Fire readiness to be shared on ACT First

Fire readiness to be shared on ACT First

A community of ACT social media users will add to front-line preparations this year such as hazard burning, bulldozing and heavy grazing of fire breaks to prepare Canberrans for their next natural disaster.

Posts from people cleaning their gutters, mowing lawns, trimming trees and protecting their family will go up on a new website, ACT First, to be launched in early November. ACT Rural Fire Service chief Andrew Stark heads a steering committee of scientists, Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and the ANU's Climate Change Institute people who will oversee the website's content.

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Credit:Peter Stoop

Material will include a history of natural disasters including ACT earthquakes, floods, heatwaves, weather records and disaster plans.

In another online advance for the territory's bushfire preparedness, Google has launched a crisis map that shows bushfire activity in the ACT and other states. Using information from the ACT Emergency Services Agency, the map shows the location of fires and the agency responding to them. It does not yet show, as it does for some other states, the status of fires and threats or road closures.


Last year ACT bushfire authorities control burnt 12,500 hectares, slashed 8000 hectares of grass and heavily grazed 7000 hectares.

This year they will burn across 6500 hectares and will be backed up by people in the community posting their individual efforts on the ACT First website.

Those posts will present an up-to-the minute picture of how people are preparing for an emergency, to encourage others to follow suit.

Green Cross Australia, part of an international environmental network founded in 1993 to help people prepare for natural disasters, is co-ordinating the website, the second in Australia, following the inaugural Harden Up - Protecting Queensland site.

The federal and ACT governments have split the set-up costs of $240,000, and a network of Red Cross, RSPCA, firefighters and other volunteers will encourage the public to keep ACT First updated.

Green Cross Australia chief executive Mara Bun said ACT First would focus on preparedness, and in a major fire or flood, would divert people to the Emergency Services Agency website.

''It is the combination of pulling together this rich history of national disasters in Canberra, going back to recorded history, so people living in the ACT region can begin to place what is happening now into the context of what has happened before,'' Ms Bun said.

''And also to build that flavour of social media, kind of edgy design, community engagement, the ability for people to upload stories, little case studies on what they are doing and seeing people are actually clearing their gutters.''

Ms Bun said it was one thing to hear of a bushfire, it was another to learn about the top things to do from information in mailboxes and the media. ''The beauty of websites like this is the community itself comes to life,'' Ms Bun said.

People would be encouraged to share ACT First's case studies on big events.

''We are covering bushfires from early in Canberra's history, heatwaves even before Canberra was established, history of flooding and what's happened since the big floods of 1971, just that edgy, cool content that people will want to share on their Facebook page and the fact they are doing something,'' she said.

Note: The ACT First launch date has been moved back from October 31 to early November.

John Thistleton is a reporter for The Canberra Times.

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