Being prepared to respond to any type of incident is incredibly important. And although the bushfire season isn’t upon us at the moment, now is the time to ensure all bushfire preparation is being made in your workplace for such an event.
Throughout any training sessions we conduct with our clients, we discuss the need for all employees to identify situations that may cause an emergency incident, as well as situations that will prevent people from safely responding to one. Once identified, we reinforce the need to ensure that the issue has been rectified immediately. We implement regular workplace inspections and audits to identify faulty equipment and ensure high risk areas are maintained to prevent any issues. After all, we would all agree we would rather prevent an emergency from happening in the first place.
We also discuss being prepared for an any emergency in the workplace. The creation of an emergency plan that outlines how you respond to a whole range of emergencies is usually the first step for a business to be prepared.
So, aside from how to respond to a bushfire, it’s important to ask yourself, “what do I need to do to prepare my business for a bushfire?”
Leading up to the bushfire season, it is important for your workplace to implement actions that prepare it as much as possible for the potential dangers associated with the bushfire. General maintenance of the site needs to be conducted to minimise the hazards within the site. This maintenance will include cleaning the gutters of leaves and bark, removing fuel, leaves and bark material from around the structures and removing and storing flammable items appropriately.
Part of workplace bushfire preparation includes taking the steps to ensure all staff are fully prepared and aware of their roles and responsibilities in the event of a bushfire at all times during the operating hours of the site, especially those staff acting as wardens.
The evacuation or shelter in place responses should be in line with the response outlined within the sites Bushfire and Emergency Plans for fire evacuations, and/or shelter in place response, and may require specific actions pertaining to the bushfire situation.
Your procedures may indicate that leaving early is the safest option to protect staff onsite. Leaving early means leaving the area before a fire starts – not when you can see flames or smell smoke. Leaving early means avoiding panic, being trapped, making the wrong choices, and risking serious injury or death to staff and occupants in the workplace.
What is required for you to leave early?
Do we evacuate or stay put?
What are the triggers to leave?
Where will you send staff if you must evacuate?
Can they evacuate safely?
Do you have a plan for business continuity if you must leave the site?
These are just some of the questions to ask yourself to prepare for the possibility of bushfire.
Workplace Chief Warden
The Chief Warden’s role within your organisation is to seek and review all current information available and act on this information. The site should have a process for regularly monitoring the emergency information channels for up-to-date relevant information to enable an early decision to be made.
If there is a bushfire incident in the area, the site may be contacted by the local emergency services to advise about the status of the bushfire and provide recommendations as to what actions you should take at that time.
The current Bushfire Danger Rating system provides a series of levels that describe the prevailing or anticipated bushfire conditions. This system can be used as a trigger for the Chief Warden in deciding when it would be appropriate to close the site and/or evacuate to a safe location.
Where there is an actual bushfire, regularly monitor its status and the potential risk to your facility. This can be done by using mobile apps, fire service websites, call centres and ABC radio stations in your area. You will be able to monitor the Bushfire Alert Level at the time and use this to assist your decision making.
If the threat from the Bushfire is such that it’s too late to leave as it is not safe to do so, the Chief Warden is to immediately notify the emergency services that the site is Sheltering in Place. The emergency services should be informed of the sites exact address as well as;
- How many staff are on the premises
- Where in the site everyone is sheltering
- What has been done to prepare for the bushfire
- The Chief Wardens contact name and mobile phone number
Are You Prepared for Bushfire Season?
Now is the time to create a checklist of tasks to complete prior to Bushfire season, leading up to extreme Fire Days and/or prior to impact (if you haven’t evacuated). Consider what to include in your emergency response kit, or the logistics of evacuating everyone from your site, and load the emergency apps on your phone.
Do these things now so if your workplace (and/or home) come under a bushfire threat you are somewhat prepared to act. Contact the team at Workplace Emergency Management who can assist you with bushfire preparation this bushfire season.