The Community Liaison Unit (CLU)

From Annie Palmer:

As a Community Liaison Officer (CLU) I worked for 4 days in the Evacuation Centre in Australind during the Waroona-Harvey Fire in mid-January 2016.

CLU officers are experienced volunteer fire fighters or DFES staff. We train for the role every year. CLU is the liaison between the Incident Management Team (IMT) and the supporting agencies responsible for
the population during a major emergency incident. It is a two way process as CLU advise Incident Management of the needs and conditions of the affected people and keep the people informed of the situation. CLU only operates in serious emergency events.

For the Waroona-Harvey fire the Leschenault Leisure Centre had over 1000 evacuees and it was one of three evacuation centres.  CLU has many duties including organising the community meetings and continuously providing fire information to evacuees. We work closely with Media Liaison and Public Information members IMT and one of us must attend meetings of the whole IMT.

As the situation progresses the CLU works with the Incident Control and the police to inform evacuees of the status of their homes. When it is safe, a special DFES team inspects each property and we match their reports to Local Government and other records. Notification of loss of life is managed carefully with strict procedures for informing people of their losses privately and with support. For this fire most people knew via social and other media. Waiting to see their property or go home is very frustrating for evacuees especially when some ignore advice and taking the risk to go home before the area is deemed safe. As soon as possible we take people to see their property with counsellors and their chosen support person.

If you are interested there is a more detail on the evacuation centre operation on the Yallingup Bush Fire Ready Facebook Page.

I came home exhausted and of course saddened after seeing the loss and pain. I also admire the courage and dignity of so many and was glad each time a person said ‘I had a plan I was ready and I have everything I really need in my car”. Those at Yarloop who lost their houses know their decision to leave saved their lives