An innovative collaboration between Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and Carers Queensland has seen first responders in the Rockhampton region trained with the skills and resources needed to support people with disability before, during and after a disaster.
The Disability Awareness workshops were held in August at the Mount Morgan Fire Station, the QFES Regional Office in Rockhampton and the Rockhampton Leagues Club. They are part of a pilot program that’s expected to be rolled out at various regions across the state.
Carers Queensland helped some 100 emergency services personnel develop an awareness of perceptions of disability and identify barriers that can be present when supporting people with a disability in disaster situations.
The training follows a series of consultations Carers Queensland held with QFES personnel in May, including Acting Assistant Commissioner, Central Region, Steven Smith, which provided useful insight into the role of emergency services in disaster situations.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Steven Smith said: “It is important that QFES understands the diverse demographic profile of our community to ensure that we are best positioned to support all people, including those with disabilities, in the prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery phases of emergency incidents and disasters”.
“The level of engagement and positive response by staff during the consultation sessions was evidence of the value the training will provide. Our people are seeking to gain an understanding of how they can better support and work alongside people with disabilities during emergencies.
“The consultation sessions have already gone a long way to enhancing our relationships and networks within the disability sector. We are looking forward to strengthening this relationship and see the disability awareness training program as an excellent platform from which we can do this.”
The workshops come as recent data reveals nearly one-in-four residents (23.8 per cent or 18,866 people) in the Rockhampton region identify as having a disability and authorities start preparations for the upcoming natural disaster season.
QFES Business Development Officer for the Central Region, Simon Yarrow, lives with a visual impairment and spoke highly of the collaboration.
“This initiative is truly the way forward for QFES to build our people’s skillsets when engaging with people with disabilities,” he said.
“The statistics are showing that there is a potential for day-to-day contact with people with a disability and understanding how best to assist them can only serve to build a more capable and connected community.
“Along with empowering our community to be better prepared before, during and after emergency and disaster events, this training can provide our personnel the tools to recognise, react and manage the needs of our community.”
As Queensland’s largest National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Local Area Coordinator (LAC) Partner in the Community, Carers Queensland is working on projects across the state to build a more inclusive and accessible community.
Carers Queensland Board Chair Jim Toohey said the organisation was working with emergency services agencies to improve emergency services disaster responses for everyone in local communities, including people with disability.
“It’s already a strength of emergency services personnel to respond and adapt to a variety of rapidly changing situations that present in times of disaster,” Mr Toohey said.
“This disability awareness training is adding to that knowledge base and ensuring emergency services personnel are confident about their communication with someone living with a disability in order to understand their needs and be able to support them.
“This program is also about breaking down misconceptions of people who live with a disability and helping QFES personnel to have a better understanding around the uniqueness of people’s needs.
“We are grateful for the interest and willingness among emergency services personnel to ensure they are meeting the needs of the people in their communities.”
Kelly Jones, local Rockhampton resident and one of Carers Queensland’s LAC Community and Mainstream team members, helped to facilitate the Disability Awareness workshops.
“People with disabilities face additional challenges before, during and after a disaster situation, but this training will hopefully give them increased confidence in the abilities of emergency services personnel to support them and their unique needs,” Ms Jones said.
Ms Jones said she hoped the pilot program would eventually be offered in other QFES regions throughout Queensland, with further discussions in the pipeline around how emergency services personnel in remote communities can access disability training.
“Through community events in and around the Rockhampton region, we are also connecting people with disability to emergency services personnel, which also helps to raise everyone’s confidence in relation to disaster preparedness,” she said.
To learn more about the work Carers Queensland is doing with emergency services agencies, visit our Emergency Service Connect information page.
Carers Queensland can support you to find out more about the NDIS, to apply for funding and to help you get started with the NDIS.
You can also contact Carers Queensland on 1300 999 636, email@example.com or sign up to our LAC Connect app here.