24 November 2023

Local emergency response and resource program scores both state and national recognition

| Keeli Royle
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Flagstaff EMBER checklist.

The EMBER initiative included checklists, apps and backpacks to help people with disabilities prepare for emergency situations. Photo: Flagstaff EMBER.

The Flagstaff Group’s innovative and life-changing initiative to better protect and inform people with disabilities and frontline workers during emergencies has been honoured with national recognition at the Resilient Australia Awards.

The disability enterprise received the Resilient Australia Community Award from the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience at a ceremony in Perth for its EMBER program which was created in response to the devastating impacts of bushfires along the South Coast in 2020.

“The program was developed through co-design and based on the lived experiences of people with disabilities who were affected by the Shoalhaven Black Summer Bushfires,” Flagstaff CEO Rodney Von Clark explained.

“It has now expanded beyond the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions and involves emergency services and not-for-profit organisations in the emergency and disaster management sector.”

READ ALSO The Flagstaff program preparing people with a disability for disasters and emergencies

EMBER has continued to grow and develop with specialised go-bags, education sessions and easily accessible resources to improve communication, which can be used by other organisations and people across the country.

“The Flagstaff team has worked hard in making the EMBER suite of resources accessible and dynamic to ensure people with disability can access specific resources designed that are easy to read and understand as well as guide individuals to think about the extra things they may need to suit their circumstances,” Mr Von Clark said.

“Resources vary from an app that helps you prepare an emergency plan, to communication apps and tools, checklists, podcasts, online modules – all designed not only for a person with a disability and their carers, but also to help emergency personnel and volunteers assist people with disability during a highly stressed situation.”

“Mental health tools to aid in resilience and calming a person during an emergency are also available.”

Neighbour checking in for Flagstaff street mate campaign.

Flagstaff’s EMBER and Street Mate campaigns are helping fill a gap in emergency management. Photo: Flagstaff Street Mate.

As well as the widely used resources that can be adapted for the needs of different organisations and communities, the program includes the Street Mate campaign, which encouraged neighbours to check in with vulnerable members of their street.

It has also included the means to help emergency services best set up physical spaces to ease additional stressors that people with disabilities may experience during an emergency.

“What is unique about the EMBER program is we have thought about how a person with a disability would go at each step of a disaster and we now have placed over 20 Sensory Kits in Evacuation centres on the South Coast.”

“These evacuation Sensory Kits are a tool kit for an evacuation centre to aid them in welcoming a person with a disability to feel comfortable.”

“It contains sensory tools, noise canceling headphones, distractor games, a blender for special diets and even a pop-up tent to give a quiet space in normally a very noisy environment.”

READ ALSO Binowee native nursery a cultural learning space for Flagstaff participants

The latest accolade adds to a list of recognition for the evolving program, including the NSW Community Resilient Award, the Community Industry Group commendation for Innovative Idea, and the Emergency Media and Public Affairs National Award for Excellence in Community Engagement.

The organisation has also just launched its Resilience Crusaders project to educate evacuation centre volunteers on the South Coast about supporting people with disability in emergency situations.

For more information and resources, visit the EMBER website.

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