The forum was an opportunity for members who are already involved with community engagement to network and share initiatives with like-minded people.
“It was fantastic to have these passionate volunteers in the same room and we want to expose more CFA members to this in the future,” said Gippsland Manager Community Safety Mark Potter.
“Everyone walked away with a fairly positive view of what we need to do and what needs to happen next.”
Callignee Captain Ian Ewart and Secretary Graham Bolton showcased the work of their brigade that deals directly with the local community to deliver the Community Fireguard program and strong results.
Warragul firefighter Daniel Eshuis’s workshop on social media allowed people who had never used social media to get a better understanding of its potential, and those who already use social media learned more about what was available.
Former CFA Chief Officer Brian Potter described the culture he witnessed among the Japanese fire services, where there was almost a feeling of embarrassment when attending a fire as it was seen as a failure of the system to prevent the fire.
Acting Chief Officer Steve Warrington gave an inspiring presentation about the future of community preparation, and comparing the power of a $10 smoke alarm with a $500,000 firetruck.
Mark Potter said the forum gave some real direction about how Gippsland region can better support its members and brigades to educate the community.
“The number one thing that came out of the forum for me was the importance of local people delivering local information,” Mark said.
“Donna Missen from Stratford brigade gave a great presentation about their successful approach to local engagement. They have a real sense of ‘we live in the same community as you and we will be experiencing the exact same thing’ that’s been important in getting the message out.”
“This really reinforces the position we’ve held for some time – that the best person to educate the community is someone from within the community. It’s definitely something we’ll be working on and incorporating in our programs over the next six to 12 months.”
“There was also a strong message that our volunteers are looking for more community education focused training, so we’re definitely looking to fill that space.”
The success of the forum resulted in a firm commitment for it to run again next year with a wider range of attendees.
“This is a network we need to support and build. A number of attendees plan to keep catching up outside the conference to share ideas and we’ll be providing the group with email updates on a regular basis,” Mark said.
The forum was also attended by Police and Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan, Danny Buttler from Media Edge Communications and Captain Koala.