Bushfire safety for organisations and businesses
There are six key steps to getting your business bushfire ready.
Understand Bushfire Danger
- Understand the Fire Danger Rating System.
- Identify what Fire Ban District(s) your business operates in.
- Be aware of the dates for the Fire Danger Season. This may vary between Fire Ban Districts and may vary each year depending on seasonal conditions.
- Understand how Restrictions may impact your business during the Fire Danger Season and Total Fire Ban days. Permits may be required for certain operations.
- Understand how Restrictions may impact your business on Total Fire Ban days. Total Fire Bans can be declared at any time of the year and may fall outside the declared Fire Danger Season.
- Understand bushfire behaviour and how it may impact your people and your organisation. Read the fact sheets What to do when a bushfire happens and Planning to leave early.
Determine your Bushfire Risk
Undertake a Risk Assessment and determine the risk of bushfire to your operations. Consider the interactions of your locality, business, people and partners with the threat of bushfire.
- Clarify the level of bushfire risk of the location/s you, your personnel and/or volunteers are operating in. Refer to:
- Do you consider your organisation's activities to be an essential or critical service? Can you change how, when and where you operate to reduce the risk of bushfire on your operations, personnel, volunteers and/or clients? Establish your priorities and determine what could be sacrificed in dangerous fire conditions or in a bushfire.
- Consider the potential impact of a significant incident on your organisation's viability. What is critical to continuing your business? Do you have adequate insurance? What are your legal obligations? Incorporate potential bushfire impacts in your business continuity management processes. Remember that your business continuity may not only be threatened by a direct crisis, it could be as a secondary effect such as school and childcare closures in dangerous fire conditions.
- Consider whether your staff or organisation has a role in emergency response, relief and/or recovery. If so, ensure that your plan includes the necessary resourcing and staffing to carry out these essential duties.
- Consider whether your personnel or clients are vulnerable or have special needs. Detailed advice and resource materials are available at Victorian Department of Health and Human Services - Emergencies
- Consider whether your personnel, volunteers and/or clients have personal responsibilities under their own Bushfire Survival Plan in the event of predicted high fire danger or an emergency event.
- Consider whether your personnel or clients are emergency services volunteers (e.g. CFS, SES, Red Cross), whose volunteer services may be required in the event of an incident.
- Determine the potential impact of your policies and procedures on clients, other businesses and contractors. Engage with your community and communicate changes in policies and procedures. Ensure that procedures are in place to communicate changes to normal operations at short notice or in emergencies.
- Check what policies or procedures are already in place when operating on sites that other organisations or agencies manage. Adjust your procedures to include these if necessary.
Prepare your Organisation
- Consider your specific circumstances and requirements given the advice provided by the Country Fire Service and other Emergency Services.
- Ensure that you consider different scenarios when developing your Bushfire Safety plans. It is vital that your plan considers all levels of potential fire danger, not just catastrophic. Remember that bushfires can occur without warning in many different conditions and you need to be prepared to keep your business and your people safe. Have you worked out alternative actions, when things don't go "according to Plan A"?
- Ensure that your Emergency Management Plan (on-site and off-site) addresses bushfire as a threat and that your plan is maintained, updated and tested regularly.
- Determine your bushfire safety procedures with regard to the advice given for the schedule of Fire Danger Ratings. Your procedures may vary according to the level of the Fire Danger Rating. For example you may enact one procedure on days where the Fire Danger Rating is predicted to be Severe and another when it is predicted to be Extreme or Catastrophic.
- Determine safety procedures for sites, personnel, volunteers and clients in the event of a bushfire and when there are CFS Watch and Act and/or Emergency Warnings. Remember that bushfires can occur without warning. You need to plan for such emergencies.
- Plan to restrict or avoid unnecessary travel in dangerous fire weather. Travelling in the country during the bushfire season needs to be done with extreme caution and vigilance. Be prepared. Remember that roads may be closed and access disallowed during an emergency event. Refer to Information for Travellers.
Your Monitoring and Communication
- Consider how you will track your staff movements and maintain communication channels. Remember that some areas of the state have poor or no mobile, ABC radio and/or internet coverage and that power may be lost during an emergency event.
- Determine how your organisation will monitor and communicate Fire Danger Ratings and Bushfire Warnings. Incident alerts may be accessed through the public or private sector. Refer to Ways to stay informed.
- Understand how the Emergency Alert system operates and communicate this to your staff, volunteers and clients. Refer to Emergency Alert.
- Understand and communicate relocation procedures. Refer to Preparing yourself for a bushfire and Evacuation.
Prepare Your People
Your Bushfire Survival Plan needs to consider how you, your staff, your volunteers and your clients will act before, during and after a fire weather warning or bushfire event. Preparing your people emotionally to cope with the threat of bushfire is as important as the practical training in bushfire safety procedures and the physical preparations of your worksites, machinery and equipment.
Although every individual will cope differently with a frightening event, there are strategies that can be used to better prepare so that people can resist the natural reaction to panic. Practising the actions in your Bushfire Safety Plan will prepare you and your people to be able to respond automatically and appropriately to a fire weather warning and during a bushfire threat.
- Engage with your staff and communicate bushfire risks and bushfire safety policies and procedures.
- Engage with your clients, business partners and contractors and communicate bushfire safety policies and procedures.
- Ensure that procedures are in place to communicate changes to normal operations at short notice or in emergencies.
- Train your staff in bushfire safety procedures. Practise your plan and ensure that individuals are familiar with bushfire survival actions
- Incorporate bushfire safety policy and procedures into your induction processes for new personnel
- Refresh staff skills and knowledge each year prior to the Fire Danger Season.
- Consider the physical and emotional capabilities of yourself, your personnel, volunteers and clients to cope and respond to bushfire. If you plan to continue operating in dangerous fire conditions, or you plan to actively stay and defend your facilities, are you and your people physically fit? Refer to Preparing yourself for a bushfire.
- Ensure that all staff have access to personal protective clothing and equipment when working in areas subject to bushfire risk. Refer to Emergency Kits.
Prepare Your Worksite
The better prepared your buildings, facilities and surroundings, the more likely they will survive a bushfire. If your plan is to stay at your worksite during dangerous fire conditions, the better prepared your worksite, the more safety it will offer you and your people. In the event of a bushfire, a well prepared, well constructed and actively defended property may offer safety during a fire when the Fire Danger Index is less than 100. However, on days where the Fire Danger Rating is predicted to be catastrophic or extreme, avoiding high bushfire risk areas or leaving early is the safest option.
- Determine whether your facilities are constructed to meet the latest regulations for buildings in bushfire prone areas (Australian Standard AS 3959-2009: Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas and Section F8, South Australian Housing Code - May 2009). Undertake an audit of bushfire safety for your buildings and work sites. Refer to Preparing your home for bushfires.
- Prepare your worksite/s for bushfire. Refer to:
- Prepare and maintain Emergency Kits appropriate to your operations and staffing levels. Refer to Emergency Kits.
- Prepare and maintain vehicles and machinery. Remember to keep fuel tanks filled.
- Prepare and maintain communication equipment. Keep mobile phones charged and operating.
- Maintain and regularly test fire fighting equipment.
A written plan details what you need to help safeguard your people and your assets if a fire threatens. It clarifies what actions each member of your team will take and how you will monitor and communicate fire risk and emergency warnings. Remember, if it's not written down, it's not a plan. Making a choice when a bushfire threatens is too late. The majority of people in bushfires die fleeing their locations at the last moment. They place themselves at greater risk of suffering smoke inhalation and being burnt by radiant heat. Lack of preparation and leaving late is a deadly combination.
Practising the actions in your Bushfire Survival Plan will prepare you to respond automatically and appropriately during a bushfire threat.
- Document and practise your plans and procedures.
- Have a plan that will work in different situations and can adapt to changing circumstances. It is important to recognise that unexpected things are likely to occur in an emergency event.
- Review policies, plans and procedures annually to reflect any changes that may have taken place. Keep links to CFS websites live to ensure that material is up-to-date.