Steps to preparedness for bushfire season

8 August, 2023Posted in: Community, Corporate Affairs
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Picture of fire rating in front of bushland

In anticipation of a hot, dry summer ahead, we learn from the past to plan ahead and support our community’s preparedness for bushfire season. Guided by findings of the Bushfire Response and Recovery review of 2021, we’re completing hazard-reduction burns in partnership with firefighting agencies. We’re maintaining asset protection zones on Council-owned and managed lands.

We’ve designed protocols for the closure of facilities such as sportsgrounds and bushland reserves based on the new National Fire Danger Rating system and location in relation to bush fire prone land. We have communicated these changes to local community and sporting groups. We will facilitate RFS information sessions for community members in our villages, and together with the Local Emergency Management Committee and RFS, have put a comprehensive Local Recovery Plan in place.

Council Administrator Mr Viv May requested the Bushfire Response and Recovery Review 2021, following the devastation of the 2019/20 Black Summer Fires. “Together with the RFS, who are the lead agency in bushfire emergencies, we are taking steps to improve the preparedness of our community for this bushfire season,” Mr May said.

 “This includes sharing information on how to prepare and what to do in a bushfire emergency, investing in water supply for our outlying villages, undertaking hazard reduction activity, and putting clear protocols and procedures in place that will position us well to respond efficiently and support recovery in the event of a bushfire emergency.”

The review raised 44 recommendations and 14 additional points emerged from a debrief session and workshops. Those identified as most critical (32 in total) have been completed. The remainder are being undertaken in priority order.

Council has engaged with community members impacted by the Black Summer Fires to inform policy and planning in relation to bushfire emergencies.

Policy and procedures have been co-designed with local sporting bodies for closure of reserves and playing fields on days when fire rating is extreme or catastrophic (depending on location). And protocols are in place to close public facilities identified by the RFS as being on bushfire prone land when fire danger risk requires it.

Among prevention measures, in partnership with the RFS our Environment Team is clearing overgrowth or debris on asset protection zones and completing hazard reduction burns on Council owned lands. Work is ongoing to prepare our fire trails for the upcoming bushfire season.

“We have worked closely with Community Associations to develop Emergency Management and Resilience sessions which Council will facilitate with the RFS for our Northern and Southern villages on September 6 and 13,” Mr May said. An opportunity for community members to hear direct from the RFS how they can best prepare their property, and what to do in the event of an emergency. “This is the time to ask questions and be updated on what the RFS, Council, and the Local Emergency Management Committee (LMEC) are doing to support our Shire’s bushfire preparedness.”

The review highlighted the importance of training which will be on-going to ensure that knowledge remains up-to-date. A Grants Officer has been recruited and continues to  actively pursue funding for additional training, as well as recovery efforts.

Importantly, we now have a Wingecarribee Local Recovery Plan that takes a place-based approach and is linked with neighbouring Shires, Resilience NSW and other stakeholders, so we’re not in this alone,” Mr May said. Early provision of welfare service, mental health support services and a post-incident de-brief session framework is included in the Community Recovery Toolbox. “There is a recovery procedure in place with a clear model of roles and responsibilities.”

A Local Emergency Management Officer now sits within the Local Emergency Management Committee (LEMC). And key Council staff will be rostered over holiday periods for managing emergency situations.

“The Wingecarribee community can have confidence that Council has taken what we can learn from past bushfire emergencies to improve our Shire’s future preparedness for bushfire season, and put protocols in place to support response and recovery in the event of a bushfire emergency,” Mr May said. “We will continue to work closely with the RFS and LEMC to ensure that our community is well informed and supported.”


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