New thrust in rural fire education

New thrust in rural fire education

29 October 2016

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Australia —  Australians are never too young to understand the importance of being prepared for bushfires.

New South Wales Rural Fire Service brigades have a long tradition of educating local communities and many have taken bushfire safety messages – and their big red trucks – to schools to make sure children and teenagers understand how best to respond to the risk and reality of fire.

New materials are now helping volunteers in their efforts to equip children with the skills needed to help them respond appropriately to emergencies, manage their natural anxiety and prompt their families to be prepared.

Lesson and activity guides, developed by teacher Brenda Doran Higgins, are designed to fit into the school curriculum and volunteers across the state are being trained to use them.

Leanne Bell, RFS operational officer for the Lower Hunter, says the volunteer firefighters ensure the generic material is given a local context. Feedback so far is positive and there will be further evaluation by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre.

Bell has worked for the fire service for two and a half years but has been a volunteer with the Wollombi Brigade for 17. She grew up in Sydney and moved to the Central Coast as a teenager, working in a bank after school and later taking on administrative roles with small businesses and Laguna Public School in the Hunter Valley.

When she moved to a home in the bush she became concerned about fire risk: “I was at the end of a dirt road on top of a ridge and I met the local brigade captain at the bus stop when we were dropping our kids off for school and he said they were running a course and asked if I would like to go along.”

She says the training was empowering, not only giving her confidence about her ability to cope with an emergency but a lasting circle of friends with a common purpose.”Brigade is like family,” she says.

NSW RFS has about 74,000 volunteers and about 850 paid and volunteer support staff. Funding for equipment, appliances, uniforms and buildings comes from the state government and the service works closely with Fire and Rescue NSW, the emergency service provider to the state’s more populated areas.

Bell says recruitment is difficult in many rural areas. The Lower Hunter population includes retirees, weekend visitors and residents who are often pushed for time. Providing quality information and programs helps attract new members and brigades regard community engagement as an important part of their work.

The RFS runs a state-wide school cadet program. Many brigades use social media and regular information bulletins to stay in touch with local people and counter the unpreparedness of many newcomers for country living.

“A lot of people just assume that if there is a fire a big red truck will roll up at their gate but there aren’t enough trucks in the state – probably not in the whole country – for that.

“Everyone needs to understand that there is a risk and there are ways to address that risk. We have to explain that there is no guarantee that someone will knock on your door – you need to plan and know what you are going to do.”

With surveys showing that very few people actually write out a plan, current education initiatives focus on the need for families to discuss what they will do in case of a fire.

“It is a real challenge to keep people thinking about it,” Bell says.

Winters have started approaching the northern region of India that also includes Delhi-NCR along with Punjab and Haryana. Due to this, minimums have also started dropping in many parts of North India including Delhi and NCR. In fact, as per the temperatures recorded on October 15 and October 17, the minimums ofDelhi and NCR went down to 17°C.

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As per experts, an increase in the pollution level normally occurs during the winter months. However, there are a few reasons that could enhance the pollution level in Delhi and the adjoining areas. The very first reason that can be attributed to an increase in pollution level in the national capital is crop fires in the neighboring state ofHaryana andPunjab.

These two states lie in northwest proximity of Delhi and normal pattern of winds during this season is northwesterly. These winds drag the smoke and fine particles of the burnt crop and mix them with Delhi’s atmosphere. Moreover, the temperatures also start dipping, therefore, the air near the earth’s surface tends to condense leading to formation of haze.

Whenever the winds are light or calm, these air pollutants get mixed with the haze or mist and forms a blanket of smoke haze which remains suspended for few hours in the mornings. Thereafter, the haze disappears as the sun rises and temperatures increases during the day.


But as the winter progresses in the month of December and January, the duration of haze, mist or fog gets extended and these pollutants remain suspended in the atmosphere for longer duration of time. Other factors including the smoke emitting from vehicles and factories and dust from construction sites also add to the rising pollution levels.

Sometimes this situation can continue for day’s altogether. However, relief is expected only when a strong Western Disturbance gives rain over the region. It is then that these pollutants settle down for a few days.

Another criterion which reduces the pollution levels is the strong and moderate dry winds from northwest or west which carry away these pollution particles. In a nutshell, it can be said that in October, intensity and duration of pollution remain less though increases in November as winters sets in.

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