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Team photo by fire engine

Improving Safety for Refugees in Lebanon

At the end of July 2017, Operation Florian were requested by the UNHCR Lebanon - Bekaa Valley Regional Office and the Save the Children International Lebanon team to deliver a national workshop for the standardisation of Community Safety Education Training Programmes for NGO staff members working with refugee communities in Lebanon.

Possibly the first of its kind anywhere in the world, the workshop delivered specific community based fire safety training with staff from a range of NGOs working with refugee communities in Lebanon and largely supported by Save the Children Lebanon. The workshop focused on supporting the design and delivery of fire safety and prevention training programmes to refugee communities living in camps in both the informal tented settlements (ITS) and substandard buildings (SSB). With the principle idea that those being trained would become master trainers and be able to deliver this training programme to their own peers and colleagues.

Realising the importance of this project, the team were reminded of the vulnerabilities of the camps to fires when they arrived in Lebanon at the same time as two significant fires in the informal tented settlements.  The first fire occurred in Barr Elias in which the fire swept through one of the ITS, destroying all 102 tents and killing a two-year-old boy. The following day a neighbouring ITS, Qab Elias, suffered a similar tragedy with a six-year-old girl being killed when a tyre (used to weight the plastic sheeting in place) fell from the roof and trapped her in the burning structure.

The idea for the workshop developed from one of the key recommendations within the fire risk reduction report conducted in July 2016. The principle idea was to encourage mainstreaming community fire safety awareness and practices within the wider range of humanitarian services delivered.

It is undeniable that fire risk is significantly high and evidenced by the fires that have and continue to occur.  However, simply seeing the problem as being resolved by providing fire extinguishers or relying on the Lebanese fire service to respond overlooked the importance of improving risk awareness within ITS and SSB and removing or reducing fire risks by raising awareness amongst staff and educating communities.

It was agreed to deliver the workshop in 4 modules and was designed to work with NGO staff raising their level of awareness to understanding the risks and the key contributing causes of fires whilst assessing what local solutions and approaches could be developed to reduce fire outbreaks.

Module 1 addressed theoretical aspects of fire development and fire spread, causes of fire, understanding the hierarchy of control measures that could be used and child specific fire safety intervention techniques.

Participants in module 2 then put into practice their newly learnt skills and knowledge by delivering fire safety awareness activities in both ITS and SSB with both child specific led activities and working with community leaders and adults. In keeping with the objectives of the course the participants were involved in evaluating how they delivered the programmes in order to assist with the module 3 activity to design their own training programme to be delivered amongst their peers.

Finally, in module 4 the Operation Florian team worked with the course participants to understand and improve their own evaluation techniques to be able to be more effective as master trainers.

Throughout the 8 days the 18 participants who attended gained a significant amount of knowledge and more importantly confidence in being able to assess and reduce fire risk.  This was evident in the workshop evaluation undertaken where all respondents confirmed in a post-course questionnaire a markedly improved level of their own knowledge. One participant said: ‘I always thought anything to do with fire could only be dealt with by fire specialist.  Now I realise that anyone can do this and help reduce fires’.

Lebanon Project

Vital to this project was the country and context specific nature of the programme. This is essential as the Florian team, over time, have realised the importance of understanding the challenges that exist within their own specific environment.

The team would like to thank all the staff at Save the Children and UNHCR for organising and facilitating this project.  The Florian team hope this is the start of further opportunities to improve the lives of refugees in Lebanon and the rest of the world.


Asia, Lebanon