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Regenerating communities after a bushfire

What happens when a bushfire has swept through your town, the media has disappeared to follow the next story and you're left to pick up the pieces?

Tuesday November 29, 2016

Australian Red Cross - Regenerating communities after a bushfire
A strong community is vital after a bushfire. Photo: Rodney Dekker

 A new study into the psychological effect of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria has found a quarter of those in the worst affected areas are still suffering serious mental health issues.

The Beyond Bushfires study, led by the University of Melbourne, surveyed over 1000 survivors of the Black Saturday bushfires. The disaster is considered Australia's worst recorded bushfire and claimed 173 lives, including 35 children.   

The study found that people benefited from stronger social ties.  

The National Coordinator of Red Cross Emergency Preparedness, John Richardson was involved in the study and says he agrees social ties are vital.

"Red Cross worked with those affected by the bushfires to help rebuild their lives. We introduced programs that really encouraged the community to come together. We could see the difference they made. The community begins to regenerate while the trees around them also come back to life," Mr Richardson said.

The Beyond Bushfires study also showed that not knowing the fate of your friends and family can have a significant effect on your mental health both during and after a disaster.   

John Richardson says Red Cross supports the report's recommendation that authorities implement the Red Cross Register.Find.Reunite. service as soon as possible during an emergency.   

"This service is so important because concern about loved ones is one of the most stressful issues during an emergency. Register.Find.Reunite. is a great resource that connects people during a disaster situation when it can be so easy to lose each other."

Mr Richardson says preparation is another key factor when it comes to recovering from an emergency.

"We know it's easier to rebuild your life after a disaster if you have prepared in advance for an emergency - whether it's a bushfire, cyclone, storm or flood. If you have your loved ones, your important documents, your insurance papers, your financial details and your identification, it gives you a great head start," Mr Richardson said.

Just go to the Red Cross RediPlan site to prepare for a disaster and create your personal emergency plan.

Red Cross is there to help communities plan for an emergency. We're there when an emergency hits and we're there to help rebuild communities in the days, weeks and years that follow.