those who have lived through a bushfire emergency, and may expect to face that hazard again. Strategies can be targeted to individual, household, fire-safe street committee, suburb, township and Council-wide levels. Our strategies also acknowledge the unique needs of rural, peri-urban, suburban and urbanised communities. Sequential and synchronous activation of fire-fitness strategies will permit trial-and-evaluate metrics to identify the most effective, locally bespoke actions to be implemented in the longer term for the greatest benefit.
Engine Room Solutions’ fire-fitness paradigm is diverse in content and outreach. Its components are continually evolving and being refined at strategic planning, trial and evaluation and implementation levels.
This document outlining the fire-fitness program seeks to provide you with sufficient background information to decide if, via Engine Room Solutions, you wish to include some fire-fitness strategies within existing community programs, or commence a new program led by us. Collaborating with others currently or potentially operating in the emergency preparedness workspace can have many benefits.
Engine Room Solutions looks forward to working with agencies and organisations with complementary aligned targets. We enthusiastically anticipate an ever-broadening roll out across the medium term, to make the whole natural hazard environment in Australia a safer place for people and the things they hold dear.