What you will find on this page: role of Ballarat council & emergency services; What happens when a bushfire starts in the local area? understanding warnings and getting information (video); Victorian Bushfire Handbook extracts; information to assist immediately after a fire (links in blue); closer to home – information provided by Moorabool Shire Council for residents affected by Scotsburn bushfires, December 2015
FireAware Network – role of council and emergency services in the event of a bushfire
Role of the City of Ballarat and emergency services in the event of a bushfire impacting on Ballarat suburbs – presenter Mark Cartledge, City of Ballarat, Municipal Fire Prevention Officer (Notes from part 2 of Finlay St Cluster Session 24 Sept)
A part of Mark’s role as the City’s Fire Prevention Officer, includes fire hazard inspections for private land and he will serve Fire Prevention Notices if there is deemed a fire hazard on the property. Owners failing to comply with such a notice can face a fine of $1,555 plus costs incurred by CoB relating to reducing the hazard. Clearance notices are more often for grass than in forested areas. Last year 340 notices were issued with around 10% non compliant. Each year the Municipal Fire Management Planning Committee looks at where mitigation works may be required to be carried out. Council, DELWP and CFA work together in reducing fuel loads by using mechanical methods such as: spraying, slashing and grooming. Also reducing gorse and clearing fire breaks. Council may also engage the local CFA brigades to undertake controlled burns on their behalf.
Councils Municipal Fire Management Plan can be found at http://www.ballarat.vic.gov.au/pc/emergency-management.aspx
If a member of the public is concerned about an apparent fire hazard in the neighbourhood they can contact Mark through the City of Ballarat – 5320 5500
Are You Fire Ready?
Cut the grass: Grass, weeds or undergrowth should be cut to a height less than 100mm. It must be maintained at this height throughout the Fire Danger Period (ends 1 May 2017)
Remove fire fuel: Owners of property with bushland should manage fire fuels on the ground. This includes leaf litter and small branches up to 6 millimetres in diameter
Check your plan: Review and update your plan regularly. Don’t have one? Visit www.cfa.gov.au and protect your family.
Fire Danger Period is when CFA restricts the use of fire in the community. This is to help prevent fires from starting.
Who is affected? People who live in country Victoria and the outer metropolitan suburbs of Melbourne. The Fire Danger Period takes effect by municipality.
When is it declared? CFA declares the Fire Danger Period for each municipality (shire or council) at different times in the lead up to the fire season. It depends on the amount of rain, grassland curing rate and other local conditions.
The Fire Danger Period may be declared as early as October in some municipalities, and typically remains in place until the fire danger lessens, which could be as late as May.
Total Fire Ban days Total Fire Bans are different to the Fire Danger Period.A Total Fire Ban Day can be declared at any time throughout the year. No fires are to be lit in the open air on Total Fire Ban Days unless you have a special permit.
Management of a bushfire impacting on the Ballarat community follows the Municipal Fire Management Plan and agency response plans. Municipal resources are coordinated by the Municipal Emergency Resource Officer under the Municipal Emergency Management Plan
The Municipal Emergency Management Planning Committee comprises of representatives from: City of Ballarat Councillors and staff; Victoria Police; State Emergency Services (Vic); the Country Fire Authority; Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP); Ambulance Victoria; Ballarat Health Services; Australian Red Cross; Department of Health and Human Services; Central Highlands Water; the Department of Education &Training; VicRoads and WICEN(WICEN is an organisation consisting mainly of Amateur Radio enthusiasts who provide communications to emergency response agencies in times of need)
Committee members include people in key emergency management roles, such as the:
- MEM – Municipal Emergency Manager (Council Representative);
- MERO – Municipal Emergency Resource Officer (Council Representative);
- MRM – Municipal Recovery Manager (Council Representative);
- MERC – Municipal Emergency Response Co-ordinator (Victoria Police member); and
- MFPO – Municipal Fire Prevention Officer (Council Representative).
The Municipal Fire Management Plan is a sub plan of the Municipal Emergency Management Plan. The Municipal Fire Management Planning Committee (MFMPC)meet to discuss concerns, and future works that may be required for each fire season, the MFMPC then feeds this information to the Municipal Emergency Management Planning Committee (MEMPC) . The MFMPC focuses on bush fire, Structure Fire and has a component for hazardous chemicals, the MEMPC looks at an all hazards approach which includes fire, flood, storm, pandemic to list a few.
The role of the Municipal Fire Management Planning Committee is to provide a municipal level forum to generate a common understanding and shared purpose with regard to fire management, and ensure that the plans of individual agencies are linked and complement each other.
This collaboration ensures the development of a holistic and integrated approach to fire management across all land users, and that the strategies adopted are based on practical local knowledge and common sense. A further role of the Grampians Regional Strategic Fire Management Planning Committee (RSFMPC)is to ensure that any risks that cross municipal boundaries are treated in a seamless and consistent manner, regardless of land tenure.
- Fires are generally reported via either Fire Tower observation or by a 000 call;
- CFA is the first response – Ballarat Brigade/Ballarat City/Warrenheip/Glen Park are the local brigade’s for the Brown Hill area
- The first priority is to extinguish the fire (RESPONDING);
- As a fire escalates a call may be put out for additional resources such as tankers and aircraft;
- Start traffic management and closures as required;
- Larger incidents may see key staff of response organisations meet at a predetermined Incident Control Centre to form the Incident Control Team
- A request to supply resources may be made to Councils Municipal Emergency Resource Officer (MERO)
- MERO may open a Municipal Emergency Operations Centre (MEOC)
- The team manages Council resources to assist at the incident as requested by the controlling agencies;
- Relief Centre may be opened to assist those who have been displaced or who have evacuated this is in consultation with Police and the Incident Controller if it is deemed necessary.
- It could take 40 minutes or more before the first advice is broadcast to the community;
- There are no forced evacuations in Victoria
Do not rely on an official warning to leave. Emergency incidents can start quickly and threaten homes and lives within minutes. When warnings are issued you need to understand what each one means. The warning level is based on incident conditions and impact on the community, therefore the first warning issued could be an Emergency Warning – the highest level of warning. There are three different levels of warnings:
- An incident is occurring or has occurred in the area
- Access information and monitor conditions.
WATCH AND ACT
- An emergency is heading towards you.
- Conditions are changing and you need to take action now to protect yourself and your family.
- You are in imminent danger and need to take action now.
- You will be impacted.
Additional messages that may be issued are:
Emergency activity in the area has subsided and is no longer a danger to you.
- Specific information and updates for affected communities regarding a particular event or incident.
RECOMMENDATION TO EVACUATE
- An evacuation is recommended or procedures are in place to evacuate.
- Don’t rely on an official warning;
- Actively seek information;
- Speak to other members of the community;
- Be aware of the risks in your area;
- Don’t visit bushfire prone areas on high risk days;
- Keep an eye on conditions outside. You might be aware of a fire before the emergency services. If you see flames or a column of smoke, always call 000 immediately.
You can obtain information from the following sources:
|Online – CFA’s warnings and incidents page is aligned with the information provided on the VicEmergency website; the key source for all emergency information in Victoria.|
|VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.|
|Callers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech/communication impairment can contact VicEmergency Hotline via the National Relay Service on 1800 555 677.|
|If you don’t speak English, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450.|
|Radio & TV – ABC Local Radio, commercial and designated community radio stations and Sky News TV.|
|Social media – on twitter @CFA_Updates and facebook.com/cfavic|
|VicEmergency App on your mobile device|
Keep an eye on conditions outside. You might be aware of a fire before the emergency services. If you see flames or a column of smoke, always call 000 immediately.
Understanding warnings and getting information
Source: CFA – About Bushfire Warnings
Once a fire is under control or extinguished
- Fire ground can be monitored for up to a week and a half to ensure no further break outs occur;
- Council plays a central part in the recovery phase;
- Council may activate a recovery centre for households affected;
- After the fire, Council staff may attend affected properties to assist with secondary impact assessments and to provide further information;
- Council works with other government & community organisations (Red Cross, Health and Human Services) in the long term recovery needs of residents affected.
Take home messages
- The need for all households in a bushfire prone area to have a practiced, written plan;
- A plan includes assessing physical and mental preparedness;
- A community working together builds resilience;
- Don’t rely on official warnings seek a range of mechanisms to stay informed;
- It is up to individuals to stay aware and alert and ready to act on high bushfire risk days.
Wanting to know more?
To find out more about bushfire risk and being prepared, access the Network’s web pages:
On risk: FireAware – understanding risk
On being prepared: FireAware – be prepared
The following State strategic control priorities underpin the planning and operational decisions made when managing the response to emergencies:
- Protection and preservation of life is paramount. This includes: Safety of emergency services personnel; and Safety of community members including vulnerable community members and visitors/tourists located within the incident area
- Issuing of community information and community warnings detailing incident information that is timely, relevant and tailored to assist community members make informed decisions about their safety
- Protection of critical infrastructure and community assets that supports community resilience
- Protection of residential property as a place of primary residence
- Protection of assets supporting individual livelihoods and economic production that supports individual and community financial sustainability
- Protection of environmental and conservation assets that considers the cultural, biodiversity and social values of the environment.
The management of emergencies is a shared responsibility involving many organisations and people in the community. Although some organisations have specialist roles, emergency management is not something done by one single organisation or sector to or for the rest of the community. Emergency management sector works in conjunction with communities, government, agencies and business
The responder agencies respond to the notification of bushfires according to their agency arrangements. Each bushfire has only one Incident Controller, regardless of the number of agencies responding. In first response, the field-based Incident Controller communicates to their agency through their agency command arrangements.
In addition to normal agency communications, the information communicated should include:
- the effectiveness of the incident control arrangements
- potential risks or consequences
- the need for specialist resources, including people or equipment.
The EMC, State Response Controller and Regional Controller maintain an overview of the emergency situation, through contact with Agency Commanders. Their level of involvement in the management of an incident relates to the likelihood of it becoming a major emergency. Where the incident is a major emergency or has the potential to become a major emergency:
- Agency Commanders notify the Regional Controller
- the field-based Incident Controller transfers incident control to an ICC-based Incident Controller supported by an IMT. SOP J03.15 – Transfer of Control and IMT relocation for Class 1 emergencies explains this process.
The Incident Controller is responsible for providing direction to the Agency Commanders of the agencies responding to the incident on where the agency resources are to work and the function they are to perform. Agency Commanders are responsible for tasking their agency personnel and for ensuring they follow safe systems of work. The Incident Controller should initially request additional local resources through Agency Commanders. Where agencies are unable to provide sufficient resources from the local area, the Incident Controller should seek additional resources through the Regional Controller. The Regional Controller, in consultation with Regional Agency Commanders, will prioritise resource deployment across the Region. This may include reallocating resources within their Region.
Victorian emergency management agencies manage all incidents in accordance with the Australasian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMS).
AIIMS functional areas commonly used in bushfire response are:
Control – The Incident Controller shall have overall management of the incident and overall responsibility for the management of resources allocated to that incident. The Incident Controller is responsible for controlling the incident and ensuring that all incident management functions are undertaken.
Planning –The Planning section is responsible for preparing and delivering plans and strategies, maintaining a resource management system, and assembling, maintaining and providing incident information.
Intelligence – The Intelligence section is responsible for collecting and analysing data and information, which is recorded and disseminated as intelligence to support decision making and planning.
Public Information –The Public Information section is responsible for the preparation, coordination and dissemination of non-operational incident warnings and advice to potentially affected communities, the public, media, other agencies and incident personnel.
Operations – The Operations section is responsible for managing resources allocated to the Operations Section to resolve the incident. The Operations Section now also includes a Plant Operations Unit, which aligns with current fire agency practice in Victoria.
Logistics – The Logistics section is responsible for managing activities and resources necessary to provide logistical support during an incident.
Traffic Management Points
Traffic Management Points (TMP) are set up at the direction of the Incident Controller to regulate the flow of traffic into an area where fire has occurred, is occurring or has the potential to occur. The purpose is to maintain the safety of emergency personnel and the public, as a result of a fire.
Travelling on roads during or immediately after the passage of fire can be particularly hazardous as visibility is often severely restricted by smoke and embers; there is also a significant risk of fallen and falling debris, such as trees across roadways and fallen powerlines. Emergencies are not static and therefore the conditions of TMP may change over the course of and incident, and at any time.
During a bushfire, special consideration needs to be given to the safety of vulnerable people in the community. In a bushfire, many people will have increased vulnerability for a range of reasons such as geographic isolation, caring for young children, physical impairment and limited capacity to understand warnings and make decisions. Vulnerable people and those who care for them are likely to need more time, resources, support and assistance to evacuate safely. It is particularly important for them, to prepare bushfire survival plans with a focus on leaving early. Resources are available to support this planning, such as the Red Cross Bushfires: Preparing to Leave Early Guide, available from the CFA website (www.cfa.vic.gov.au) or by calling the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on 1800 240 667.
Vulnerable Persons Registers
Vulnerable Persons Registers contain lists of consenting people living in the community who have been assessed as vulnerable because they:
- are frail and/or physically or cognitively impaired and unable to comprehend warnings and directions and/or respond in an emergency situation
- cannot identify personal or community support networks to help them in an emergency.
In their role as Evacuation Managers, Victoria Police can access these lists of identified vulnerable people so that the safety of these individuals can be considered in planning and responding to emergencies. Being placed on a Vulnerable Persons Register does not guarantee safety or assisted evacuation in an emergency.
Evacuation is the planned relocation of people from dangerous or potentially dangerous areas to safer areas and eventual return. The purpose of an evacuation is to use distance to separate the people from the danger created by the emergency. Evacuation is a risk management strategy that may be used as a means of mitigating the impact of an incident on public safety. However, to be effective, it needs to be correctly planned and executed. The process of evacuation includes the return of the affected community.
The Evacuation Process There are five stages in the evacuation process, focused on pre-warned evacuation and immediate evacuation.
- Decision to evacuate
- Warning or recommendation to persons likely to be affected by an emergency
- Withdrawal of an affected community
- Sheltering of persons evacuated
- Return of affected persons
A formal evacuation process does not prevent people in the community from making the decision to self evacuate in the appropriate circumstances.
Emergency Relief and Recovery public information sources
The Emergency Relief and Recovery Victoria website www.recovery.vic.gov.au is a single source of online information for public and local government areas on all relief and recovery matters, across all hazards. It can provide independent information on three concurrent major emergencies, plus archival information on previous emergencies. Replacing the Recovering from Floods website, the Emergency Relief and Recovery Victoria website is designed for mobile platforms as well as desktop computers. The Victorian Emergency Recovery Information Line (1300 799 232) is a dedicated 24/7 hotline with surge capacity, to handle all relief and recovery queries (via scripts) and if established, queries can be transferred through to dedicated area centres. Source: Emergency Management Victoria Victorian Bushfire Handbook
Source: Metropolitan Fire Brigade Access “After the Fire” brochure here
Is it safe to stay in your home?
After a fire or other emergency it may not be safe for you to stay in your home. The Fire Officer in Charge will advise you if it is safe to stay or not. In some situations the Officer may need to call the local council building inspector to assess the safety of the building.
Gas, Electricity, Water and Telephone
As a result of the fire, gas, electricity, water supply or telephone lines may have been damaged, destroyed or disconnected by the fire brigade or the provider of these services. It is the property owner’s responsibility to have the services inspected and repaired by a qualified tradesperson and reconnected by the provider.
After the emergency services have finished their work, the property will be handed back to you.
You are then responsible for the security of the property. Your property may need to be protected from further damage by weather, theft and vandalism. You may need to engage a provider of shutters and/or temporary fencing to secure your home. If you live in rental housing you must inform the real estate agent or owner/landlord to secure the home. Be aware that any damage to your home that occurs after the emergency resulting from not securing your property may be refused by your insurance company. Your insurance company may be able to help with securing your property.
If you are insured, your insurance will be the most important single aspect of recovering from a fire loss. After a fire loss, one of your first obligations is to immediately notify your insurance company or insurance broker. Advise the claims manager of the nature of the incident, the loss or damage, and provide them with a forwarding address and telephone number if circumstances have meant leaving the damaged home. In consultation with your insurance company, it is important you take steps to protect your property and implement reasonable precautions to prevent further damage or losses from weather, theft or vandalism, such as covering any holes in the roof or walls. The insurance company may refuse to pay losses that occur after the fire incident.
Make a list of damaged personal property, detailing the quantity, description, original purchase price, purchase date, damage estimate and replacement cost. Refer to your insurance contract for further advice.
It is important to coordinate with the insurance adjuster or loss assessor before contracting for any services. If you engage the services of any cleaning or repairs contractors without the insurance company’s knowledge or consent, you may be left with bills to pay that otherwise would have been covered by insurance. The sooner your insurer or their broker is notified; the sooner the insurance claim can be processed.
Do not discard or throw away damaged goods without first consulting your insurance company or before an inventory is made. If you cannot remember the name of your insurance company, or the details are not available, contact the Insurance Council of Australia (details can be found in the Yellow Pages).
• Ask your insurer for advice on actions you should take
• Do not discard or throw away damaged items without first consulting your insurance company
• Make a list of items that have been damaged and take photographs if possible
• Keep receipts for any emergency repair work
• Check with your insurance company to see if your policy covers emergency accommodation
If you can’t stay in your home
Before you leave the property, check with the Fire Officer in Charge that it is safe to enter. If it is safe to do so, it is recommended you take the following items:
• Identification – driver’s licence, Medicare card, passport
• Insurance contact details and policies
• Credit cards, cheque books
• Medicines and prescriptions (medication exposed to heat and smoke should be disposed of)
• Personal aids – mobility aids, glasses, hearing aids, etc
• Valuables – personal items such as jewellery, photographs, cash, laptops, etc
• Legal documentation
• Car keys and house keys
• Mobile phone and charger
Where to stay?
If you can’t remain in your property, staying with family, friends or neighbours until more permanent arrangements can be made is the best option. Some insurance policies may also cover the cost of accommodation.
Smoke and water can damage your house and contents. If you have insurance, your insurer / loss adjuster (person appointed by the insurance company to handle your claim) can assist by arranging specialist companies for cleaning, salvageand removal of damaged items and materials.
You may be able to salvage some item that are affected by heat, smoke or water but are otherwise intact. Keep in mind that damage to the property often goes beyond what the eye can see. Smoke and soot can travel and penetrate into other rooms affecting walls, carpet, upholstery, curtains, clothing and any other belongings.
Here are some general cleaning tips:
• Get the air moving. Open windows to ventilate areas. Use a fan to circulate air
• Dry wet items as soon as possible
• Take non-washable clothing and curtains to a drycleaner
• Wash regular clothing in warm water with detergent
• To remove soot and smoke from walls, furniture and floors, wear rubber gloves and wash with detergent
• Electrical appliances exposed to fire or water will need to be checked by an electrician or authorised service technician prior to use
If you are leaving your home:
• Organise somewhere to stay
• Take the personal items you will need
• Contact gas, electricity, water and telephone providers to cancel services
• Cancel all delivery services (e.g. Australia Post for redirect of mail, newspapers)
• Notify important contacts about your change of address such as employer, children’s schools, insurance company and neighbours
• Contact local police. Inform them that your property has been involved in a fire and is vacant
Your wellbeing – coping with a stressful event
It is normal and very common for people who have experienced stressful events to have very strong reactions such as anxiety, grief, sadness, anger, fatigue, body aches/pains, nightmares and difficulty concentrating. Children can also suffer after a stressful event, although these reactions may be more easily seen in their behaviours (for example, tantrums in young children). Understanding normal responses to these abnormal events can aid you in coping effectively with your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours, and help you along the path to recovery.
Normal reactions to a stressful event can include (but are not limited to):
Cognitive (thinking) reactions
• Trouble thinking clearly, planning and making decisions
• Difficulty concentrating or remembering details
• Difficulty in stopping yourself thinking about the stressful event
• Thinking about other bad things that have happened in the past
• Trouble speaking clearly
• Tension, stress and tightness in muscles
• Feeling weak or tired, loss of energy
• Headaches, shaking, sweating, upset stomach or aches and pains
• Loss/increase of appetite, cravings for sugar, alcohol, coffee or cigarettes
• Feeling tired but can’t sleep, disturbed sleep or bad dreams
• Feeling numb, detached or disconnected
• Feeling irritable, bad-tempered or impatient, and/or unable to relax
• Feeling easily overwhelmed
• Sadness and grief, crying easily (or not being able to cry)
• Feelings are easily hurt, overly sensitive to what others say, feeling misunderstood
• Anger or blaming others
• Fear and anxiety, and feeling easily startled
• Feeling differently about the people close to you, the world, and/or you future
Looking after yourself
• Recognise that you have been through an extremely stressful event. Give yourself permission to feel bad and find positive ways to cope.
• Be more careful than usual. Following a traumatic event you are more vulnerable to illness and injury.
• Take care of yourself; get plenty of rest, even if you can’t sleep, eat regular, healthy meals and exercise every day(regular exercise can help to reduce the physical effects of trauma).
• Avoid using alcohol or drugs to cope. Stimulants such as tea, coffee, cola, chocolate and cigarettes will make the feeling of being ‘hyped up’ worse. Using alcohol or other drugs to numb the pain will create more problems in the long term, even though they may seem to make things easier in the short term.
• Make time to relax and to focus on your self-care.
• Keep a routine going. Try to include exercise, work and relaxation in your schedule every day. Do one thing you enjoy every day.
• Try to resume normal activities as soon as possible (but don’t overdo it).
• Avoid making major life decisions too quickly. Focus on making daily decisions to start feeling in control of your life again.
• Spend time with people you care about. If you feel comfortable talking about feelings, this can help with the recovery process. Avoid becoming isolated.
• Express your feelings. For some people, writing about their experience can be helpful. Other ways to express your feelings that you may find helpful include drawing, painting, playing music etc.
Getting support and accepting help
Most people will recover over time with the support of family and friends. However, sometimes distressing events can be difficult to overcome and seeking professional help may be useful. Getting help can be uncomfortable for some people who are not used to accepting assistance, but seeking help is not a sign of weakness – it is another strategy to help you recover from the stressful event.
You don’t need to be struggling or suffering severely to access help – the earlier you access support, the quicker your recovery will be. You may find it useful to talk to someone who is not a friend or family member like a counsellor, chaplain, medical doctor or psychologist. Seeking assistance may help you to regain emotional strength and resilience.
You should consider seeking professional help if you continue to experience strong reactions for more than two weeks after the event. If reactions continue for more than 4 weeks, seeking professional help is highly recommended.
You should also consider seeking professional help if you:
• feel very distressed, frightened, irritable or jumpy a lot of the time,
• are unable to carry out your normal roles at work, school and/or with your family,
• feel hopeless, despairing and think you can’t go on, or
• are thinking of harming yourself or someone else.
Where to get help:
Your doctor is a good place to start. They can also refer you to other service providers who may be able to help. Lifeline (13 11 14) provides confidential 24-hour counselling, support and referral. If you do not have family, friends or neighbours who can assist you, you may be eligible for assistance. The following organisations may be able to provide assistance:
For counselling and emotional support
13 14 50
Local Council Municipal Recovery Manager
For advice on local community support services
Consumer Affairs Victoria
If renting you may be entitled to end your tenancy or to reduced rent.
1300 558 181
Victorian Emergency Recovery Information Line
For information on hardship assistance
1300 799 232
Office of Housing and Community Buildings (DHHS)
For public housing renters
13 11 72 (24-hr service)
For Exceptional Circumstances Relief Help
13 28 50
For information regarding pets and animals
03 9224 2222
In December 2015 a fire occurred in the Scotsburn area.The following link takes you to the Moorabool Council website page detailing local support for recovery. The City of Ballarat offered similar information and support during the recovery period.
- Fact Sheets and Information Resource
- Financial Assistance
- Information on Rebuilding
- Bushfire Recovery Newsletters