vanilla slice (plural vanilla slices) (Australian) A snack like a mille-feuille with a layer of vanilla cream between two layers of pastry - Wikipedia.
Merbein is a town outside Mildura, Victoria, in the Sunraysia region of Australia. It is on the Calder Highway between Mildura and the Murray River crossing on the Abbotsford Bridge to Curlwaa. At the 2006 census, the town had a population of 2526 - Wikipedia
On Saturday 18th August 2012, the Merbein Community hosted the Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph, an event previously held in Ouyen since 1988.
Some months earlier the Merbein CFA brigade had tossed around the idea of opening the brigade doors and holding an open day at the station for anybody in the area interested in learning more about the Merbein brigade..... then along came the CFA Community Engagement Forum held in Creswick, from which a little seed was planted in the mind of 4th Lieutenant Steven Russell. Little did he know that the sunny warm climate of Sunraysia
In a little over 2 weeks a plan was established and executed to deliver a wide reaching community engagement activity covering Residential Fire Safety, Practical demonstration and participation in fire blanket use, appliance capabilities, general CFA awareness and brigade public relations.
Merbein Brigade worked with Kevin Sleep (North West Community Engagement Coordinator) for the supply of various equipment and supplies ranging from the 6x3m CFA marquee, 250 balloons, show bags, brochures, handouts and other bits and pieces. The brigade also secured a free standing touch screen computer system in which a continuous loop of fire safety videos was able to be played throughout the day. On the Monday evening leading up to the event Kevin assisted the brigade members in sharing tips ‘n tricks of community engagement methods as a follow on from the Creswick forum. Merbein brigade sourced
To add to the day’s effectiveness the brigade hired a helium canister to fill all the CFA balloons, the result being a street flooded with red CFA balloons bobbing up and down through the entire Vanilla Slice event.
From starting as a idea of an Open day, the message shifted to that of Residential Fire Safety and Awareness and specifically on Kitchen Fire Safety given the Vanilla slice is a cooking competition for professional pastry chefs, amateur cooks and students. To this end, the majority of handouts and discussions at the marquee & demonstration area focused on Smoke alarms, fire blankets & home fire escape plans although numerous people also enquired on other matters such as Garden landscaping, property clearing and volunteering.
The day started early with a 7am setup, by 9:30am very few people had arrived but between 10am and 1pm the street was alive with thousands of people, it is estimated by the Vanilla Slice committee that approx 10,000 people attended the event. At times the brigade members on the Marquee were swamped with children, parents and approaches from the public with enquiries to the point we needed to call in extra troops to keep up with the demand. By midday we were completely out of resources requiring a quick dash to Lombard’s for more red balloons and raid the brigade station supplies of CFA material.
We estimate contact with well over 2,000 people between 10am and 2pm, of this we were able to undertake a much deeper engagement of fire safety awareness and answer specific questions with between 100 and 200 people covering a range of topics including home fire escape plans, smoke alarms,
In addition to the Community Engagement Marquee, we also established a second site for appliances and demonstrations. This area was managed by Captain Trevor Willcock who was assisted by various brigade members and Tony Shilson. The kitchen stove fire practical demonstration was originally intended to be a set time demonstration on the hour every hour, however this provide so popular that the demonstrations ran throughout the day and at times continuously. Tony Shilson (D18 Structural Instructor) provided a sensational and entertaining commentary of the presentation as Captain Trevor Willcock demonstrated and assisted members of the community in undertaking practical exposure and gaining experience on how to use a fire blanket on a stove fire.
Mildura SES also joined the occasion manning an SES rescue truck which was located with the CFA team and also an SES marquee that was adjoining the CFA marquee were the message of Storm Preparation & Safety was delivered. The collaborative effort of the CFA and SES was once a again a great example of our two agencies working together, a continuing unity of our groups and fostering relationships that will benefit the community and members at incidents.
Captain Koala joined in the celebrations and was chaperoned by the Merbein Junior brigade and leaders. Captain Koala made a number of new mascot friends on the day including ‘Paddy Platypus from SES’ and ‘Elliott Emu from Sunraysia Daily’. The three mascots worked together throughout the day and was a huge success with all ages posing in thousands of photos as well as being
Planning for the day included the development and preparation of a planning running sheet that kept track of all the organisation required leading up to the day and became a great reference point as more and more people became involved. This will be used as a template for future engagement activities within the brigade and included a member participation roster, Key contact names & numbers as well as a SMEAC briefing for brigade members.
The Merbein Vanilla Slice committee were very welcoming to the CFA involvement as was the MC of the event, Anthony Gerace from ABC Mildura Swan Hill. Anthony enabled many opportunities for the brigade to have exposure of the days events, ranging from appearances on the main stag, through to recording an interview with Captain Trevor Willcock whilst Anthony was in the midst of receiving a Fire blanket practical demonstration and lesson from Trevor.
The Merbein brigade will shortly be undertaking an AAR (After Action Review) of the days activities to understand what went well and what we can improve on for the next Community Engagement journey we travel on.
Lastly the Merbein Brigade Management Team would like to very much thank a number of people for their involvement on the day, with some 40 brigade members involved it is impossible to list everybody, however it would be remiss not to call out the Merbein Support Group for their catering on the day and keeping the station in tip top shape as a place of refuge and recovery, Tony Shilson for his willingness and enthusiasm throughout the day. Our photographer Zoe Brown. Matt Duda (Mildura Staff and Merbein Volunteer for reorganising his shift to help out). Kevin Sleep for his assistance in preparing for the event and finally to our fantastic brigade members, from long time members, through to new members who joined up only a few days earlier in their willingness, co-operation and preparation to help in any area needed on the day.