Category Archives: Victoria

VIC | SES embraces local knowledge for emergency planning

With the launch of its Local Knowledge Policy, Victoria State Emergency Service (SES) is committed to embracing information from people on the ground to a greater extent than ever before.

Reviews of past emergencies demonstrate the value of incorporating local knowledge. The 2011 Victorian Floods Review showed examples of local knowledge being used to good effect to inform decision making during the 2010-11 floods, as well as where a lack of local knowledge hurt the response.

SES is implementing local knowledge initiatives by:

  • - Identifying and working with existing networks that are a source of local knowledge
  • - Identifying community observers to provide information and observations during emergencies
  • - Identifying community observers within relevant emergency plans including Municipal Flood Emergency Plans
  • - Establishing command and control arrangements with other emergency service providers

SES acknowledges and appreciates the contributions of all community members, other emergency service agencies and stakeholders thus far to its local knowledge initiatives and looks forward to continuing to work closely with them in the future.

For further information, including how you can get involved, read the Local Knowledge Factsheet.pdf (256 KB)

VIC | Update on firefight at Hazelwood and Yallourn mines

Fire agencies and mine personnel are working around the clock on fire suppression activities at both Hazelwood and Yallourn mines in the Latrobe Valley. This Information newsletter is for the 16th of February, 2014.

Hazelwood Open Cut Mine Fire

The firefight at Hazelwood open cut mine involves around 200 CFA and MFB firefighters, 100 mine staff, 30 incident management team personnel and nine medical monitoring personnel.

They are supported by approximately 80 tankers, heavy pumping vehicles, ladder vehicles and aircraft. Dependent on weather, firefighting tactics can include helicopter water bombing to reduce the heat on the coalface and support suppression activities.

Unmanned spray systems are being put in place to reduce the use of firefighters on the coal face.While progress has been made to extinguish the fire, there is still at least several weeks of work ahead.

Yallourn Open Cut Mine Fire

Fire suppression activities will be increased in Yallourn to continue to extinguish spot fires throughout the disused section of the mine.This may include helicopter water bombing, dependent on the weather conditions.

Air Quality and Health

Monitoring of carbon monoxide is being undertaken continuously both at the mine site and in the Morwell community by Emergency Services HazMat technicians.

The EPA also has air monitoring in place for fine particles in Traralgon and in Morwell to measure the impacts of the smoke (from bushfires and from the mine fires) on local air quality.

Emergency services and the EPA will continue monitoring over coming weeks to minimise any risks to communities or firefighters. The level of carbon monoxide in and around the mines can increase – as occurred recently in parts of Morwell – when there are calm weather conditions and no winds to disperse smoke.

Based on weather conditions, it is possible that this will happen again until the fire is out. How smoke affects you depends on your age, pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease, and the length of time you are exposed.

Children, the elderly, smokers and people with pre-existing illnesses such as heart or lung conditions (including asthma) are more sensitive to the effects of breathing in fine particles.

Signs of smoke irritation include itchy eyes, sore throat, runny nose and coughing. Symptoms may worsen and include wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing. It is very important that people with pre-existing health conditions take their medication, follow their treatment plan, and seek immediate medical advice if symptoms occur or call NURSE-ON- CALL on 1300 60 60 24.

OHS for Firefighters

Some firefighters are required to wear breathing apparatus while fighting the mine fires, due to the risk posed to them by carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide levels are regularly checked by the use of air quality monitors, and this information is recorded every 15 minutes. Firefighters and mine staff are required to leave the mine every two hours for a break. Firefighters and mine staff returning from work are required to go through a Health Observation Station for assessment and clearance prior to entering or leaving the mine.

Crews are not able to leave the site until health monitoring has been completed and this is maintained under a ‘no health tag, no exit’ policy.

Roads

While the recent fire has caused damage to vegetation, signs and safety barriers along the Princes Freeway at Morwell, VicRoads advise there has been no damage to the surface of the road.

Works to remove vegetation and repair signs and safety barriers will continue in the coming weeks. While these works are being undertaken, some lane closures and reduced speed limits will be required for the safety of drivers and workers.

Information on updated road closures is available via 13 11 70 or the VicRoads website: http://traffic.vicroads.vic.gov.au/

Victoria Police

People who commit bushfire arson are not always strangers, they often live and work in local communities. If you have concerns about a member of your family, a friend or colleague, they might need help. Victoria Police and Crime Stoppers urge the community to report suspicious behaviour by calling Triple Zero (000) or Crime Stoppers confidentially on 1800 333 000.

If you have any concerns about the health of your livestock, consult a vet or the Department of Environment and Primary Industries Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

Private Water Tanks

General advice from the Department of Health is that if your tank water supply tastes, looks or smells unusual do not use it for drinking, bathing or for pets. Contact your local council Environmental Health Officer or the Department of Health for additional advice.

Nurse-on-Call on 1300 60 60 24 (this is a phone service that allows you to discuss any health related issue with a registered nurse, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the cost of a local call from anywhere in Victoria).

The Department of Human Services offer a range of support services including personal, emotional, psychological and financial help. For information go to http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au

EPA Victoria

More information on the impacts of smoke on local air quality contact EPA Victoria on 1300 372 842 (24 hours) or visit: www.epa.vic.gov.au 

Department of Health

More information on the health effects of smoke, or on the use of water from rainwater tanks contact 1300 761 874 (during business hours) or go to www.health.vic.gov.au/environment/bushfires.htm

Asthma Foundation

For further information about asthma go to the Asthma Foundation of Victoria website at: www.asthma.org.au or call 1800 278 462.

Local Government

Latrobe City Council can be contacted on 1300 367 700 or go to: http://www.latrobe.vic.gov.au/Home

Stay Informed For information on fires in Victoria and general fire safety advice, please contact the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on Freecall 1800 240 667. (Callers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech/communication impairment can call via 1800 555 677.)

Other valuable information sources include: ABC Local Radio, Commercial and designated community radio stations, the FireReady app and the VicEmergency website: www.emergency.vic.gov.au  Social Media – Facebook (facebook.com/cfavic) Twitter (Twitter @ CFA_Updates)

Ongoing Fire Management and Information

Emergency services will remain alert for any new fire starts in the Latrobe Valley area.Community officers will also be working in the field as conducting engagement with residents and vulnerable community members.

VIC | Fire conditions see peak in demand for digital warnings

The most intense fire conditions in Victoria in the past five years have seen an increase in demand for bushfire information and warnings delivered through the VicEmergency website and FireReady app.
  • More than 497,000 total downloads of new FireReady app
  • More than 85,000 new downloads on Sunday 9 February 2014 alone
  • Almost 12 million notifications sent to app users on Sunday, including 3.8 million notifications for fire warnings
  • Currently number one app on iTunes Australia Free App store VicEmergency website received more than 897,00 hits over weekend 101,500 hits between 2pm-3pm Sunday 9 February 2014

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the new app – developed to provide Victorians with fire warnings and information based on the user’s Watch Zone – has been downloaded 497,183 times since its launch on 16 December 2013.

“As our state faced the worst fire conditions in five years, the new FireReady app sent nine million fire notifications direct to mobile devices on Sunday,” Mr Lapsley said

“The VicEmergency website also successfully met the increase in demand, with more than 897,000 hits recorded across the weekend and usage peaking at 12,000 new visits to the site every minute.”

The FireReady app and VicEmergency site are two information channels used as part of Victoria’s integrated warning system.

Other information channels include ABC Local Radio, commercial and designated community radio stations or Sky News TV, the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667, and CFA’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

These channels have also seen a peak in demand, with more than 11,100 calls to the Victorian Bushfire Information Line in the 24 hours til Midnight on Sunday 9 February 2014.

Location based Emergency Alerts have also been sent direct to mobile phones. For example, 58,000 texts were sent and 13,000 calls were made to landlines regarding the Mickleham Kilmore fire.

“We know Victorians have a high demand for digital warnings, but don’t wait for a warning to be sent to your phone – it’s your responsibility to know your local conditions and be informed. No-one should rely on one source of information during an emergency,” Mr Lapsley said.

Apple users can download the free app from the iTunes store, while Android users can download it from the Department of Justice’s Google store.

The VicEmergency website is available at http://www.emergency.vic.gov.au. A fast-loading text version of the site is also available at http://www.emergency.vic.gov.au/text.html

VIC | Multiple bushfire EMERGENCY WARNINGS issued

All emergency warnings are available on the website VicEmergency

VicEmergency is the single all-emergencies website for Victorians.

VicEmergency is Victoria’s primary website for emergency warnings for fire and flood and provides a single source of information and advice to help people prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies.

VicEmergency has a real-time Google Map display with emergency events including fires, floods, storms, power outages, hazardous material incidents and traffic incidents. It also includes important planning and recovery information on fire and flood.

The site is being developed in phases and more content will be added over the coming year. It is important that this work is based on community input and your feedback on VicEmergency is welcomed.

Remember, always access more than one source of emergency warnings. As well as visiting VicEmergency for fire warnings this summer, you can download the new FireReady app , check CFA’s Facebook page  and Twitter , listen to your local emergency broadcaster  or ring the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.

http://www.emergency.vic.gov.au/map#now

Victoria | Bushfire EMERGENCY warning for Gisborne Fire 09-02-14 12:54

This is an Emergency Warning issued by Country Fire Authority for Clarkefield, Goonawarra, Sunbury, The Gap.
There is a fast moving, out of control grassfire travelling in a southerly direction from
Dalrymple Road towards The Gap. This fire will be impacted by the windchange expect around 1.00pm which will push the fire in a easterly and northeasterly direction especially areas north of Dalrymple Road Sunbury.
Spotfires and Ember Attacks can be expected ahead of the fire
You may be in danger, act now to protect yourself.
The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately.
The next update is expected by 09/02/14 3:00 PM or as the situation changes.
Safety Information
When indoors:
  • Close all exterior doors, windows and vents and turn off cooling systems.
  • Shelter in a room that has a door and or a window to the outside – It is critical to keep an eye on what is happening with the fire.

If you cannot get indoors, other last resort options include:

  • A large open area like a ploughed paddock, football oval or sporting reserve.
  • A large body of water like a dam, lake, river, the ocean or inground pool.
  • Try to protect yourself from the fire’s heat.

In the car:

  • Park behind a solid structure to block the fire’s heat or pull over to a cleared area.
  • Try to position the car towards the approaching fire.
  • Put on your hazard lights and headlights.
  • Turn the engine off, close all windows and ensure that car air vents are closed.
  • Get down as low as possible below window level and cover up with a woolen blanket.

If you are travelling, do not enter the area, U-turn to safety.

If you are away from home, do not return.

For life or property threatening emergencies call 000

If you need medical advice for burns or smoke exposure call Nurse on Call on 1300 606 024

Stay Informed:

  • Via www.cfa.vic.gov.au
  • Tune to ABC Local Radio, commercial and designated community radio stations or Sky News TV
  • Call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on freecall 1800 240 667
  • Deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech/communication impairment can contact VBIL via the National Relay Service on 1800 555 677.
  • Download the FireReady App and follow CFA on Twitter or Facebook
  • Road Closures: check VicRoads Website.

Victoria | AG’s report on Managing Emergency Services Volunteers released

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the Victoria State Emergency Service (SES), both of which provide emergency response services for natural disasters, rely significantly on volunteers to perform their duties.

Volunteers perform essential operational and non-operational duties including firefighting, general rescue, road rescue, incident management, community education, catering, recruitment and fundraising. Volunteers also provide a workforce surge capacity during protracted major incidents such as Black Saturday.

CFA and SES’s volunteers number around 57 500 and 5 000 respectively. However, despite the significant reliance on volunteers, neither CFA nor SES has a sound understanding of the total number of volunteers needed to fulfil their operational requirements.

CFA does not know how many volunteers it needs and SES’ data on how many volunteers it has is unreliable. Neither agency can be assured that it has the capacity to respond to incidents when they occur because assessments of current workforce capacity overestimate their emergency response capabilities.

CFA and SES’s decentralised approaches to the recruitment, training and deployment of volunteers means neither agency can assure itself that these activities are effectively addressing workforce needs. CFA is in the process of implementing programs that aim to address these concerns, however, SES’ attempts to resolve these issues are presently inadequate.

Addressing these issues is critical to the long-term sustainability of these emergency services agencies.

Access the Report

Full report as HTML

Full report as PDF Adobe PDF (2.5 MB)

PDF of presentation

Victoria | SES welcomes AG’s report on managing emergency svs volunteers

Today the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office published its report on managing emergency services volunteers, presenting their audit recommendations of CFA and SES’ management of their volunteer workforce.

SES welcomes and accepts the recommendations of the Victorian Auditor-General’s report. Volunteers are integral to the work of SES and we value their immense contribution and commitment – last year SES volunteers contributed over 300,000 hours of their time to serve their community.

SES is developing an action plan for the implementation of all the report’s recommendations. This action plan will be completed by the end of March 2014. The issues and challenges identified by the Auditor-General, reinforce those identified by SES. We are working hard to address them and current initiatives include:

* Identifying improvements for our ERAS-e system

* A recruitment and retention pilot in the Central Region to inform the development of an organisational-wide recruitment and retention strategy

* A data integrity project that seeks to scope and prioritise enhancements to governance, systems, processes, training and documentation relating to key SES data

SES is working in partnership with CFA, and other agencies in the sector, to enhance our  volunteer capacity and capability.

Through the steadfast support and commitment of our volunteers SES is able to play a vital role in the Victorian emergency services sector, contributing to improving the safety of all Victorians.

Victoria | Cat-astrophe averted in Brimbank

d42a0cde-6460-4441-8aee-b6abe21b5209

Two kittens were rescued from a storm drain over the weekend by volunteers from Victoria State Emergency Service’s Footscray Unit.

Six volunteers attended a ‘rescue animal’ call in Brimbank on Sunday to discover the cats who were clearly hot and bothered in the 40 degree heat.

SES Member Lachlan Scott said that, luckily, the kittens were within reach once the drain lid was removed.

“(They) were meowing extremely loudly and shaking through what we expect was a mixture of fear, exhaustion and the heat,” he said.

“After we had both kittens we offered them water and put them inside one of the vehicles with the air con on so they would start to cool down. We closed up the storm water drain and one of our members drove them to Lort Smith in the city for a check-up.”

The kittens are on their way to a foster home ahead of going up for adoption and are feline fine.

Victoria | Extreme fire danger this weekend

Fire authorities across Victoria are preparing for dangerous fire conditions across the state this weekend, prompting a statewide Total Fire Ban on Saturday and Sunday. 

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said this weekend would be hot, dry and windy with Very High, Severe and Extreme Fire Danger Ratings across the state.

“Victorians need to take the conditions this weekend very seriously, these are the most serious fire conditions we have had this season.

“No matter where you are in the state, it will be very hot and dry on Saturday and remain hot overnight. The cool change will come through the south west of the state in the early hours of Sunday morning and move east throughout the day,” Mr Lapsley said.

“In these conditions if a fire starts and takes hold it will be very difficult to control, become unpredictable and fast moving. Fires have the potential to run and do significant damage.”

Mr Lapsley said firefighters at Victoria’s 1290 fire stations across the state would be at the highest level of readiness.

“CFA, DEPI, Parks Victoria and MFB firefighters are ready to go and are supported by our interstate and international counterparts from New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand.”

With firefighters at the ready, Mr Lapsley said it was also up to the community to behave appropriately under the regulations of a Total Fire Ban.

“You must not introduce fires into the landscape. It is illegal to light any sort of fire, including campfires. We don’t want any foolish behaviour that results in a fire starting,” he said.

“The most common causes of recklessly lit fires including inappropriately disposed of cigarette butts, campfires, bonfires and flares.”

He encouraged Victorians to make a decision now about what they would do if a fire breaks out near them over the weekend.

“If you don’t have a plan, it’s not too late to decide what you will do. Don’t wait for a warning to be sent to your phone, it’s your responsibility to know your local conditions and be informed. Know when to leave and where to go, stay aware of your surroundings, and seek out information about weather and fire risk.

“Being the weekend, families will be together or travelling across the state and need to know what they will do in an emergency. If you wait until you see smoke in the sky it’s too late. The safest option is to leave early,” he said.

“For residents in areas where there are already fires in the landscape, it is important to understand how quickly conditions can change, and if the best option is to leave make that decision early,” Mr Lapsley said.

“Everyone who lives in high fire risk areas should to be alert to weather conditions, talk to neighbours, listen to ABC local radio, commercial and designated community stations, call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line for official warnings and information about bushfires, check www.emergency.vic.gov.au and the FireReady app.”

A Heat Health Alert has been issued for Saturday 8 February, advising of heatwave conditions.

Victoria | Black Saturday will never be forgotten

7thBS-web-c99a64ed-23fc-4b71-8010-6f3516ab2f40-0-400x266

Victoria’s 2009 bushfires reached the hearts of all Victorians with many people knowing someone directly or indirectly who was touched by the tragedy.

Everyone who was in the State on that awful day will recall for the rest of their lives the conditions that led to the worst bushfire disaster in Australia’s history.

The 173 deaths and more than 2,000 homes lost in an afternoon of horror are the bald statistics of the event, the real pain of which endures every day in the hearts and minds of countless Victorians five years later.

After every major bushfire, after the flames and last embers have been extinguished, many people remain physically and emotionally scarred and displaced – for years, sometimes even decades.

It goes without saying that it is our duty to continue to support our fellow Victorians who have suffered and to honour the memories of those who perished.

The 7th February 2009 resulted in death, destruction and displacement of people which has driven the need for change. It is fair to say that the process of learning and change started the following day.

The 2009 bushfires were subject to an exhaustive Royal Commission of inquiry. That led to a series of fundamental changes, many of which are largely invisible to the public eye. But they are fundamental. These are changes to complex systems, processes and cultures. The three main fire services remain, but they work in a much more joined up, integrated fashion to deliver a single outcome that puts the community first.

The primacy of human life is more obviously at the forefront of all of our activities. That is why the advice to leave a high bushfire area well in advance of a bushfire threat is so prominent in our communications. It is the safest option.

Likewise, information and advice to the public is delivered in an integrated and varied way. The advice is as timely and relevant as it can be. The means of delivering this are improving all the time.

There have been changes to how and where we can build in bushfire prone areas, in the detection and policing of arson, and in the measures to prevent bushfires starting from power lines.

Today we must remember, reflect upon and respect the experience of Black Saturday as we move on, remembering also the sacrifice of our volunteer and career firefighters and the large number of personnel that work to plan for, respond to, and help communities recover from emergencies in Victoria.

Victoria is and always has been a place where bushfires occur. In itself that will not change. We need to accept that reality and adapt to it, to build bushfire into our lives in a realistic way and to do it together, the emergency services, community, Government and business.

Each year since 2009 we have rightly marked 7th February. The memories of those whose lives were lost, of those who were left behind, of those who were displaced and those who continue to struggle to rebuild lives remain a driver for change. This change must and will be long term and sustainable. We must never forget the hard lessons, and we must never stop learning from them.

Craig Lapsley is Victoria’s Fire Services Commissioner.