June 29, 2012 – Canyonleigh Chronilce: At the recent 2012 Community Engagement & Fire Awareness Conference held in Wollongong, Frances Crown and the Canyonleigh Rural Fire Service were awarded one of only four Community Engagement Awards. Presented by Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers ASFM, these inaugural awards recognize commitment to working with the community to help be prepared for a bush fire situation.
This recognition adds to the 2011 Safer Community Award presented late last year by the Minster for Police and Emergency Services, Michael Gallacher at Parliament House in Sydney.
The Women’s Fire Awareness Program started in 2005 when Frances brought together the a group of women to give them an understanding of the need to have a plan in the event of a bush fire in Canyonleigh. Since 2005 Frances has run a number of these courses, both in Canyonleigh and for other RFS Brigades in the Southern Highlands. The course is a combination of theory and practical during which participants learn how to write a bush fire plan.
Invited to be a keynote speaker at the 2012 Community Engagement & Fire Awareness Conference, Frances was able to demonstrate how she engages her audience by using several techniques including empathy, humour and activities. As an experienced adult educator, Frances understands the need to make people feel welcome from the time they arrive by using a non-threatening environment that will influence a person’s openness to the course. To do this Frances uses a series of “graffiti sheets” spread around the walls. These sheets are used to ask participants questions about how they’re feeling about the course, what their expectations are and some fun questions about themselves. By providing answers, the participants are not left standing around and feeling uncomfortable because they don’t know anyone and it provides a common ground along with the ability to converse with people they have only just met.
During the courses Frances is joined by Canyonleigh resident Carolyn Chaplin, who attended the original course in 2005. Carolyn used the tools and knowledge provided at the course to develop her own set of checklists and instructions for use in the high stress environment that is synonymous with a bush fire emergency. Carolyn provides course attendees with an overview of her checklists, instructions and protective clothing. Also invited to be a keynote speaker at the Wollongong conference with Frances, Carolyn ran a “show and tell” dialogue including her fire pump instruction card, colour coded to match the switches on the pump.
At the conclusion of their presentation both Frances and Carolyn were approached by a number of enthusiastic delegates who are looking to engage with their own communities through a similar course or who are already working with their communities. Some 400 RFS delegates from around NSW were joined at the conference by agencies from areas such as South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and ACT.
News of the award spread quickly with local radio and the Southern Highlands News featuring stories about Frances, her course and the award.