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Coming out of the smoke

Mt Beauty Neighbourhood Centre (MBNC) organised the "Are you OK? Come out of the Smoke" community picnic in December last year. The picnic aimed to bring people out of their houses and come together as a community. A range of organisations were available to help people understand how to be better prepared for emergencies by providing information, interactive demonstrations and family activities.

"It was such a wonderful day," said Trish Dixon, Manager at MBNC. "We had over 250 participants! Partners included Ambulance Victoria, State Emergency Service, CFA, the Community Recovery Committee and Red Cross. Red Cross ran a great activity with kids where they got them to identify what things they would want to pack into their pillow case and take with them if they had to evacuate.

"The CFA and DEWLP fire management team set up a simulation of the valley (pictured) and set it alight to show how they would fight a fire in this area. They had toy trucks and machinery showing how they try and divert the flames and threats. It was really useful for community members to how the fire services operate, and also learn more about fire behaviour.

"We're going to run emergency preparedness sessions at the start of spring and autumn each year."

The picnic was part of a larger Network project called Enabling Communities - from the heart of the community which was funded through the Mental Health Bushfire Recovery package. Six neighbourhood houses, including MBNC, had access to $40-$50K to develop and run locally based initiatives, working closely with community.

"Through the Enabling Communities project we've developed and run several programs and activities to build people's resilience. This includes helping people develop their Fire Plan, giving them USB sticks to save important documents and files, providing fire safety kits, and running support groups.

"Red Cross worked with us to run Redi Communities workshops and as a result we've got a beautiful visual community map of the valley, with all the important points located on it."

One of the great outcomes of the MBNC project has been the evolution of the Community Resilience Advisory Group (CRAG), made up of members of the community. They are developing a resilience plan for Mt Beauty for fire, flood and other emergencies.

Another excellent outcome was securing FRRR funding to continue the great work MBNC have been doing over the last 18 months.

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