Bushfire season is just around the corner. Last December, it was a lightning strike and the subsequent fire that decimated the Wye River – Jamieson Track area on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
The Great Ocean Road fire took hold in an area that was geographically and topographically challenging, it carried a heavy and dry fuel load, and it occurred at a time of worsening weather conditions. Access into and egress out of the area were also hampered during a season of high tourist visitation. That fire burnt through 2,500 hectares of the Otway Ranges and by Christmas day, it had destroyed 98 homes in Wye River and 18 in Separation Creek.
This is a recent reminder about the vulnerability of people and their properties in areas near bushland.
As park owners and managers, it is your responsibility to ensure you have done everything in your power to minimise the risk of injury to guests and employees – and that includes in emergency situations. The unpredictability of a bushfire is frightening and having a comprehensive emergency plan for the safe evacuation of guests in your care is not just a “good thing to have”, it is mandatory under legislation throughout Australia.
Safe Work Australia has an “Emergency Plan Fact Sheet” that provides information and general guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) and workers. This fact sheet can help to prepare and maintain the general emergency plans for your workplace under regulation 43 of the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations. It includes a helpful checklist that allows you to assess the emergency plans in your business and identify where there is still work to be done.
Further information that can help you plan an evacuation management strategy can be obtained from the rural fire service in your state or territory. The list below should get you started:
Remember, a comprehensive evacuation plan can save lives in a bushfire emergency, so make sure you have fulfilled your obligations in terms of emergency planning.