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The following discussion summarises the Commission’s
interim report, its conclusions, and the areas in which
it has made recommendations for the 2009–10 bushfire season. A full list of the
recommendations can be found at the end of the Executive Summary. Details of these
conclusions and recommendations and the evidence that support them are set out in the
February 2009 the whole of south‑east
Australia was experiencing a severe and protracted drought. During January 2009
much of Victoria had no rain and most areas of the State had recorded near
late January 2009 heatwave conditions developed across Victoria and on
7 February many all-time temperature records were set. In Melbourne the
temperature reached 46.4°C. The previous record was 45.6°C set on Black Friday
(13 January 1939).
extreme conditions were recognised by the Victorian Government and fire
agencies. Prior to 7 February, Victorians were warned that the forecast weather
was worse than Ash Wednesday, and senior government officials, from the Premier
down, warned that it was likely to be ‘the worst day ever in the history of the
dreadful expectations were matched by the calamity that resulted on 7 February.
long-serving Country Fire Authority officers had not experienced such fires.
The rate of spread of the fires equalled the maximum previously recorded, and
the prolific spotting made fire behaviour on the day unique.
Reports referred to flames leaping 100 metres into the air, generating heat so
intense that aluminium road signs melted. The plume of the fires created a
convection effect that generated winds so strong that trees appeared
to have been screwed from the ground.
One hundred and seventy-three people died in the fires.
The personal cost cannot be overestimated. The Commission has glimpsed the ruin
and observed the raw emotions of those left behind. Whilst physical recovery is
underway, many of the losses are permanent.
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Figure 1: 2009 Victorian bushfires
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map covers the fires up to 23 February 2009, including those discussed in this
is against this background that the Hon Bernard Teague AO, Mr Ron McLeod AM and
Ms Susan Pascoe AM
were appointed to be Commissioners of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal
Commission with Terms of Reference that required it to produce an interim
report by 17 August 2009 and a final report by 31 July 2010.
Royal Commission is an administrative inquiry established by Executive
Government which, by long tradition, operates independently. A Royal Commission
is a valuable mechanism by which the circumstances of the involvement of
government or government agencies in an event like the 7 February bushfires can
be thoroughly examined in a public setting. A Royal Commission has broad
investigative powers. It is not under a duty to reach
a definitive verdict. It has a duty to report on the nature of its inquiries,
explaining what conclusions were drawn
from its investigations and what advice it should give the Executive Government
based on its deliberations.
the outset the Commission saw its interaction with all Victorians, and in
particular those affected by the fires, as a vital cornerstone of its work. The
Commission’s first priority was to meet with and listen to people from the
communities directly affected by the fires. Between 18 March and 9 April the
Commission held 26 community consultations in 14 fire locations. Some 1200
The consultations enabled the Commission to hear
first-hand about people’s experiences and gain valuable insights
into how individuals and communities had dealt with the disaster. It was a
privilege to be allowed into these communities to hear highly personal accounts
of the difficult experiences and losses suffered.
experiences have influenced the priority of issues covered in the Commission’s
The people involved in the consultations talked about their preparation for the
fire, how they felt the emergency
effort was managed, the communication of warnings, and recovery efforts
four weeks of the consultations provided an important opportunity for those
involved to come together and
talk about their experiences. This, in itself, was a valuable outcome of the
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submissions were invited from any person or organisation with information
relevant to the Commission’s Terms of Reference. Over 1200 submissions were
received prior to the closing date for the interim report. They have come from
across Victoria, from people in fire-affected and unaffected areas, and from
around Australia and overseas.
submissions have helped the Commission to frame its work program. They have
contributed to identifying shortcomings and deficiencies that needed
investigation. Many helpful suggestions and observations have been made that
have assisted the Commission in assessing issues and priorities.
2 summarises the topics raised and the number of submissions on each topic. The
issues raised in submissions are summarised in Chapter 3.
Figure 2: Submissions by key topics
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Commissions commonly conduct open and public hearings, which enable the
gathering of evidence
in a form that permits parties potentially materially affected by the evidence
to be represented, and to be
in a position to test the evidence.
Assisting lead the evidence and the parties who have been granted leave to
appear may cross-examine witnesses. In this way any concerns about natural
justice and procedural fairness principles can be satisfied.
gathering of evidence in this fashion is a vital part of the Commission’s work.
It has occupied a major portion of the Commission’s time to this point. Part of
the function of Counsel Assisting is to test the evidence that is given, even
if this is an uncomfortable experience for witnesses concerned. Ultimately, it
is the three Commissioners who must decide what conclusions are drawn from the evidence
that is called.
witnesses called have been State officials or members of the emergency services
agencies. Others have been expert witnesses or from organisations that have an
interest in aspects of the Commission’s work.
During each day of the public hearings, evidence was
given by private individuals who were able to inform the Commission of their
own experiences during the fires. In this way the Commission has been able to
maintain a close connection between the community interest and the bodies
associated with the management and response to the bushfires.
Commission was conscious of the widespread interest in its proceedings and
arranged live web-streaming of the public hearings. This has been widely
welcomed. Libraries throughout Victoria (including the State Library) made
facilities available for people to view or listen to the live streaming and to
access and download transcripts from the hearings. This has assisted the
Commission in providing an open and accessible process for fire-affected
communities and the wider Victorian community. The Commission thanks the State
Library and all the other libraries for helping to make the hearings accessible
to a very wide audience.
7 was an extremely busy day for fire agencies with many small fires and a
significant number of larger fires burning across Victoria. In many cases quick
actions by the CFA meant that small fires were controlled quickly and caused
minimal damage. For example, one of the smaller fires that warrants mention is
one that started in Upper Ferntree Gully during the afternoon. Twenty-one CFA
appliances and 168 personnel attended this fire, assisted by a heavy helicopter
that was redeployed from Bunyip. The fire was eventually brought under control at
about 9:30pm. The CFA described the fire as having the ‘most significant
potential’ for losses on the day, because it burned at the foothills of Mt
Dandenong, in a heavily populated area of Melbourne.
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Figure 3: Satellite image showing the fires burning at 3:55pm on
7 February 2009
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Commission is examining 12 of the largest fires, in which lives were lost or
significant damage occurred.
These are the Kilmore East, Murrindindi, Churchill, Delburn, Bunyip, Narre
Warren, Beechworth-Mudgegonga, Bendigo, Redesdale, Coleraine, Horsham and
1 of this report records some detail on each of these fires. Their location is
illustrated in Figure 1.
Detailed evidence has only been received on the Kilmore East fire, but the
Commission intends to continue with
its investigation of the fires in the next phase of its work.
the major damage from the fires occurred on 7 February, even after that date
considerable fire activity remained. The Kilmore East–Murrindindi fire, for
example, was not under control until 10 March and not considered safe until 27
April. Similarly, the Bunyip fire was not under control until 15 March.
Commission’s detailed examination of how the authorities dealt with the Kilmore
East fire complemented other evidence it received on bushfire operations and
policy, and has enabled it to reach conclusions on changes that should be
implemented for the 2009–10 bushfire season.
warnings save lives. The community expects and depends on detailed and high
quality information prior to, during, and after bushfires. The community is
also entitled to receive timely and accurate bushfire warnings whenever
possible, based on the intelligence available to the control agencies.
they are distinct concepts, the provision of information (Chapter 5), warnings
(Chapter 4) and the response to emergency calls (Chapter 12) are inextricably
linked. Ongoing information about bushfires prepares the community and educates
on the appropriate steps to take if a warning is issued. In contrast, a
bushfire warning is specific advice about an imminent event. Such a warning
should propel the community into action in response to a specific threat —
ideally, armed with the information and education which has prepared them to
to 7 February the State Government devoted unprecedented efforts and resources
to informing the community about the fire risks Victoria faced. That campaign
clearly had benefits, but it could not, on its own, translate levels of
awareness and preparedness into universal action that minimised risk on the day
of the fires. Indeed, no campaign will have universal success. The
effectiveness of any campaign depends on the quality of information, the modes of
dissemination and the willingness and capacity of people to hear, understand and
act on the message. This is a shared responsibility between government and the
there were a number of weaknesses and failures with Victoria’s information and
warning systems on
7 February. Warnings were often delayed which meant that many people were not
warned at all or the amount of
time they had to respond to the warnings was much less than it should have
been. The warnings that were issued often did not give people a clear
understanding of the location and severity of the fire and how they should
methods of delivery of the warnings were also inadequate. Some techniques for
raising awareness such as the use of an emergency warning signal to capture
people’s attention when warnings are broadcast were not used. Similarly, other
avenues for issuing and raising awareness of warnings were not encouraged, such
as the use of local sirens or the use of commercial radio and television.
the sources of information and warnings that were available during the fire did
not cope well with the level of demand. People had difficulty getting onto the
relevant websites and about 80 per cent of the calls to the Victorian Bushfire
Information Line were unanswered. Often the information available through these
sources was incomplete or out of date.
the afternoon of 7 February the emergency telephone call services (Telstra’s
Triple Zero service and the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority)
experienced unprecedented demand which resulted in serious failures. Large
numbers of calls were not answered and many callers could not be connected to
the relevant authorities, leading to a significant number of abandoned calls.
The collapse of the system caused extreme stress to both the callers and the
are opportunities to improve the content, sources and means of disseminating
bushfire information and warnings to the public. The Commission’s
recommendations cover the following:
• improving the quality of bushfire information and
warning messages by adopting standard language already developed for national
• simplifying the format of bushfire warnings
• reintroducing the Standard Emergency Warning Signal
to draw attention to broadcast warnings about life threatening fires
• extending the broadcasting of official warnings to
commercial radio and television
• allowing the reintroduction of sirens in local
communities where there is demand for them
• supporting the acceleration of the full introduction
of a nationally developed telephone based automatic
• pursuing research into the development of improved
fire danger index systems
• enhancing the role of the Bureau of Meteorology in
issuing daily information on bushfire risk
• improving technology and processes to accelerate the
updating of common bushfire information
on agency websites
• increasing the capacity of the bushfire emergency
networks, the Victorian Bushfire Information Line, Telstra’s
Triple Zero service and the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority to
better handle peak demands, and to work more collaboratively during severe fire
of these changes will need to be accompanied by an education campaign so that
people understand the changes and how to interpret the information that is
In Victoria, community response to bushfire is guided by
a policy that directs residents to Prepare, Stay and Defend or Leave
Early, known more commonly as the ‘stay or go’ policy (Chapter 7). This policy
has been developed over
many years and reflects an understanding from research into past fires that
with proper planning and prior preparation, most buildings can be successfully
defended from a bushfire. The alternative is to plan to leave early.
analysis of this policy approach against the background of the recent fires has
led the Commission to conclude that there has been insufficient emphasis on the
risks of staying and defending. Unquestionably the safest course
is always to leave early. To stay may still be an appropriate option for some,
particularly in less dangerous bushfires, but a number of conditions need to be
stay requires considerable effort to prepare a property and make it defendable.
But some properties, because
of their nature and locality, will not be defendable in extremely dangerous
defend a property successfully requires considerable physical effort and
emotional strain. Often more than one person needs to be involved. It is a task
for those who are physically fit and mentally strong. It is not a place for
children, older people or the infirm.
also need to have a range of auxiliary equipment to bushfire standards, and an
ample water supply
that will not be affected by a loss of mains power.
addition, the concept of defendable space needs to be given stronger
recognition as an important element
in the range of bushfire protection policies and processes.
messages need greater acknowledgement in the written publications, training and
by the CFA.
Commission has recommended that the emphasis of CFA community education
literature and advice
be changed and improved to more realistically acknowledge the risks of
extremely dangerous bushfires.
those who choose to stay and defend, the risks should be spelt out more
plainly, including the risk of death. People should also be encouraged to
recognise that not all houses are defendable in all situations and
contingencies need to be considered in case the plan to stay and defend fails.
is recommended that the CFA should have the authority to give specific advice
about the defendability of individual properties and whether residents should
relocate rather than trying to stay and defend. Aids for self assessment of a
home’s defendability should also be improved and made more readily available.
those who plan to leave, there should be more explicit advice on triggers that
should be used to determine
when to go.
need to have options other than the simple alternatives of ‘stay’ or ‘go’. The
experience of these fires demonstrates that a personal fire plan needs to
recognise that a person’s preferred option may not be possible and sometimes
fails. In the view of the Commission, the availability of local areas of refuge
is an important and essential complement to the ‘stay or go’ policy.
State’s fire refuges policy introduced in 2005 has not resulted in any new
refuges being established in Victoria, and has raised questions about the few
existing refuges that continue to be recognised. In the Commission’s view, the
current lack of refuges fails to provide for those who find themselves in
danger when their plans fail, are overwhelmed by circumstances, change their
minds, or have no plan. The lack of refuges in Victoria also fails to assist
people in areas threatened by fire who are away from their homes, such as
employees, visitors, tourists, travellers and campers. Any option, which
reduces the risk to people in these circumstances, warrants consideration by
the State (Chapter 8).
new approach, which is capable of providing more options for the community,
should be embraced. Such an approach would shift the emphasis away from an
exclusive focus on purpose built structures acting as refuges,
and permit the use of existing venues (including car parks, amenities blocks
and dam walls) and open spaces
(such as ovals, sporting grounds and race tracks).
A regime for designating community fire refuges should
balance achievable criteria for their identification and operation, with
the need to provide a range of options with appropriate minimum safety
standards. The Commission has recommended that the State commence identifying and establishing
designated community refuges, particularly in areas of high bushfire risk.
State suggested the Commission should consider other options such as ‘safer
places in a neighbourhood, informal places of shelter and township protection
In this context, the State said that it will, for the next
bushfire season, start identifying appropriate sites as ‘neighbourhood safer
places’ and will educate the public
about the appropriate use of those places. This initiative is welcomed and
supported by the Commission.
CFA should endeavour to give priority to providing resources to assist the
defence of designated community refuges and neighbourhood safer places during
the passage of a fire front to enhance the safety of those who may seek to rely
on these facilities.
Commission received little support for compulsory evacuation. However, the
evidence before the Commission indicates that people need more guidance on
whether they should plan to relocate because their house cannot be defended,
and on the ease with which they can leave safely. There was recognition that
bushfire warnings in some locations should advise people to urgently leave,
even with an approaching fire (Chapter 6).
responsibility for recommending relocation should rest with the Incident
Controller managing the fire, who is considered to be in the best place to make
such judgments. The recommendations of the Incident Controller would be
advisory. The existence of community designated refuges and neighbourhood safer
places is relevant in this context as is advice from the police on the
availability of safe open exit roads.
government schools (Strathewen Primary School, Marysville Primary School,
Middle Kinglake Primary
School) and three kindergartens (Kinglake Kindergarten, Flowerdale Kindergarten
and Marysville Kindergarten)
were destroyed by fire on 7 February.
policies for schools in Victoria, as at 7 February, were less than ideal. There
was no state-wide policy requiring government schools to evacuate, close or use
a fire refuge in event of fire.
7 February, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD)
has implemented significant policy changes:
• a new procedure for school closures on total fire
ban days and days of extreme fire risk
• a safety audit of refuges in schools in the Eastern
and Northern Metropolitan Regions
• provision of the Bushfire Safety Checklist to
is commended for moving quickly and decisively, but further work needs to be
done. The Commission
has recommended that DEECD complete its review of refuges and complete priority
rectification work to refuges
in schools. It should also review the adequacy of bushfire protection measures
for kindergartens, child care centres, preschools and early learning centres.
government is a significant player in regulating and supporting townships and
communities under their jurisdiction. Recommendations have been made that will
enable municipal councils to have a preventative role in leading and
contributing to some initiatives aimed at helping to make their communities
safer and to protect people during bushfires. They are being asked specifically
to review their Municipal Emergency Management Plans to ensure that they
include appropriate provision for refuges and relocations that may occur during
were a particular source of frustration and annoyance during the fires. The
main criticism was that they were applied too inflexibly and added an
additional burden to people already highly stressed. The Commission has
recommended that Victoria Police review its guidelines on the operation of
roadblocks with the aim of creating a more flexible set of procedures,
particularly for local people whose bona fides can be established (Chapter 10).
of Victoria at risk of bushfire are identified in several different ways. The
evidence to date has revealed different processes for identifying areas at risk
for the purposes of emergency management planning, land use planning and
Commission notes that fragmented planning, including risk identification, was
one of the factors that led to the development of the Integrated Fire
Management Planning Framework endorsed in principle by the State in September
2006, but not yet implemented.
Commission endorses the concept of integrated, whole of government fire
management planning. This has
the potential to lead to the introduction of planning processes that make
communities safer and are easier to use.
This project should be given higher priority.
Emergency Management Act 1986 was enacted following the Ash Wednesday
bushfires in 1983, to provide a legislative foundation for emergency management
involving an all hazards, all agencies approach, and appropriate coordination
of all agencies involved in the response to, or recovery from, an emergency.
‘all hazards’ approach to emergency management recognises that all emergencies
cause similar problems and that many of the measures required to deal with
emergencies are generic. The ‘all agencies’ aspect of Victoria’s emergency
management arrangements recognises that all agencies have a role in emergency
management and protecting the community from identified risks.
Whatever arrangements the State chooses to follow during
the forthcoming bushfire season, the Commission intends to
examine further the emergency management arrangements for bushfires. This is
considered necessary to ensure that the lessons from the 2009 bushfires can be taken into
account in determining the strategic emergency management structure that will best serve Victoria for the
From the evidence heard to date, the Commission believes
that immediate changes are required to the State Emergency
Response Plan (SERP). The SERP does not clearly designate the agency
responsible for issuing warnings and recommending relocation.
addition, the means by which warnings were issued and evacuations were made on
7 February bore little resemblance to the arrangements in the SERP.
Diffuse or unclear responsibility for warnings and
relocation is at best unhelpful and at worst life threatening in an emergency.
It is unsatisfactory that the SERP does not designate clearly the
responsibilities of agencies and emergency response coordinators to issue
warnings and to advise people to relocate during an emergency. The Commission has
recommended that the SERP be amended to give clear responsibility to the
control agency to issue warnings. (Chapter 10). To avoid confusion as to which
agency is responsible for these matters, emergency response coordinators should
not be responsible for warnings and advice
of the management of the Kilmore East fire has identified several areas where
the Commission is satisfied that it has sufficient evidence to warrant
recommending some changes to operational arrangements for bushfire management
(Chapter 9). Desirably, these changes would be in place before the next
the public hearings reference was made to the lack of statutory responsibility
in the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 for issuing community warnings.
The Commission is of the view that this responsibility should have been
understood and accepted by the CFA as a normal part of its functions. However,
to remove any ambiguity between the roles of the CFA and Victoria Police, the
Commission has recommended that the legislation be amended. The State has
indicated that it accepts the need for an amendment. Unambiguous arrangements
should be in place for the next bushfire season.
complementary authority for the Chief Fire Officer of the Department of Sustainability
and Environment is recommended in the form of a formal delegation of powers.
recommendations have been made relating to the selection of the Incident
Controller on the basis of competence, and to the widening of the
responsibilities of the Incident Controller in issuing bushfire warnings
including when staff may not be directly responsible for management of the
State Duty Officers’ responsibilities for ensuring that proper staffing and set
up of pre-designated Incident Control Centres should be made more explicit.
Commonwealth plays an important role in supporting the states and territories,
particularly in the recovery
phase. It continued this role after the 7 February bushfires, with considerable
assistance, particularly from the Australian Defence Force. The Commonwealth
has also encouraged national approaches to disaster management (Chapter 11).
The Commonwealth has said it is willing to discuss with
the states and territories the nature of its contribution,
which the Commission welcomes. This includes exploring whether Commonwealth
be used to improve the contribution that remote imagery plays in supporting
bushfire suppression operations. More regular contact between Commonwealth entities
and state and territory fire agencies is recommended. This would strengthen the
relationship and understanding of both levels of government.
the 2010 Fire Season
the State Government carries much of the responsibility for deciding on the
direction of change, funding it, and charging the various State agencies with
the implementation tasks that will arise from the Commission’s recommendations.
The Commission is sympathetic to the views expressed by State’s Counsel in the final
of the recent round of hearings that some
matters raised in Counsel Assisting’s suggested recommendations would
be difficult to implement in time for the 2009–10 bushfire season.
far as possible, the Commission has endeavoured to frame its recommendations
with a realistic assessment of the State’s concerns in mind. The Commission
agrees with the State that it is important to develop a comprehensive package
of material to assist in the re-education of the community to understand the
significant role individuals and households must play, in any new arrangements.
Recommendations have been framed with this in mind.
in some areas the lessons from the Commission’s analysis so far of the 2009
bushfires are so compelling that it would be
unfortunate if the benefits of these changes are not made available to the
community in the forthcoming bushfire season.
2009–10 bushfire season might or might not be as serious as the past season.
The awareness of the number
of lives lost in 2009, strengthens the Commission’s resolve to encourage the
State to do all in its power to implement those recommendations that have a
direct bearing on the protection and safety of individuals and communities.
Commission is required to deliver a final report on 31 July 2010. A further 28
weeks of public hearings are scheduled to examine the issues specified in the
Commission’s Terms of Reference. An outline of the program
of hearings and topics to be covered is in Chapter 13 of this report.
overarching focus of the work of the Commission will remain on the protection
of human life. Recommendations to minimise the likelihood of a reoccurrence of
the tragedy of 7 February will be provided to the people of Victoria in memory
of family and friends lost in the bushfires.
Commission makes 51 recommendations in this interim report. In making these
recommendations the Commission focused predominantly on changes that can be
implemented prior to the 2009–10 bushfire season
to enhance the protection of human lives.
Commission has set dates for the relevant responsible party or parties to
advise the Commission
on the implementation of each recommendation. Specifically, parties are to
provide to the Commission:
• an Implementation Plan by 30 September 2009 — being
brief advice setting out the proposed response, allocated responsibilities and
schedule to implement a recommendation; and
• a Delivery Report by 31 March 2010 — being a more
detailed report on the progress made towards implementing each recommendation
and, where appropriate, the outcomes and effectiveness of the response.
respect of each recommendation, the Commission is seeking a single report.
Where a number of parties are responsible for a recommendation, the Commission
would appreciate one party coordinating a single, consolidated report. Further,
with respect to Recommendations 6.4 and 8.2, it would assist the Commission if
the Municipal Association of Victoria coordinates the Implementation Plan and
Delivery Report, consolidating the responses by relevant individual municipal
recommendations from each chapter are listed below (not all chapters contain
State ensure that bushfire warnings issued in Victoria:
founded on the principle of maximising the potential to save human lives;
the principles encapsulated in Recommendation 8.5 of the Council of Australian
Governments report, the National Inquiry on Bushfire Mitigation and
the principles endorsed in the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service
Authorities Council Draft Discussion Paper, A National Systems Approach to
Community Warning (May 2009); and
the use of the Common Alerting Protocol, as adapted for the Australian context.
State ensure that the content of bushfire warnings issued in Victoria reflects
the principles set out in the Commonwealth policy paper Emergency Warnings —
Choosing Your Words (2008). In particular, all bushfire warnings issued in
Victoria must use clear language, avoid euphemisms, and contain explicit
information in relation to:
severity, location, predicted direction and likely time of impact of bushfires
on specific communities and locations; and
predicted severity of impact of the bushfire and whether a specific fire poses
a threat to human life.
State commission research into the development of a new fire severity scale
that denotes the risk posed by dangerous and extremely dangerous bushfires
(similar to the cyclone categories 1 to 5).
State ensure bushfire warnings in Victoria are confined to two categories or
Information — a message providing information to the community on a bushfire
that is ‘going’
and has the potential to threaten public safety; and
Warning — a warning to the community about any dangerous or extremely dangerous
bushfire, particularly one that is burning out of control and poses a threat to
State ensure that the Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS) be used in
Victoria to precede each bushfire warning or group of warnings for bushfires
that are dangerous or extremely dangerous, particularly for a fire that is
burning out of control and poses a threat to human life, subject to appropriate
limits on the maximum frequency of use.
State invite commercial operators to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU), similar to its MOU with the ABC, on the dissemination of bushfire warning
messages and the use of the Standard Emergency Warning Signal by those
Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner and the CFA develop guidelines
for the use of sirens in communities that decide to use a siren as part of
their response to bushfires.
Australian Government, Council of Australian Governments and the State
determine whether it is technically possible to implement the second phase of
the national telephony-based warning system
(that is, the delivery of warning messages to mobile phones based on the
physical location of a handset at the time of the emergency) with a view to
implementation for the 2009–10 bushfire season.
Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council and the Bureau of
Meteorology collaborate with researchers to
explore options for the fire danger indices and fire danger ratings including:
additional fire danger rating beyond ‘Extreme’;
the existing fire danger ratings to correspond to higher Fire Danger Index
a revised fire severity scale for use in bushfire warnings based on new fire
The Bureau of Meteorology include the Forest Fire Danger
Index and the Grass Fire Danger Index in its fire weather warnings and general
weather forecasts on its website and in material distributed to the media.
State ensure that a single, multi-agency portal for bushfire information be
established that uploads information simultaneously to both CFA and DSE
State ensure that the single multi-agency portal for bushfire information be
designed to allow Incident Control Centres to directly post information and
State ensure the Victorian Bushfire Information Line is funded to enable it to
provide greater surge capacity during extreme events and to improve the
efficiency of its internal information function.
State amend the State Emergency Response Plan so that the word
relocation is used in preference
to the word evacuation (except in cases where evacuation is clearly more
CFA amend its policy Advice to the Community Before and During Wildfire
to enable trained CFA personnel to recommend to particular households,
communities or locations that they plan to leave early, based on an assessment
of defendability, the vulnerabilities of the people there, and the degree of
ease with which people are able to leave the area in relative safety.
CFA and DSE amend operational policies to require the Incident Controller to
assess whether relocation should occur and to recommend relocation when
councils review their Municipal Emergency Management Plans to ensure there is
appropriate provision for relocation during bushfires, in particular, to
indicate the location and arrangements associated with designated emergency
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7 Stay or Go
CFA revise the publications and programs by which it communicates with the
community about preparing for bushfires and what to do in the event of a
existing advice that community members should prepare, and decide, well before a
fire occurs, whether to leave early or stay and defend their homes; and
convey the following principles:
• the safest option is
always to leave early rather than to stay and defend,
• not all homes are
defendable in all circumstances and householders are advised to undertake
an individual assessment of defendability,
• unless a property is
defendable the advice is to leave early,
• the impact of
topography, fire weather and fire intensity on defendability should be factored
into household assessments,
• the risks of staying
to defend include the risk of physical injury and death,
• contingencies are
needed as the best-made plans may fail,
• even if a plan is to
stay, preparations to enable leaving should also be made, including the
preparation of a ‘relocation’ kit specifying the location of designated
community fire refuges,
• there could be
psychological impacts of staying to defend a property, it is inadvisable for
children to be present during the defence of properties, practical steps are
needed to protect the vulnerable. Families with young children, older people,
and disabled people are advised to plan for early relocation, advice on
triggers for when to leave to incorporate the need for flexibility, the dangers
of leaving late and the undertaking that a warning may not be received, and advice
in relation to the policy specifically targeted to urban communities on the
CFA consider the means of providing individual advice to residents in bushfire
prone areas, as to the defendability of their homes.
CFA ensure its members are fully trained as to the changes to the advice to the
community set out
in Recommendation 7.1.
CFA train facilitators and educators and ensure manuals, brochures and other
materials are enhanced to incorporate changes to the advice to the community in
relation to the ‘stay or go’ policy and the changes recommended elsewhere in
State and its agencies implement an advertising and awareness campaign on the
changes to policy and practices as set out in this report, such as the Standard
Emergency Warning Signal, telephony-based warning system, use of sirens by
local communities, refuges and relocation.
Chapter 8 Risk
CFA report to the Commission on the outcome of the trials of the Victorian Fire
Risk Register and progress with its implementation.
The Municipal Association of Victoria report to the
Commission on the progress of amendments to Municipal Emergency Management
Plans by those municipal councils trialling the Victorian Fire Risk Register.
CFA give priority where possible to provide resources to assist in the defence
of designated community fire refuges and neighbourhood safer places at times
when they are likely to be in use.
State replace the 2005 Fire Refuges in Victoria: Policy and Practice
following its current review
by the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner.
State promulgate criteria for the identification and operation of neighbourhood
and involve councils and local communities in their development and implementation
State to have commenced progressively identifying, establishing and advertising
designated community refuges and neighbourhood safer places, giving priority to
areas where bushfire risk is identified as high.
councils record the location of designated community fire refuges and
neighbourhood safer places in Municipal Fire Prevention Plans and Municipal
Emergency Management Plans, and inform residents and visitors about their use
State to have developed uniform signs for designated community fire refuges and
neighbourhood safer places in Victoria.
CFA maintain an up to date, state-wide list showing the precise location of all
designated community fire refuges and neighbourhood safer places, and provide
the list to DSE, Victoria Police, the State Emergency Service, the Municipal
Association of Victoria, the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner, and
the Victorian Bushfire Information Line.
State report to the Commission on the results of the implementation and
effectiveness of its township protection plan program and neighbourhood safer
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development complete a review of
all refuges in all schools in areas at risk of bushfire.
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development give priority to
rectification works to refuges identified in the Victorian Managed Insurance
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development review the adequacy of
bushfire fire protection measures in children’s services facilities including kindergartens,
child care centres, preschools and early learning centres.
Incident Management: a Case Study
State ensure that State Duty Officers of the CFA and DSE be given direct
responsibility for ensuring pre-designated level 3 Incident Control Centres
within their respective control are properly staffed and equipped to enable
immediate operation in the case of a fire on high fire risk days.
CFA and DSE agree procedures to ensure the most experienced, qualified and
is appointed as Incident Controller for each fire, irrespective of the point of
ignition of the fire.
CFA and DSE ensure that where a level 3 Incident Controller or officer of
is satisfied that a bushfire warning is required, then such Incident Controller
is authorised to release
a warning where the designated Incident Controller is temporarily unavailable.
State amend the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 to provide that the
Chief Officer has responsibility
to issue warnings and provide information to the community concerning the risk
CFA effect a standing delegation of the responsibility for providing
information and issuing warnings to the DSE Chief Fire Officer where a fire is
directed to be under the control of a DSE
State amend the State Emergency Response Plan:
the control agency for a fire is responsible for issuing and communicating
warnings; and to remove from emergency response coordinators the responsibility
of ensuring the control agency gives consideration to alerting the public to
dangers and potential dangers arising from an emergency.
State revise the Emergency Management Manual Victoria consistent with
the interim report recommendations in relation to the ‘stay or go’ policy,
warnings and relocations.
State settle the higher level emergency management and coordination
arrangements that will apply during the bushfire season, noting that the
Commission intends to take evidence on longer-term arrangements during its 2010
State report to the Commission on the outcome of the current review by Victoria
Police of the
State Emergency Response Plan.
Police, in consultation with CFA and DSE, review the guidelines for the
operation of roadblocks during bushfires, including how to:
the terms of a discretion to police on roadblocks to allow entry to:
returning to their homes;
delivering relief and aid to residents and to animals;
services crews; and
the exercise of the discretion in favour of persons able to establish their
CFA and DSE amend operating protocols to ensure that when an Incident
Controller requests Victoria Police establish a roadblock to an area threatened
by a bushfire, the Incident Controller simultaneously issues a bushfire warning
to residents of that area.
Commonwealth facilitate discussions between relevant Commonwealth agencies
(including Emergency Management Australia, Defence, Defence Imagery Geospatial
Organisation and Geoscience Australia) and state and territory fire services to
identify ways in which Commonwealth resources might be applied more rapidly and
effectively during extremely dangerous bushfires, including investigating the
potential for these resources to be used for detecting, tracking and
Commonwealth, through Emergency Management Australia, provide briefings at
least once a year to state and territory agencies regarding arrangements
available (including through Defence) to support jurisdictions during disasters
and emergencies, including bushfires. State and territory representatives
should advise relevant Ministers and the Chief Officers of emergency services
(including fire services)
of the outcomes of these briefings.
Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner formally advise the Emergency
Services Telecommunications Authority and Telstra Triple Zero of forecast
severe fire risk days and particularly
days where there is a risk of extremely dangerous bushfires.
State ensure the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) is
funded to provide greater surge capacity during extreme events, including
establishing additional work stations for fire
calls at ESTA centres.
State further promote, through the Council of Australian Governments, more
call service arrangements throughout Australia.
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