2015 Innovation and Design Award winner and finalists

Winner

Medium Pumper

In late 2013 SEM Fire and Rescue set about designing a new medium pumper that would assist in improving the efficient and effective performance of volunteer firefighters when tackling blazes.

To gain a better understanding of volunteer firefighters’ requirements, SEM worked with CFA and its members to design a pumper that is easier to use and access, and incorporated new features such as electric motored hose reels, adjusted swing out lockers,  easy-to-reach shelving, fold-out doors and a light weight expansion frame.

Throughout the development and testing stage of the prototype SEM engaged with CFA members to trial the new features and made amendments to improve the design and functionality, listening to their comments and concerns throughout the process.

Finalists

Bushfire Evacuation Simulation for Community Preparedness and Planning

When a Bushfire Evacuation simulation is run, users get a bird’s eye view of an unfolding bushfire situation in the community. The bushfire (Phoenix simulated fire)

can be seen progressing across the landscape while at the same time, cars can be seen  leaving their homes when residents evacuate.

This kind of simulation exercise can be very valuable for community education and engagement when joint emergency planning is being undertaken by the community services.

Each virtual resident is modelled individually and behaves differently depending on their personal situation. Some residents drive into dangerous areas because they are going to pick up loved ones who do not have personal transportation such as young children from school.

Bottlenecks in traffic around key intersections or slow roads quickly become apparent during these simulations

As the simulation progresses viewers are able to understand what happens around their neighbourhood, how the fire may realistically spread and understand how individual actions can impact on the overall evacuation.

The tool also allows emergency services to plan an evacuation at a high level, by scheduling how and when the different regions of the community should be evacuated. This feature is useful also in personnel training for incident controllers.

Finally, since this is a virtual simulation, hundreds or even thousands of different scenarios can be run and results aggregated, to understand what most likely, as well as extreme, outcomes might look like.

The simulation tool is open-source and is free for use by anyone from emergency services units, to local community groups.

Using GIS to minimise fire threats posed by revegetation activities in the Wimmera

Recent bushfires in Victoria’s west have raised concerns by landholders, Landcare and local CFA groups as to the appropriateness of revegetation activities in bushfire prone areas. As vegetation increases fuel loads, there were concerns that plantings may elevate fire risk.

Through investigating these concerns, Wimmera Catchment Management Authority (CMA) identified that there was no existing mechanism to detect threats posed by revegetation activities conducted as part of Landcare funding streams and each CMA’s internal programs. In light of this the Wimmera CMA, with the support of CFA Grampians Region, developed a set of rules to trigger a referral to the CFA if revegetation activities were scoped to take place in areas which may elevate fire risks into the future.

By avoiding planting in potentially inappropriate locations, this initiative ultimately aims to reduce fire risk, as it allows project managers to be more pragmatic in choosing sites for revegetation projects.

The product delivers a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) dataset and mapping application outlining areas of high fire risk and/or consequence which will be used to ensure regional revegetation activities are located in appropriate areas. If a proposed revegetation site aligns with a high risk and/or consequence area, the site will be flagged for consultation and approval from the CFA, which would be required to continue. The CFA may request the location to be adjusted, or may come up with a management plan to reduce fire risk in the area.

The ‘Victorian Fire Risk Register – Bushfire’ (VFRR-B) was used to develop this map, as it best combines the knowledge and priorities of local government and the CFA in a single, authoritative state-wide dataset. The VFRR-B is actively maintained and provides the best snapshot of the risk of fire to communities, infrastructure, the environment and culturally significant assets. Leveraging the information within the VFRR-B, and working alongside the CFA Grampians Region, Wimmera CMA proposed and implemented a set of rules around when the CFA should be consulted about revegetation activities.

Using GIS, weighted buffer distances were applied to the VFRR-B datasets to proportionally extend the area around important assets. Buffer distances were defined based on the asset’s type, risk rating and potential for ember attack.

Once created, these buffers were merged and mapped to develop a new dataset, describing areas of high risk where the addition of vegetation to the landscape may be deemed inappropriate.

The product has been setup to automatically generate the buffers, so that the dataset would remain up-to-date when updated VFRR-B datasets are supplied by CFA quarterly. This means that the most up to date information is always available.

VESDA-E VEU & VEA

VESDA-E VEU & VEA has been developed to reduce the number of false alarm call outs that fire brigades have to attend. The system has been designed for high rise apartment blocks, office blocks and shopping centres.

The product is able to evaluate the amount of smoke particles in the air against the pre-determined smoke particle levels that indicate that it is a not a false alarm (false alarms are often caused for example by burnt toast or the presence of dust or exhaust particles).

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