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Managing the Impacts of Bushfires

Local emergency broadcasters are a vital source of information about developing and active bushfires, and all states provide dedicated bushfire coverage.

​Tune into bushfire alerts and build danger awareness

Local emergency broadcasters are a vital source of information about developing and active bushfires, and all states provide dedicated bushfire coverage. The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) is the official emergency broadcaster. Tuning into ABC local radio means knowing the latest fire alerts and Fire Danger Rating in your area.

Daily Fire Ratings are:

  • Low-Moderate
  • High
  • Very High
  • Severe
  • Extreme
  • Code Red (Catastrophic)

Under a Code Red rating, fire authorities advise leaving early as the only safe option. Catastrophic means no building is likely to survive these conditions. Leaving early is very important as the only safe option. A Severe rating is serious and those who stay should only do so if they have a well-prepared building and know how to defend it. An Extreme rating is dangerous and a building must be prepared for bushfire at the highest level, and it needs to be specially built to survive in such conditions.

When facing a fire threat

Have the following information in more than one location in your building and ensure it is easily accessible. You now need to consider obstacles to planning that a COVID-19 environment imposes such as restrictions to movement. There are likely to be additional safety measures to be implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19. Ensure you have current bushfire information numbers, websites, and smartphone apps.

Stay informed about:

  • Warnings and updates, key information from fire authorities
  • Restrictions related to COVID-19 from State or Territory Government Health departments
  • Local news including ABC Local radio, community radio stations, Sky News TV
  • Community organisations, schools and aged care providers that may need to close
  • In an emergency call Triple Zero (000)
  • Have other emergency hotlines in your state clearly visible
  • Have emergency websites for reference if you need
  • Check social media including Facebook groups and emergency services and fire authorities websites, and check Twitter regularly throughout the day
  • Learn how to connect in an emergency through the National Relay Service (NRS) by visiting the Department of Communications website
Translating and Interpreting Service phone number 131 450 should be added to your list of important contacts.

 
Make a decision and act

Assess the fire risk to determine when to make the important decision to enact evacuation plans, close your school or childcare centre, or close your aged care facility. Enact your Emergency Management Plan.

The NSW Government has outlined the types of evacuations that may occur in a bushfire.
  • Immediate evacuation means there is virtually no warning or time to be ready
  • A managed evacuation is based on a "watch and act" that prompts a decision to leave before a fire risk will have an impact. This decision could be made based on loss of power, for example, if there is interruption to phone and internet services. This will involve pre-planning and care before carrying out the evacuation
  • Relocation is a type of evacuation which happens when a decision is made to move people such as aged care residents, students or employees, to another location. This could happen on a catastrophic fire danger day and mitigates fire risks by reducing the number of people present in a dangerous bushfire zone
Consult with your people so that everyone knows when to activate an emergency management plan. Discuss and determine your evacuation based on weather forecast, fire danger ratings, or the advice of emergency services.

 
Information about bushfires in your state:

Queensland

South Australia

New South Wales

Tasmania

ACT

Western Australia

Victoria

Northern Territory



What can set a building alight?

Bushfires can move fast and spread quickly. Dry ground and vegetation is fire fuel, wind and high temperature days provide its force and direction and land slopes empower a bushfire to move uphill more at greater speed than it could moving on a flat landscape.

Embers are the main cause of property damage during bushfires because they often start new fires that can develop any time before, during or after a bushfire front movement. Sparks can enter a building through the roof or unsealed walls and windows.

Direct flames ignite any flammable matter or dry vegetation located close to a building. Buildings nearby that have burned can make buildings close to them perish even if they are constructed to a strong building code.

Radiant heat may not be a major cause of property fires but it is the major cause of death in bushfires.


During a bushfire

Decision-making matters. Leaving early is always the safest move. Mobilising people when conditions are dangerous is risky. The longer it takes to decide to evacuate the more likely it becomes that lives are in danger. Remember – if you have a power outage then electric gates or remote-control doors will not work. Have a back-up plan for how you will transport people. Prepare the buildings upon exit. Your property is at risk for potential fire, so you will need to turn off gas and electricity and close windows and doors if you leave.

Time management is critical in emergency conditions, to evacuate staff or people in care. Plan carefully for evacuating children, the elderly and disabled, non-English speakers or those with sight or hearing impairments. Keep them informed about what is happening during an emergency and provide them with clear instructions about what to do. Check that everyone is present and keep a head count at intervals until all are safely relocated. It's important to monitor the health and safety of people and animals you are responsible for, and ensure they remain hydrated. Ensure evacuations are COVID safe and adhere to social distancing, good hand hygiene, wearing of masks or other protective measures. 

Communication access is key. Important phone numbers should be saved in mobile phones, and batteries for devices need to be charged. Check whether car phone chargers are placed in your vehicles. Emergency and evacuation management plans should be visible and easy to follow for staff. Communicate with people internally and externally if the emergency management plan is to be carried out. Explain what this means and who is likely to know. Families of people in care and parents of school students will need to have their own plans in place if an evacuation is to go ahead.

Have first aid kits on hand for use if needed and ensure they are stocked with disposable masks, hand sanitizer, non-contact thermometers and antibacterial wipes to mitigate against the spread of COVID-19.

 

After a bushfire

Consult with emergency services to determine whether it's safe to return to your location. Monitor the health and safety of everyone in your care during the clean-up process when returning, because fire damage has the potential to create new safety risks, such as exposure to asbestos. Even when buildings are not located close to a bushfire vicinity, smoke haze can decrease visibility. Poor air quality can cause respiratory issues or other physical concerns for people with and without existing health conditions. Unstable building structures also present a physical risk. Be aware that in the aftermath of a bushfire people may be suffering from psychological trauma and it will be important to know how to get them support. The hazards of bushfire smoke and poor air quality are discussed in CCI article Bushfire leaves property managers gasping for air, with an expert offering perspective on the issue.  

 

Learn more about being bushfire ready and know when to take cover
If bushfires have not affected your area it is not too late to prepare. Refer to CCI's Surviving Bushfire Fact Sheet and Checklist for more information on what you can do now to protect your people and property.  


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