News & Media

FSC on warnings

By: CFA Media

Category: Community Safety

  7.30 AM 12 January, 2013

Location: General

Views: 5216

As the Fire Services Commissioner, I have the legislated responsibility for providing information and warnings to the Victorian community.  This is a critical part of fire management across Victoria.

We have ahead of us the first significant fire season in two years and as we face an increasing number of days of high fire danger, providing information to the community becomes even more important.     

Victoria’s emergency services must and do use multiple ways to warn and provide information to the community - because people access the information in different ways.  

The reality is that we may not always have time to issue a formal warning. Fires can start and move incredibly quickly, as we have seen recently both here and interstate.    

Situational awareness is vital, and prompts you to access the information you need to make decisions about your own safety.   

Every Victorian has a responsibility to understand the bushfire risk – put your head out the door, talk to your neighbours, assess what you can see and hear, and understand what you need to do to get the next level of information so you can make the right decision.

We have good systems, but some take time to put into effect once information about fires comes to us.  Sometimes the quickest way to warn communities is to get on the public radio. Sometimes it is so urgent the emergency services will doorknock houses in the immediate area of a threat.   

When we issue warnings through our emergency broadcasters such as ABC, commercial and community radio stations and SkyNews, or through the CFA website, social media and the Victorian Bushfire Information Line, we use different warning levels to indicate the seriousness of a fire.

These levels go up and down as required.   An ‘advice’ message means “there is fire activity in the area”; a ‘watch and act’ means “you may be impacted by fire and should start preparing’; an ‘emergency warning’ means “community members are in imminent danger and must take action to protect themselves”.

When we issue an emergency warning – the highest level of warning - we can use a telephone-based alert system to get it out there. Many people focus on the telephone-based alert system but this is only used when people in the immediate area of a fire are in danger and they must act immediately.     Our message to the community is that if you wait for a telephone message, it could be too late ... the fire could be in your backyard.

Everyone needs more than one way to find the information they need.   This is where shared responsibility and shared obligation comes in.   It’s more than a catch phrase for us – it’s a partnership with the community that is absolutely critical and means we’ll provide you with the best information we have at the time, and you need to keep yourself updated.

The fire weather and fire behaviour that we have seen over the past few weeks is part of the reality of living in this state.  We know this can be a very difficult reality for many Victorians.  

But living with fire in Victoria is about understanding your own risk, understanding the Fire Danger Rating system; and knowing what your responsibility is to yourself and your family in the lead up to a high fire danger day. 

If you know it’s going to be a high fire danger day or if you see or smell smoke, think about what you will do and be prepared to do it.  Most of all know how you will get your information.    CFA’s website and the FireReady app, emergency broadcasters, ABC radio and SKY NEWS, CFA social media channels such as Facebook (/cfavic) and Twitter (CFA_Updates) and the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (1800 240 667) are all ways of getting the information you need.

This fire season, please take care of yourselves, have your fire plan ready and stay alert.

Listen to the fire commissioner talking about warnings on ABC 774 below:

Last Updated: 15 January 2013