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Resilience to keep going


Brian Griffin knows there are things in life that take you by surprise, like the suicide of a son, or moving a wife into aged care because of dementia. These are two life changing events that Brian has experienced, and to get through them his motto is simply "just keep going".

And Brian certainly has kept on going. At 70 years of age, Brian gets up early to be at work at a vineyard by 7am and leaves at 4pm to go and visit his wife Chris at the aged care home, before going home for dinner at 7pm.

Brian and Chris have been married for 43 years. It's been a huge change for Brian to go from sharing their family home, to living alone with his beloved dog Cody. He talks about moving Chris into care. "I still miss her immensely."

Brian lives on a 111-hectare property on the banks of Lake Alexandria, a remote area an hour and a half from Adelaide, South Australia. Living alone at an older age in an isolated area that is at an increased risk of grass fires, heatwaves and power outages makes Brian more vulnerable, particularly in times of an emergency.

Brian went to a Red Cross REDiPlan session that was held at a local Carers Wellness Centre. Red Cross worked with the local council to organise the session to support Brian and other carers in the community.

"I nearly didn't make it, but I'm glad I did go," says Brian.

At the session, Brian learnt about the simple four-step process he could implement to prepare for a disaster - any disaster, not just fires, floods and cyclones, but even isolated events that might only impact an individual, rather than a whole community.

"It made me think a little. I came away from it with a wind-up radio that doesn't require batteries, and I bought myself a 12 volt battery with an inverter. I have sleep apnoea, so I've got a C-PAP machine that I have to use which supplies compressed air for respiratory ventilation. If the power goes out or anything like that, I've now got the battery as back-up."

Furthermore, after the REDiPlan session, Brian went to a solicitor and arranged for his daughter to be both his and Chris's Power of Attorney, ensuring she is legally authorised to manage their affairs if anything were ever to happen to them.

As part of the plan, Red Cross encourages people to have their paperwork in order, including Wills, passports, marriage and birth certificates, insurance, and mortgage papers, and to keep copies in their Emergency Kit so if anything suddenly does happen, they know where to start.
Research has shown that people like Brian who prepare for emergencies will be more resilient if one occurs and are likely to recover more quickly. Knowing your neighbours is also proven to be one of the most important elements in aiding recovery and is therefore a key feature of the REDiPlan. For Brian, a major contributor to his recovery from the personal crises he has experienced is his network of neighbours.

"We seem to know what things are going on. They'll ring up or I'll ring up once a week. We all seem to be talking to each other at some stage," he says.

Jai O'Toole, Red Cross Emergency Services manager in South Australia, says that Red Cross is working with the most vulnerable in the community to prepare for disasters.

Our experience combined with evidence tells us that there are people in our community who are at higher risk of being heavily impacted by an emergency. In the Victorian Bushfires of 2009, 44% of those who died were either above 70 or below 12 years of age or had acute health issues.

"REDiPlan helps people, particularly those like Brian who are older, living alone or caring for someone, have processes and resources in place so that when something does happen, whether it's an isolated event that only impacts one household, or a large scale emergency like a bushfire, people have a plan of what steps to take next and improve their ability to recover."

More than 250 people received REDiPlan training, many of whom live in remote areas and would potentially need significant support in case of an emergency. The participants felt better prepared to cope with an emergency after attending a session. With such a positive response, REDiPlan is now being delivered in two other vulnerable communities in South Australia.

Brian found REDiPlan an invaluable tool to prepare for any emergency, so that if another unexpected event in his life occurs it will help him to "just keep going".

"It doesn't take much to put a plan together," says Brian. "I'd rather have a plan in the back of my mind, than not have one at all."