New regulations for BlazeAid volunteers

Adelong BlazeAid is still hard at work and receiving donations, the supermarket supply chain situation not holding them back. Pictured is volunteers Anne and Janette unloading donations from Food Bank.

On Monday evening the board of BlazeAid met to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and its ramifications for BlazeAid volunteers across the country.

The BlazeAid health response sub-committee presented their ‘BlazeAid COVID-19 Best Practice’ documents to the board during the meeting, which outline a number of mandatory and recommended practices to be undertaken by BlazeAid base camps starting Tuesday, March 17. The board approved the documents unanimously.

The documents were produced according to advice sourced from federal and state health authorities and they cover additional requirements and measures for all camps and volunteers, aiming to minimise the risk of, exposure to and spread of, COVID-19 to volunteers, farmers and local communities.

BlazeAid President Kevin Butler said that the documents would be delivered to all camp coordinators for immediate action, and that each coordinator will be reinforcing the relevant requirements at every daily morning safety muster. He said the documents are subject to change, as the need and directives from relevant health authorities require.

Aside from a very strong emphasis on the much advertised personal hygiene and social measures, the main points of note include:

– No new camps will be established until further notice

– People over the age of 75 will not be accepted as volunteers

– A New Volunteer Survey in place to screen out high-risk health, travel and contact compromised potential volunteers before they arrive at camps

– No school groups can volunteer until further notice

– Detailed information on social isolation and health measures in cases of volunteers becoming unwell at a camp

– Information on how and when volunteers should be directed for testing if the need arises

– Instalment of a 24/7 hotline accessible to all camp co-ordinators to immediately deal with issues as they arise

– Disseminated information fact sheets and infographics from relevant Federal and State Health Departments

BlazeAid also highlighted, and will enforce, the newly announced federal mandate that any person arriving in Australia from overseas must self-isolate for 14 days as announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on March 15.

Mr Butler and his wife, Rhonda, have extended their thanks to the health response sub-committee who worked tirelessly over a 48-hour period in a rapidly changing landscape to “produce an extremely comprehensive set of documentation aimed at protecting not only the extremely important work of BlazeAid, but all of our volunteers and associated communities.”

Information and resources about the coronavirus are stuck all over camp, with everyone erring on the side of caution.

Christine Male, BlazeAid coordinator at the Adelong base camp, said that as of right now, things are operating as normal at their camp and they are still progressing through their work at a good pace, seeing a good number of volunteers come through.

“Our intention, all being well, [is] to continue working,” she said.

The Adelong BlazeAid camp usually has around 50 people on site, so they are well below the 500 person limit being imposed by the Government for non-essential gatherings.

Mrs Male said that they are encouraging hand washing at the base camp, and have signs up to inform volunteers of what COVID-19 symptoms are and what to do if they develop symptoms.

“They’re trying times, it’s difficult times, but we’ve just got to try and stay focused and sensible and take all the precautions possible,” she said.