Switching residents on for any emergency

A short TAFE course aimed at helping residents become familiar with technology so they cope better in a bushfire or other emergency has been piloted in the Blue Mountains recently.

Springwood's Leigh Potts found the community engagement course useful. The course is jointly run by Blue Mountains TAFE Outreach and Springwood Neighbourhood Centre.

Springwood's Leigh Potts found the community engagement course useful. The course is jointly run by Blue Mountains TAFE Outreach and Springwood Neighbourhood Centre.

And its popularity could see it run throughout the rest of this year.

The course recommends websites and mobile apps for services such as the Rural Fire Service, Blue Mountains City Council and police, and helps residents develop their own survival plan. It also looks at help with recovery and rebuilding. 

The free program is a joint effort by the Springwood Neighbourhood Centre and the Western Sydney Institute TAFE Outreach Program and is limited to 15 participants. 

Springwood Neighbourhood Centre spokeswoman Liz Murphy said helping residents become more familiar with social media apps for their mobiles was vital, because during the fires “it was easy to access mobile phones but they didn’t have landlines”.

“It’s about getting people comfortable with social media and encouraging them to have a disaster plan,” she said.

“The course is being run by a specialist in disaster relief situations and IT [information technology] — everything from the ability to set up a social media account and using sites — including the Gazette’s Facebook page — to information about recovery,” Ms Murphy said.

“There’s a lot of people in the community that are quite frightened. A lot of it is about getting people together.”

Springwood’s Leigh Potts, who originally hails from New Zealand and is more familiar with earthquakes than fires, found the six-week course, and the interaction between participants, valuable. 

She was one of eight participants in the initial pilot study that finished before Easter. Ms Potts said one person in the course included a woman who lost her home in the October fires and at the time didn’t have power.

“She didn’t know where to look for help,” Ms Potts, who works in real estate, said.

“We had accommodation for 100 people through Blue Gum Lodge for the week after the fires and had posted it on Facebook and it was shared everywhere but she wasn’t able to find out about it. If you’re able to have that sort of communication, it’s definitely going to help.”

TAFE Outreach co-ordinator Denise Newton said they had adapted their vocational and community engagement course based on the Mountains community’s current needs.

“We saw it as a way TAFE can help the Blue Mountains recover,” she said.

Springwood Uniting Church has provided the venue for the classes (at 133 Macquarie Rd Springwood) on Tuesdays from 2- 4 pm.

The next course runs from May 13 to June 17. To register or for more details phone 4751 3033.

 Only basic computer skills are required and help is available with transport if needed.

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