Community Fire Refuges and Nearby Safer Places
EVACUATION CENTRES AND NEARBY SAFER PLACES
Following the tragic fires of 7 February 2009 in Victoria, the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) has increased the options it promotes for community safety during major bushfires in line with the revised AFAC position on ‘Bushfires and Community Safety ’ to include:
- evacuation centres (previously known as community fire refuges).
- nearby safer places.
Evacuation centres are buildings that have been identified by the TFS in partnership with councils and other government agencies that offer basic amenities including temporary shelter, drinking water and toilet facilities. They are for people who leave bushfire affected areas and do not go somewhere else of their own choosing eg. to homes of friends or family etc.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Evacuation centres will not be used in all bushfires and there will not be one in every local area.
- If an evacuation centre is opened, the TFS will advertise it through ABC Local Radio and the TFS website (go to Current Bushfires and Other Incidents on the home page and click on the ‘More Info’ icon for the relevant fire).
- It is up to each individual as to whether or not they go to the evacuation centre. If people are in any doubt about what they should do when bushfires are affecting their area and an evacuation centre is opened, TFS reminds them that not being in bushfire affected areas is always the safer option.
- Evacuation centres offer only very basic shelter/amenities and they will only be open for a short period of time - so people need to be essentially ‘self-sufficient’.
- It is ok to take domestic pets as long as you can look after/secure them (although pets may not be allowed inside the evacuation centre). Livestock and larger animals should not be taken.
WHERE ARE THEY?
Councils identify the best facility to use as an evacuation centre in consultation with TFS, and with assistance as needed from SES and DHHS. Facilities are selected considering:
- available amenities e.g toilets, parking
- bushfire defendability
- location of the facility and expected path of bushfires.
Evacuation centres will be well clear of the expected path of fires and when they are selected, TFS will broadcast their location on ABC Local Radio and the TFS website.
STATE-WIDE ARRANGEMENTS for emergency management workers
The current arrangements for the coordinated operation of evacuation centres have been recently reviewed and updated. This document summarises the arrangements.
NEARBY SAFER PLACES
Another option that may improve your safety during major bushfires are nearby safer places, however the TFS advises that the chances of survival are greatly reduced if people find themselves in situations where they need to use a nearby safer place.
Individuals (residents and visitors) are responsible for identifying their own nearby safer places, based on their own circumstances and location. This is part of preparing your Bushfire Survival Plan.
- They should be chosen on the basis that they increase the distance between the individual and the heat from the flames (also known as ‘radiant heat’) and can be reached in a few minutes of the fire front moving through the area you are in.
- They can include but are not limited to: e.g. a large, ploughed/open paddock, sports oval, river or dam.
- They should be used when you get ‘caught out’ by the approaching bushfire and you need to get out of the way of the fire front to save your life.
- These nearby safer places could still be subject to significant levels of smoke and ember attack and therefore you will need to be prepared for an environment that is hot, windy, noisy and possibly quite dark. However the Victorian experience showed that people clothed suitably and avoiding embers can survive in these circumstances.
While they are considered a place of last resort, using a nearby safer place is a better option than trying to out-run a fire front in a car or on foot.
- Be vigilant in hotter weather, stay tuned for bushfire reports and implement your Bushfire Survival Plan, if there are fires in or near your area.
- When your area is affected by bushfire and if an evacuation centre is opened, consider relocating. Remember that many people died in Victoria trying to outrun the fires. Do not ‘wait and see’ – it could be fatal.
- If you stay in the bushfire affected area (e.g. to defend your property), revise your nearby safer places as you carry out your plan. Make sure others with you do the same.
- If you start to doubt your ability to defend your home or to get out of the way of the fire front, then take action. Depending on your situation this could mean leaving the area or, as a last resort, going to a nearby safer place and staying there until the fire front passes.
Evacuation centres and nearby safer places are two more options to promote community safety during bushfires that work by increasing the distance between people and radiant heat/flames.
Surviving bushfires takes a joint effort between individuals, communities, Government and its agencies.
The safest option is always being outside of bushfire affected areas and the TFS encourages all Tasmanians and its visitors to ‘Prepare to Survive ’