Guidelines for Managing Road Closures during Emergencies :: CFS

Guidelines for Managing Road Closures during Emergencies

The closure of roads during an emergency, such as a bushfire is designed protect lives. The safety of emergency services and the public is the highest priority in the management of traffic during an emergency.

However, the ability for a local community member to recover from a disaster can be influenced by the ability to access their property in a timely manner. There may also be a need for family and friends to support a community member who has chosen to remain with their property through the provision of food and other support, including the provision of animal welfare.

A tiered system has been developed to assist the control agency of an emergency (SA Country Fire Service for bushfires) to determine who is able to cross road blocks at different stages of an incident.

Access Tier

Risk Information


Control Agency may authorise access for specific access and impose restrictions

Identification or Authorisation

Tier 1

Emergency Services Only

Designated area/road likely to be impacted by fire

Access/egress route blocked and/or danger of hazardous trees etc

Risk Level = High

Emergency Services

Other services authorised by the Control Agency

Any person authorised by the Control Agency

Emergency Service vehicles

Approved Farm Fire Units

Tier 2

Essential Services Assessment and restoration activities, Media with escort

Primary hazard past/diminished

Secondary hazards:

falling/fallen trees

fallen power lines

Identification of works required to mitigate risk(s)

PPE required

Risk Level = Significant

As per Tier 1

Essential Services (includes Councils, DPTI, SA Power Networks, Biosecurity SA, PIRSA etc.) to conduct  assessment and commence restoration activities

Media with escort


As per Tier 1

Agency/organisation ID

CFS Media accreditation ID plus appropriate PPE/PPC


Tier 3

Relief/Recovery Services

Bona Fide Residents, Media

Secondary hazards are being mitigated but still evident

Caution required

Risk Level = Moderate

Bona Fide Resident and/or land owner returning to protect/defend property/stock


Relief/Recovery services

Bona Fide residents returning to protect/defend property/stock *

CFS Media accreditation

Relief/Recovery Services

Tier 4

Resident, Relief/Recovery Services, Media

Secondary hazards largely mitigated

Mitigation actions continuing (mopping up)

caution required

Risk Level = Low

Residents returning to home/property

Relief/Recovery personnel

Aid agencies

Bona Fide residents evidence of residency -

Relief/Recovery services ID

Tier 5


Road Open

Control Agency satisfied that road related issues no longer pose a threat to road users

Risk level = Insignificant

Open to all

Not applicable

* Bona Fide Definition:  A bona fide resident and/or land owner, is a person who can produce evidence that they live at an address (e.g. driver's licence or similar photo ID) or own property (e.g. photo ID and rates notice or similar) at an address within the area affected by the road closure and returning to actively protect/defend property.

However, in all circumstances, access through a road closure or restricted access area will be subject to authorisation by the control agency or their delegate and the observation of any conditions imposed in allowing that access.

What it means for residents and the public?

Driving in a fire affected area is a dangerous activity, therefore you must justify that you have a reason to enter a yellow or green tiered road.

Bona fide residents must prove they live in the area with identification and understand that they enter at their own risk. Some hazards may still exist and Emergency service agencies may not be aware of all the remaining hazards.

 For more information see the Frequently Asked Questions.

Frequently Asked Questions for the Return to Home Guidelines

Why will roads be closed?

Roads will be closed during an emergency to protect the community and emergency services personnel when there is a potential danger nearby, in this case bushfire. Road closures can have various access tiers depending on the severity and stage of the emergency.

A range of information/intelligence should be sought to assist with the overall decision making relating to road closures and access restrictions.  In order for this to be achieved, the control agency will likely liaise with support agencies and all stakeholders, including where possible information from the community, the local Council or community leader(s).

 "The aim is to restore to normal traffic conditions as soon as practicable and only when reasonable safe to do so. This may involve staged reopening of roads."

For more information on access tiers see What are the different levels of access?

How do I find out if roads are closed?

Information regarding road closures will be provided by the Control Agency through a range of information sources, including the SA Police website, Control Agency websites, DPTI website, social media, main stream media, community meetings etc.  Fact sheets regarding the return to home process (e.g. such as the CFS after the Fire fact sheet) will be available to assist the community.

Will it be easy to see what roads are closed?

To support the provision of information to the community, the Control Agency may develop and release maps showing the status of roads affected by the emergency, these maps should utilise the following symbology principles:

  • Those roads marked with red are closed due to safety issues - Tier 1
  • Those roads marked with orange indicate access is being assessed and may be open to access - Tier 2
  • Those roads marked with yellow indicate access is allowed for approved access - Tier 3;
  • Those roads marked with green are open to access - Tier 4, caution may be required whilst travelling these roads, speed and other restrictions may apply; and
  • Those roads marked without any colour are open with no restrictions on access – Tier 5

It is crucial that the Control Agency maintains an accurate and up-to-date map of the status of road closures and restrictions.

When are road closures set up?

It may be necessary for the Control Agency to provide a summary of advice regarding the residual risk the community needs to be aware of when returning to areas affected by fire, these may include:

  • Dangerous trees which may have been burnt or partially burnt that may be unstable
  • Powerlines that have been brought down or may be brought down, these should be considered live
  • Road conditions
  • Potential for the fire to flare up
  • High water across the road
  • Unstable ground
  • Wandering stock or animals
  • Smoke which may reduce visibility
  • Emergency Service vehicles and personnel working and/or moving through the area

Who decides on and manages the road closures?

A person, called the Incident Controller, decides where to establish road closures in consultation with various emergency service personnel and people who know the area.

You will usually see Police Officers managing road closures, however this responsibility can be delegated to emergency personnel such as firefighters of SES personnel.

What if I need to get into the fireground to check is someone is ok?

During an incident, roads may need to be temporarily closed so that emergency services can respond. Those emergency services will need to assess the affected area, the damage and subsequent danger. If you are concerned about the welfare of a family member, friend or relative during an emergency, you can contact the Bushfire Information Hotline. This will assist emergency services in their efforts to locate missing people.

For many reasons it can be distressing for residents to be kept out of their community, however it is important that trained responders are the first to enter and to assess the damage and the clean-up in a safe and controlled environment. This will reduce any further threat to lives and property.

Will roads be open once a fire has passed?

The Control Agency should liaise with all key stakeholders and collect a range of intelligence from various sources to assist in the decision making process prior to reopening any roads that have been closed.  This includes emergency service responders and resources in the field, Essential Services, Councils, Community Leaders/groups, Police and other emergency services.  With this intelligence the Control Agency can then apply the risk assessment process to inform the decision making for amending the road closure status.

Are residents allowed in?

Bona fide residents are generally permitted access at Tier 4, if they have a form of ID showing their address.

However at Tier 3, residents wanting to protect/defend their homes or check on their stock will be granted access on production of ID showing proof of their residency.

What if I do not have any ID?

People without proper ID showing proof of residency WILL NOT be allowed access through a road closure until the road is opened at Tier 5.

If you don't have an ID, please attend at a designated relief centre. Contact your local council or nearest police station to find out your options for verifying your identity.

This may include looking you up on the electoral role.

You may also wish to contact family or friends to find out whether they have any records or copies of documentation which may assist.

Alternatively you can go to to find your local Council or for your local police station.

What are the different levels of access?

A tiered access system has been established to assist with directions allowing people access either into an area or out of an area and return.  In all circumstances, access through a road closure or restricted access area, irrespective of the designated access level, will be subject to authorisation by the Control Agency in consultation with the relevant Functional Service(s) and Road authorities (DPTI and Councils) and the observation of any conditions imposed in allowing that access.

There are certain circumstances where the impact of emergencies on the community can be reduced by allowing certain categories of people and vehicles to travel on roads in the vicinity of the scene, including both before the emergency impacts and after the emergency has passed.  Persons seeking access will need to provide justification and bona fide reasons for such access (e.g. resident returning home, owner of land or business in affected area).  Any questions regarding the justification of persons seeking access will be referred to the Control Agency for a determination based on a balance of probability (i.e. more probable than not).

To assist the Control Agency in determining the appropriate level of access a Tiered Access System has been developed, see table above.

How do I know what level I come under?

Tier 1= Emergency Services only. Access is only granted for emergency services, other services or persons authorised by the control agency. People let through these road blocks must be in emergency services vehicles or approved Farm Fire Units.

Tier 2 =Emergency Services, escorted media and essential services such as Councils, DPTI, and SA Power Networks. Essential Services are granted access to conduct assessment and commence restoration activities. These representatives must have agency or organisation ID.

Media are also allowed with an escort, provided they have the proper Media Accreditation ID and appropriate PPC/PPE.

Tier 3 = Relief and Recovery Services, bona fide residents and media. Bona fide residents returning to protect or defend their property or check on stock must have evidence of residency before they're allowed through a road block.

Media must have appropriate Media Accreditation ID and PPC/PPE.

Relief and Recovery services mush have appropriate identification and accreditation.

Tier 4 = Relief and Recovery Services, bona fide residents and media. The rules of Tier 3 apply, however this applies to residents returning to their home or property not necessarily to protect or defend it.

Tier 5 = The road is open to the general public with business as usual.

What if I need to check my animals/farming property?

It is recognised that farmers in particular, need to access their properties as soon as possible for a range of reasons, including checking their stock, fences and other damage to their farms which are their business and source of income.

While safety will always remain the number one priority for emergency services access arrangements have been enhanced to provide early access when it is safe and appropriate.

Farmers and business owners a can expect more consideration of local knowledge in the development of Return to Home guidelines to prioritise the assessment and reopening of roads.

Residents provided with early access are likely to be required to meet minimum safety requirements including appropriate clothing, communications devices, vehicle and equipment.