Researchers, end users and training experts have joined forces through AFAC to develop a new, national evidence-based fire weather learning and training resource for emergency services.
A project team from AFAC’s Predictive Services Group, including representatives from the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), collaboratively developed Interpret and Analyse Fire Weather Information. The finished learner resource (PUAFIR414) is part of the Public Safety Training Package for the sector and is available now from the AFAC Shop.
Core knowledge and robust research evidence on fire weather, and its link with fire behavior, delivered through the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) program has been captured and translated into a resource for practitioners. This body of knowledge has been built over the past 14 years of the former Bushfire CRC and current Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC.
“This means that fire managers and practitioners now have access to currently available and consistent knowledge, research and information on fire weather in one practical and accessible resource,” according to Predictive Services Group (PSG) Manager Greg Esnouf and project team leader Mike Wouters.
“This is a significant step forward for national consistency in training, bringing complex fire weather science concepts and information, as well as current knowledge and the research within the reach of all our end users,” says Mike.
Mike, who chairs the PSG’s working group on training, conducted the trials and evaluation for fire weather training using the resource within his own agency, the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, and in consultation with other agencies.
“By enhancing our understanding of fire concepts, fire weather products issued by the Bureau of Meteorology and other relevant information can be readily interpreted to provide advice to fire managers,” he says.
“A good understanding of these fire and weather factors and how they interact can improve firefighter and community safety greatly, including during fire prevention activities such as prescribed burning.”
The resource is designed to enable users to collect fire information from a range of sources, identify information relevant to particular fire events and interpret its significance and provide reports or briefings to incident managers, operational staff and volunteers, as well as to the community.
The PSG, supported by AFAC’s Research Utilisation Manager Noreen Krusel, facilitated the project team, which drew on the expertise of subject matter experts within the Group together with CRC researchers, including Jason Sharples, Mika Peace and Rick McRae. They also collaborated with AFAC’s Director of Workforce Development Sandra Lunardi.
BoM’s National Manager of Fire Weather and Air Quality Services, Monica Long, was appointed technical editor for the project.
Monica, a training specialist at BoM, says existing, available resources hadn’t been reviewed and updated in line with the science or knowledge for more than a decade. The net effect was inconsistency in awareness and understanding of the fundamentals of fire weather and its link with fire behavior.
“This meant that fire weather could be left to the interpretation of individuals without any grounding in science or the research evidence.”
Mike adds that previous resources and information were general, disparate and often presented a traditional south eastern Australia perspective on fire weather and fire behavior. This was the best widely available knowledge at the time.
Previous efforts by groups and individuals to undertake the task of reviewing and refreshing fire weather training information had started and stalled over many years. This was due to a range of factors, such as changing resourcing and shifting priorities.
The PSG provided the support and focus for the ‘spark to shift’.
Monica says the resource was carefully developed with the target audiences in mind, including the use of language, visuals and audio-video.
The project team also called in the known researchers and science experts to make sense of the science and its implications for practice. The researchers reviewed existing materials, provided feedback and wrote sections and chapters within their areas of expertise, often in consultation with their colleagues and other stakeholders.
Researcher Jason Sharples, who is also a firefighter, says the new resource captured the reality of fire in a format consistent with the science.
AFAC | Brenda Leahy