Australia: A TELEVISION ad opens on a black screen where viewers cannot see anything. But they can hear panicked voices from a family scrambling to prepare themselves for the horror of the bushfire bearing down on them.
A mother’s scared voice says, “We shouldn’t be here”. With smoke enveloping the screen, her son runs out the front door ignoring her pleas not to go outside. All sound cuts out with a final roar of fire.
On another ad, viewers hear the voices of a couple driving in a car as a bushfire surrounds them. A woman’s voice says they shouldn’t be there, that even the road is on fire.
With panic in his voice, her partner says they have to keep going, that he thinks that’s the right thing to do. Through the chaos, we hear the woman screaming as they begin to lose control of the car.
In a bid to shock Victorians out of complacency less than three years after 173 people died on Black Saturday, the Victorian government has launched a $5 million advertising campaign which Deputy Premier and Minister for Bushfire Response Peter Ryan described yesterday as confronting, shocking and chilling.
Mr Ryan said the government made no apology for the graphic nature of the ads, which will run during primetime news services, but conceded some of the content had been toned down on the advice of the Bushfire Bereaved Community Advisory Group.
“We’ve tried to strike the balance,” Mr Ryan said.
“Victoria is one of the most bushfire-prone areas in the world so it is crucial the community understands and recognises the importance of preparing for fires before summer arrives.”
He said the ads described “the horror of what it would actually be like to be caught in a bushfire”.
Mr Ryan said an estimated 75 per cent of home owners in bushfire-prone areas still did not have a fire plan. Authorities have also encountered stiff resistance to the notion of abandoning homes on “code red” days, despite warnings that the state was primed for large-scale grass fires.
On her property north of Whittlesea, where the ranges are still black, Lesley Denholm was a case in point.
Having survived Black Saturday, she was determined not to leave her home on a code red day for fear of losing her home or animals, although her daughter and grandchildren would leave.
Unsurprised by Ms Denholm’s reluctance, Country Fire Authority lieutenant Richard Gardiner said some people were more complacent now than they were immediately after Black Saturday, although others were more vigilant. He said many people had not yet realised “how quickly we’re entering into a high-risk season”.
Fire Commissioner Craig Lapsley defends new shock bushfire ads
Australia: New TV ads to air featuring audio recordings of people panicking as bushfires approach their homes are defended by bushfire commissioner Craig Lapsley, who declares there is far too much complacency among Victorians about bushfire preparation. Hear also about the other people being targetted by new campaigns – including those who travel regularly from Melbourne into regional areas of Victoria.
“It’s quite clear that the lessons learnt from the 7th of February, 2009, we need to re-emphasise and put [the message] the community out there to make sure that they understand the absolute potential of fire in the state,” says Craig Lapsley, Victoria’s Fire Services Commissioner.
The Victorian State Government has commissioned dramatic TV ads which will begin airing this week in which the sound recording of a family panicking and trying to prepare as a fire bears down and surrounds their home.
The ads are said to be an effort to shock Victorians out of their complacency and get the message through about fire preparation.
“We believe that a lot of people think that leaving early is when there is smoke in the district – and leaving early is leaving just ahead of the fire. We want you to see that leaving early means leaving early, not being there at all and going to a place that you have selected that best caters for your needs, but to a safer location; on the roads, get out early in the day and travel somewhere that suits the needs of you, whether it be family and friends, whether it be with the kids to the pool, whether it be other activities in the community, but certainly leaving early is one of those handy things…”
Commissioner Lapsley also considers homeowners as just one of the groups needing to be jolted out of complacency born of a long summer of heavy rainfall and drought-busting rains, indicating those who travel regional roads in this coming season of heightened grassfire threat are also in need of education.
“We want to make sure that people on the roads understand the potential of what it means to be in a car, on a road in country Victoria, in high-risk areas when fires are in the landscape…
“We’ve spent a bit of time with Tourism Victoria and the industry and we haven’t focussed on tourists or visitors, we’ve actually focussed on travellers; now that could be the salesman that’s travelling from Bentley to Stawell once a week and goes out to country Victoria on one of those days; [he/she] lives in metropolitan Melbourne but travels into country Victoria – we’re trying to make sure we understand or get a message to everyone that’s going to be in or around bushfire areas, and what they should do, and do in a structured way and not be there and don’t put yourself at risk.”
Australia: A chilling advertisement depicting a family panicking as a bushfire tears towards their home has received mixed responses from Victoria’s Black Saturday survivors.
The graphic 60-second television ad, which is set to be launched by the Victorian government on Thursday, aims to jolt residents into preparing for the bushfire season ahead.
But Murrindindi Shire mayor Peter Beales, who lives in Kinglake, a community that lost 42 people in the February 2009 fires, told ninemsn he believed the ad may upset those who lost homes and loved ones in the tragedy.
“Being upsetting and confrontational is not the way to do it,” he said.
“I spent 29 years in the police force and I’m a member of the CFA, and I’m not a great supporter of these confrontational ads.”
Cr Beales had not yet seen the ad, but said it sounded “mentally confronting”.
“I think hard-hitting ads have an effect for a short period of time but then it wears off training and educating people is the best way you can do it,” he said.
The original ad was toned down after the government consulted families still grieving from Black Saturday over its confronting content.
But Kinglake resident Kathy Stewart, who lost her home in the Black Saturday blazes that killed 173 people in Victoria, told ninemsn the ad might now be “too subtle” to have an impact.
“It’s not as confronting as I thought it could have been,” she said after watching it.
“Sometimes you need to be blunt or it goes over people’s heads.”
Mrs Stewart, whose husband John is a member of the CFA, said she feared Kinglake residents had already become complacent about preparing for bushfire season.
“I hope this (ad campaign) is effective. We’ve noticed a more complacent attitude creeping into the community,” she said.
“It surprises us, given not that long ago, the devastation we suffered.”
Victoria’s Shadow Minister for Bushfire Response, Jacinta Allan, today slammed the advertisement after watching it.
She told ninemsn the government “should have taken into the account the effect such an advertisement may have on previous fire survivors and their families.”
Victoria’s Minister for Bushfire Response, Peter Ryan, yesterday told reporters he made no apologies for the “hard-hitting” ad.