Back in October 2019 when the fires were at Watch and Act level, icare got on the front foot and used the Rural Fire Services resources across all states to cross reference postcodes against its Care customers. They were going to need urgent assistance to ensure their safety.
Across NSW, 25 participants were directly impacted by fire and all of them were offered assistance including help with evacuating their homes and finding temporary accommodation if necessary. Road closures and intense heat made simple tasks like filling a prescription significantly more difficult than normal. In one case, a generator was sourced and transported by plane to Moruya as the participant wasn’t able to return home without one.
As Christmas and New Year approached this work became increasingly difficult and the team went to extraordinary lengths to make sure that icare’s most severely injured were supported through this crisis. Often evacuation centres were not suitable as many are not able to accommodate people in wheelchairs, so alternatives such as hotels were sourced.
“We looked at the locations of where the fires had been on the RFS website and cross referenced them with the postcodes of our Lifetime Care participants which meant that we knew who had been potentially affected by fires,” said Deborah Hoffman, General Manager Care Services at icare.
All the senior managers within Care and their teams were then able to contact their customers to check on their wellbeing and ascertain what assistance they required. In some cases, this was a challenge because mobile coverage and electricity supplies were adversely affected by the fires.
“Our participants have significant daily medical needs that have to be met. Once we had identified what the RFS, the Australian Red Cross and other external agencies were able to deliver to our participants, we then worked with our participants and other service providers to try and address any other injury related needs they may have had,” said Deborah.
No easy task given that some participants live in extremely remote locations or were located in areas with limited road access due to the fires. The Care team were able to work with other parts of the business such as the home modifications team, and attendant care teams to temporarily relocate people to a safer location, or to deliver what people needed to be able to return home after the fire threat had eased.
As the fires endure around NSW, the Care team continue to go the extra mile which has meant that some evacuees have been allowed to go home. Others remain in temporary accommodation or with family and friends.
The fires have taken their toll on many of the customers with some suffering from mental health or experiencing significant breathing problems but the icare Care team have stood together during this extraordinary crisis and, despite the odds, worked nothing short of a miracle.