A proposed tribute to firefighters who have been fighting bushfires across Australia has been discouraged by authorities due to the confusion it may cause.
On social media, people proposed attaching orange ribbons to their letterboxes on January 10, as a tribute to the firefighters across the country who have been working tirelessly to control several raging fires.
One of the many fire agencies opposing the idea was the Wodonga West Fire Brigade, which pointed out why such an initiative going national could cause mass confusion.
“As the message is going national – there is no one definite answer as to how each service mark and record things,” Wodonga West wrote on Facebook.
“A ribbon on a gate in one state can mean the property has been searched for survivors, where in another state it can mean there is water accessible and it could differ between services eg: CFA & MFB.”
Even within one state, different fire authorities have issued different advice.
“Whilst we appreciate any tribute to our firefighters, Fire and Rescue NSW are not behind any official call to place ribbons anywhere,” Fire and Rescue NSW wrote on their Facebook.
How to help firefighters
Fire and Rescue NSW did offer an alternative to putting ribbons on letterboxes, which could help firefighters attending to a blaze, while acknowledging the support they have received.
“We encourage anyone who has a Static Water Supply (pool, dam, large water tank) to instead fix a SWS sign to their mailbox or front fence,” the post said.
“You can get an SWS sign from our local fire station or otherwise write it on your fence or mailbox and our crews will know they can access this water supply should they need to.”
Last year, Fire and Rescue NSW Macarthur Region Command MS3 shared a photo to Facebook of the SWS sign, which people can print out to place on their letterboxes if need be.
“This is only meant to be temporary as we would encourage you to contact your local Fire station so we can assess your static water supply,” the post from November said.
The NSW Rural Fire Service in the Hunter Valley addressed whether or not the RFS responds to certain coloured ribbons and takes them as a sign of distress, or whether someone has a fire extinguisher.
“Red and yellow tape is generally NOT used by NSW RFS or FRNSW for marking houses with hydrants or people in distress,” the Hunter Valley branch of the RFS said.
“It is not in either fire agencies standard operating procedures/guidelines to do this.
“If you do want to hang red and yellow ribbons on your letterbox then its your choice. We won’t be alarmed or concerned if you do or don’t.”
Ribbons on fences may confuse firies
Wodonga West Fire Brigade also noted in their post, firefighters will often travel out of their jurisdiction to help wherever they are needed, and having ribbons or streamers on letterboxes could confuse firies battling blazes outside their usual area.
“So after all that - our advice would be a sign if you felt you needed to, but the BEST piece of advice we could give would be to have a well practiced plan in place for you and your family, an evac [evacuation] kit packed and ready to go, keep an eye on your neighbours and listen to the advice given by the emergency services,” Wodonga West Fire Brigade said.
Last year, Fire and Rescue NSW BA Hazmat shared a Facebook post encouraging people to look after the hydrant near their homes.
Hydrants are located a few feet underground a path or road and often have a yellow cover with a H marked on top.
“By looking after the hydrant near your house or work you are helping firefighters in an emergency,” the Facebook post said.
“Clear the area around hydrants of any grass, vegetation, gardens, rubbish and dirt. Ensure nobody parks over a hydrant at any time.”
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