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Preventing the preventable

Samuel Beattie, who is taking the lead on the project, will be working alongside various community organisations, tenant groups, Family and Community Services (FACS) and with emergency services such as NSW State Emergency Service and Fire Rescue NSW to ensure that a solution is cross-cutting and inclusive of all types of emergencies. He will also be working with those who have the most in-depth understanding of the situation, the tenants themselves.

Ideally, communities are the best positioned to prepare and manage emergency situations. With local knowledge and details of the specifics of social housing in Australia, tenants will be able to prevent emergencies before they happen, and respond faster once they occur. This is especially poignant following the recent Grenfell Tower fire, in which close to 80 tenants lost their lives despite committees warning authorities about the danger posed by a lack of tenant preparedness and poor evacuation plans. The project therefore aims to bridge the gap between the voices of social housing tenants in Australia and those responsible for ensuring their protection.

“On my first visit to Northcott [social housing high-rise building], it became apparent that many did not know how to safely evacuate the building, where the emergency assembly point was located, or what to take in the event of an evacuation. Given the specific needs of some residents living in the building, such as the aged or those with less mobility, it is incredibly important to prepare residents for an emergency,” Mr Beattie said.

“This is a huge issue right now, and what I want is a coherent solution that ensures tenants feel safe in their own homes, and know what to do when a disaster occurs.”

The project will address the need to improve emergency preparedness among tenants through a three-stage process. The first stage will be the forming of a working group made up of key stakeholders; bringing together tenants, community organisations, and emergency services.

In the second stage, the working group will meet to design awareness raising and training programs in the affected communities.

The third stage will see the rollout of programs designed by the working groups, ensuring that materials are in line with the needs and priorities of those to whom they are disseminated.

Over the two initial years that the project has been approved, the primary outcomes are to educate, empower and prevent the preventable. At this stage, the Northcott building in Surry Hills and the Lawson building in Redfern are acting as the pilot for the project, which if successful, will be rolled out nationwide.

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