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Byron Shire
July 15, 2024

Emergency response plans for the vulnerable

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Murray Drechsler has been a member of the RFS and community engagement officer for 22 years. He is helping vulnerable members of the community develop personal emergency plans. Photo Jeff Dawson.

It has been a challenging five years for most people in the Northern Rivers, from drought to the Black Summer fires of 2019/20 followed by the pandemic and then the 2022 floods. As difficult as it has been for the average person, it is even more challenging for people with a disability. 

‘I was saddened to see that after the Black Summer fires and the 2022 floods there were no emergency plans put in place for people with disabilities, the elderly and vulnerable,’ long term Rural Fire Service (RFS) firefighter and community education officer Murray Drechsler told The Echo.

Taking note of the lack of preparedness Mr Drechsler decided to take action and took on training developed in conjunction with Sydney University called the Person-Centred Emergency Preparedness Toolkit.  

‘This is a personalised plan to meet people’s specific needs designed by people  with a disability for people with a disability,’ said Mr Drechsler. 

‘People with a disability face a unique set of challenges in an emergency. A Person-Centred Emergency plan (PCEP) provides them with a plan on how to respond in a given emergency, knowing what to do, where to go or who to call for help. Having the plan in place also gives individuals and families a peace of mind.’

What are your risks? 

Heatwaves are one of the biggest killers and something as simple as power outages might impact phones, lifts, heating and cooling facilities and other services without which the disabled or elderly can be put at risk.

The PCEP program takes about two hours a week for around five to six weeks and takes an indepth look at the needs and requirements of the individuals in a range of emergency situations. 

‘It is designed to address the personalised challenges that each individual faces,’ explained Mr Drechsler. 

‘We look at where the accessible emergency services are, if they have pets where they can go, when it is the right to stay in place or leave, etc. It gives people ownership over how they respond in an emergency.’

For more information call Murray on 0418 754 869, email: [email protected], or look up the program online at: www.collaborating4inclusion.org. 


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