One of the defining strengths of Western Australia’s Volunteer Bush Fire Service is its unique “bottom up” culture and the association is extremely confident that will make a very positive difference to the resilience of our members, service and broader Western Australian community in coming months.
Many of today’s 560 or so Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades came about as a result of a group of local people coming together to protect their community from one of nature’s most violent threats. They were not created because a computer identified a gap in the “Resource to Risk” ratio. Instead, the most valued ideas, knowledge and experience in our Bush Fire Service have always come from the mums, dads, sons and daughters who simply saw a challenge in their community and stepped up to be part of the solution.
And that connection to, and passion for, our community is why WA’s Volunteer Bush Fire Service is so very special.
As the peak body for the incredible 20,000+ women and men of WA’s largest emergency service, Bushfire Volunteers knows that the unfolding situation regarding the COVID-19 virus has compounded a particularly challenging summer; and for some people in our community, all that feels like it is almost too much to bear. But we also know that EVERY, SINGLE, TIME a natural disaster threatens, Western Australians from all walks of life lock arms and unite behind our frontline to form the strongest defense possible – community.
Having witnessed that goose-bump inspiring miracle time after time after time, we want to share our absolute confidence with those who might be feeling anxious or overwhelmed right now… we will get through this, together.
To our amazing members all over the great state of WA:
We know that even if you weren’t deployed to a major incident, the energy you burned by being in a constant state of readiness 24/7 since September has made this summer even more exhausting than usual for many of you and those who love and support you.
However, we could all do with your help for a while longer, so please hang in there.
As the climate gets drier and periods of high fire risk fire get longer, the opportunity for you and your incredible emergency service volunteer colleagues to relax is becoming shorter and shorter. And while we don’t expect any extra demand for your bushfire management expertise this coming winter, we can see that your community will need the leadership, strength and community-building skills you have developed as a Bushfire Volunteer.
The path ahead is far from clear. Every day, our elected leaders are being pushed to take us further into uncharted territory and no-one knows where or when we will again be on solid ground.
But that uncertainty – and the panic it can cause – is precisely why our unique community-led Bush Fire Service model is so incredibly valuable.
We know that because of you, and because of your 20,000+ Volunteer Bush Fire Service colleagues who also roll up their sleeves and do is necessary when a neighbour needs help, our community is more able to manage any real or perceived threat, including COVID-19.
There’s been a lot of academic talk about how to build “community resilience” over the last few years but we reckon it’s a pretty simple formula:
More local people who are trained, equipped and empowered (TEE) to manage local risks
A more confident and competent local community
and that delivers
For those Bushfire Volunteers who might be feeling frustrated that you can’t provide direct help because you’re not on the “front line” of the COVID-19 response, the important key message is that your mere presence in the community adds enormous value to the state’s ability to survive – and recover quickly from – the threat.. indeed, any threat.
Just as when someone accidentally cuts their foot, the front line response might be stitches and bandages but the healing process doesn’t happen in isolation. In fact, any acute injury is far more likely to heal faster and with less complications if the rest of the person’s body – the supporting system – is complete and healthy.
Although the front line response to COVID-19 is unlikely to require our fire appliances or hoses, its impact will be less severe and WA will recover more quickly because many of our communities are fortunate to have the added strength of locally experienced and locally empowered members of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades.
With that in mind, we urge every one of our amazing volunteer members to continue to do what you always do so well – lead the front line when a situation needs your expertise, and support the those on the front line when others are better equipped for that particular hazard.
Practically with regard to COVID-19, that means:
- lead by example so others who might be anxious or overwhelmed have solid community role-models to guide them,
- stay confident to assure those who don’t have your experience in emergency situations,
- react quickly and calmly follow all directions issued by government health authorities, and very importantly,
- don’t react to unofficial news or advice.
Finally, based on member feedback, the association has worked hard to develop a plan to radically increase the number and depth of services we provide to our members and other important stakeholders. If the current government directions remain, some of the exciting activities we have planned will necessarily be postponed or perhaps even cancelled before we have had the chance to announced them.
However, at this stage we are continuing to work on initiatives that either can continue under the current government restrictions or are planned for later in the year hoping restrictions will by then have eased. Obviously things are changing every day and what is planned today may simply not be able to happen tomorrow. Regardless of what happens, our Volunteer Committee and small team of staff will do our very best to deliver as many of the very positive and exciting projects we had planned to enhance our support, promotion and representation of WA’s incredible Bush Fire Brigade volunteers.
If you would like to get in touch about COVID-19 or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to call on 1800 BF VOLS (1800 23 8657) or email firstname.lastname@example.org