Thursday, December 10, 2009

place of last resort – a better name for an unsafe place

report from the roundtable – 8 dec

At this week’s council meeting I moved the following motion:
"That council write to the Premier of Victoria, the Hon John Brumby MP, with a copy to local MPs, requesting that the name of Neighbourhood Safer Places be changed to Places of Last Resort."

I continue to be very concerned that many in our community consider Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSPs) to be a safe place. In conversation and bushfire community meetings it is clear to me that NSPs are being given far too much consideration as a place to go in the event of a bushfire in the Dandenongs. I have heard people refer to NSPs as "safe places", "safe havens" and "refuges", people are considering them as part of their fire plan.

The Multi Agency community bushfire briefing in Upwey last week.
I believe many of these perceptions occur because of the name of NSPs and that’s why I moved a motion to advocate to change the name so it is abundantly clear that these places are Places of Last Resort.

The message isn’t getting out there, the last place you want to be in the case of a fire is in a car trying to seek shelter at an NSP. The road is a scary place in a bushfire, smoky with decreased vision, noisy, windy, people panicking, it is not a place I’d want to be under those conditions.

It is my view that you are far safer in your home than on the road seeking some sort of shelter in an open field. The CFA’s message is clear, leave early, not only on catastrophic code red days but on all total fire ban days. Only those who are well prepared should stay and defend.

The focus on NSPs has diminished the CFA’s message of leave early with some in our community considering NSPs as their fall back position. The last place I’d want to be in the event of a bushfire is heading to an NSP. I do understand that we have many visitors to the hills and perhaps NSPs have a role to play for these people, but there needs to be a really strong message that these are Places of Last Resort.

An NSP does not guarantee safety, they do not cater for animals, there is no guarantee that emergency services will be there to protect you, they do not provide for specialist needs such as infants, the elderly, the ill or disabled and in the case of open spaces they do not provide shelter from ember attack.

We should be calling these places for what they are, there is nothing safe or safer about them, they are Places of Last Resort and there is no guarantee you will survive using one.
Councillors unanimously supported the motion for a name change to Places of Last Resort.

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