Managing Bushfire Risks in Centre-Based Services

This page includes information for centre-based services to manage bushfire risks.

It also includes additional requirements for services that are on the Department's bushfire at-risk register (BARR).

Recognising and understanding a service’s risk environment will help to prepare the service in case of a bushfire.

Emergency and evacuation policy and procedures

All education and care services are required to ensure that every reasonable precaution is taken to protect children being educated and cared for by the service from harm and any hazard likely to cause injury, including responding to potential bushfire risks. Each service must have emergency and evacuation policy and procedures in place (regulation 168(2)(e)). Each service must also ensure that its emergency and evacuation procedures meet the requirements set out in regulation 97, this includes procedures for responding to potential bushfire risks.

Emergency situations

An emergency refers to all situations or events posing an imminent or severe risk to those present in an education and care service, and may include floods, fire or extreme weather events.

Emergencies are sudden, unexpected events or situations that require immediate action to prevent injury to individuals or damage to the service’s environment.

Policies and procedures

The service’s evacuation policy and procedures (regulation 168(2)(e)) must include emergency evacuation procedures (regulation 97) that set out:

  • instructions for what must be done in the event of an emergency; and
  • an emergency and evacuation floor plan.

A risk assessment must be conducted to identify potential emergencies that are relevant to the service including a risk assessment relating to bushfire risks where relevant.

The emergency and evacuation policy and procedures for the service should confirm how emergencies will be managed to reduce the associated risks and maintain children’s safety; this may include identifying circumstances when the decision is made to close the service.

The approved provider must also ensure that the nominated supervisors and staff members of, and volunteers at, the service follow the policies and procedures required under regulations 168. Copies of the current emergency and evacuation policy and procedures must be available for inspection at the education and care service premises at all times that the service is educating and caring for children (regulation 171(2)).

Emergency and evacuation requirements

Plans to effectively manage incidents and emergencies should be developed in consultation with relevant authorities, practised and implemented (element 2.2.2 Incident and Emergency Management).

The emergency and evacuation procedures must be rehearsed every 3 months by staff members, volunteers and children present at the service on the day of the rehearsal and the responsible person present at the time and the rehearsals must be documented (regulation 97).

The service’s emergency and evacuation floor plan and instructions must be displayed in a prominent position near each exit of the service premises.

Bushfire at-risk register

Victoria has a number of fire-prone areas where there is a higher risk of bushfire activity. Centre-based services located in these areas are placed on the Department’s Bushfire At-Risk Register (BARR) and additional conditions are placed on their service approval (section 51). The additional requirements include:

  • the approved provider of a service on the BARR must ensure that on any day declared to be a code red day for the region in which a service is located, that the service is closed and remains closed for the duration of the Code Red day;
  • services named on the BARR must submit their current emergency management plan annually to their respective QAR Regional Office by 1 September.

It is a serious offence not to comply with a condition of a service approval (section 51).

The list of services placed on the BARR is available at: Bushfire at-risk register

Outside School Hours Care Services (OSHC) that are co-located on a school site may choose to work with the school to develop a single emergency management plan. In these circumstances it is advisable that a separate risk assessment is completed for the OSHC service, and any special requirements about operating outside of normal school hours are incorporated in this plan (pdf - 618.43kb).

Relevant authorities

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) publishes community information guides for communities that have been deemed to be facing risk of bushfire. Community information guides may assist services to identify townships and communities at risk of bushfire and may provide information relevant to the development of the emergency and evacuation policy and procedures for services. These guides are updated regularly, so it is advised that services regularly visit the CFA website

The local branch of the relevant emergency service (e.g. Country Fire Authority, Metropolitan Fire Brigade) and the municipal fire protection officer of the relevant local government area may also provide useful additional information about identifying education and care services at particular risk of bushfires and managing bushfire risks.

Monitoring fire ratings

Fire ratings are forecast for four days and a total fire ban is declared by the CFA on days when fires are likely to spread rapidly and could be difficult to control. 

Fire ratings are maintained and updated on a daily basis for each CFA district in Victoria and published on the CFA website. Fire ratings provide information about how dangerous a fire would be if started in the specific district on a specific day.

The CFA website provides information about the locations and boundaries of CFA districts. services located in areas identified as high risk locations are advised to monitor the CFA website for declared code red days.

See: CFA fire danger ratings for information about what the ratings mean.

Understanding warnings

The CFA provide warnings to the community that are based on incident conditions and impact on the community, therefore a first warning issued by the CFA could be the highest level of warning. There are three different levels of warnings:

Advice

What is means: There is fire in your services local area

What to do:

  • Stay informed
  • Monitor conditions
  • Review your emergency management plan
  • Decide what action you’ll take if the situation changes
Watch and act

What is means: A fire is heading towards you and conditions are changing

What to do:

  • Expect hot, dry and possibly windy conditions;
  • If a fire starts and takes hold, it may be uncontrollable;
  • Well prepared buildings that are actively defended can provide safety.
Emergency warning

What is means: You are in imminent danger

What to do:

  • Take immediate action
  • Follow instructions in the warning

Source: CFA Fire Warnings

The warnings and incidents page located on CFA’s website is aligned with the information provided on the Vic Emergency website and is the key source for all emergency information in Victoria.

Closure on code red days  

Services placed on the Department’s BARR must ensure that on any day declared to be a code red day for the district in which a service is located, that the service is closed and remains closed for the duration of the code red day. There are nine CFA districts in Victoria:

  • Mallee
  • Wimmera
  • Northern Country
  • North East
  • North Central
  • South West
  • East Gippsland
  • West and South Gippsland
  • Central

If an extreme or severe fire danger rating is declared for the district in which a service is located the service should follow the emergency and evacuation policy and procedures to reduce the associated risks and maintain children’s safety; this may include identifying circumstances where a decision is made to pre-emptively close or not operate close the service.

In developing response procedures for specific emergencies such as bushfires or a severe weather event, services should consider the approach other facilities have adopted to manage these situations. For example, some government schools have reviewed their emergency and evacuation policy and procedures to reflect the decision to pre-emptively close on a day forecast as having an extreme fire rating. This may impact the response of centre-based services near or on those school sites.

Further guidance on the policy for government schools related to this fire rating is available at: Emergency management requirements

Updating contact details

Approved providers must ensure that their provider and service contact details including after hours and emergency contact details are up to date at all times, and especially before the fire season. In some districts, the fire season may extend from October to April.

Emergency contact details include: the name of emergency contact person, landline phone number, mobile phone number and email address.

Services can update their details as follows:

Submission of emergency management plans

Emergency management plans for services on the BARR must be submitted to the Department through the relevant QAR regional office by 1 September each year.

NQF Services placed on the BARR can submit their emergency management plans via the NQA ITS Online Portal by completing an RI01 RA Requested Information form and selecting “Emergency Management Plan” as the type of document to upload.

Services on the BARR that are licensed under the Children's Services Act 1996 should email their emergency management plan to licensed.childrens.services@edumail.vic.gov.au.

Queries about submitting emergency management plans can be made through QAR regional offices

Resources

The Department has developed a range of resources to assist education and care services in developing their emergency management plans. A Guide to Developing an Emergency Management Plan, an Emergency Management Plan Template for Early Childhood Services and short video tutorials are available at: Emergency management

Additional information on Element 2.2.2 Incident and emergency management can be found on page 379 of the Guide to the National Quality Framework.