It’s been 18 months in the making and Warrimoo Public School was chosen as the place to host the first lesson.
The new Rural Fire Service bushfire education kit for primary schools ‘Guide to Working with School Communities’ was launched at the Mountains school on Tuesday [June 14] with Premier Mike Baird, Emergency Services minister David Elliot and RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons sitting in on the lesson.
During their introductory class to student leaders, RFS volunteers Tamara Hendy from Medlow Bath and Winmalee’s deputy captain Fiona Staglis asked the students what they knew about their volunteer brigades and if anyone knew a member. Many hands went up.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said even in areas like Warrimoo, where the community had been directly affected by fire, usually only 10 per cent of families had a bushfire survival plan.
Programs like this one could change all that.
“We cannot reiterate the importance of engaging with our young ones … so they can take that information on, and more importantly, have a conversation in the family,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
Premier Baird said primary schools across the state will be better prepared for bushfire emergencies following this launch which will be rolled out in all schools, even where the bushfire threat was low.
“It’s across all schools,” he said. “Families travel and can go into bushfire areas,” he explained to the media.
As part of the three-step program, students will learn the information and its context within their own lives; practice their skills in scenario-based exercises; and then be encouraged to share their new knowledge with family and friends.
“Unfortunately we are all familiar with the devastation a bushfire can cause and it’s important that communities have a plan and know exactly what they will do,” Mr Baird said.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons encouraged Rural Fire Service members to familiarise themselves with the guide and work with brigades and district offices to deliver the program locally.
Many brigades were already working with their local school community, but the program supported those relationships with a structured learning plan aligned with the curriculum.
Minister David Elliot said by actively engaging with primary school students, and delivering sound bushfire education packages, the volunteers were “helping children understand the risk and to know what to do in the event of an emergency”.
“The NSW Rural Fire Service isn’t just about being on the firefront with a truck and hose,” Mr Elliott said.