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Fire Action Week

Sunday, 11 October 2009

An intense effort is underway across Victoria to get the State as fire-safe and fire-ready as possible so that lives can be protected this fire season.

Premier John Brumby today launched Fire Action Week, the first dedicated fire preparation week of its kind in Australia, issuing a call to action to Victorians to work together on being fire ready.

"The task for us all is to work together to prepare our State for a fire season that's shaping up to be every bit as bad or worse than the season we've just experienced," Mr Brumby said.

"There are just 16 days until the start of the fire season and after 13 years of drought conditions remain dry across Victoria, despite the recent rain. We want this week to be a big statewide working bee and we want everyone to pitch in and help get our State prepared.

"I urge all Victorians, no matter where you live or what your fire experience has been, to get fire ready - identify your risk, prepare your fire plan, clean up your properties and get involved in your local fire preparation activities.

"Whether you live in an identified high-risk fire area in the country or a high-rise apartment in the city, we are all in this together. Even if you live in the city, you may still travel to the country or the coast for holidays and work and so you too, need to be prepared.

"Fire is not only a concern in the country. Melbourne's suburbs, even those close to the city, are at risk. We know that burning embers can travel 20 kilometres or more ahead of a fire, start scrub and grass fires on their way. We know that flames can spread quickly, particularly on an incline.

"And we know all too well the tragic consequences of fires."

Mr Brumby was joined by Police and Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron, Environment and Climate Change Minister, Gavin Jennings, fire agency heads of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Country Fire Authority and Department of Sustainability and Environment at the property of Plenty residents Bernie and Gerry Lamers in Melbourne's outer north.

He said government and its agencies were working quickly to deliver significant new measures and improvements, training large numbers of staff and volunteers about the changes and to get communities across Victoria fire-ready.

Those measures are:
• A new national six-tiered fire danger rating system which includes a new category of ‘code red' (catastrophic) to warn communities of the risk of fires that are unpredictable, uncontrollable and fast moving;
• A new national telephony-based warning system that will alert Australians in the event of a life-threatening emergency, with work to build and deliver the system already underway;
• A new household self assessment tool to help residents assess the defendability of their homes and inform their bushfire plans;
• New protocols for the limited broadcast of the Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS) so that SEWS is only broadcast before warnings about life threatening fires and, on extreme fire days, the frequency of its use is limited so as to not undermine its effectiveness;
• A new behind-the-scenes single portal website, One Source One Message which will be able to create standardised information alerts and emergency warnings for dissemination on CFA and DSE websites, through the Victorian Bushfire Information Line, the ABC and potentially other media;
• Revision to roadblock protocols in which residents will get wristbands for access with new access levels for various groups at traffic management points;
• An overhaul of Command, Control and Co-ordination arrangements following a review by the Chief Commissioner which will be released by the end of October;
• Revised guidelines so that the CFA and DSE Incident Controllers assess if relocation should occur and recommend relocation when warranted;
• Procedures to ensure the most experienced, qualified and competent person is appointed as an Incident Controller for each fire, regardless of where the fire has started;
• Amendments to the CFA Act to ensure the CFA Chief Officer has responsibility to issue warnings and provide information to the community concerning the risk of bushfires; and
• The completion by mid November of Township Protection Plans in 52 towns identified as being at high risk this fire season, including the identification of Neighbourhood Safer Places in those towns where geographically possible.

Mr Brumby also launched the Government's summer fire season campaign which adopts the new national slogan, Prepare. Act. Survive, and is a key part of an $11.5 million education and long-term behavioural change campaign. It features people affected directly by the Black Saturday fires and will run for six months from tonight.

A range of activities will run across Fire Action Week, including clean-up days at local parks, community working bees, free green waste in some local councils and CFA community meetings. Fire Action Week will culminate in a statewide Fire Ready Day on Sunday 18 October.

Bunnings are also running series of Fire Ready DIY workshops, the first of which are being held in 43 Bunnings outlets today across Victoria to mark the start of Fire Action Week.

Mr Cameron said strong partnerships between governments, emergency services agencies, communities and individuals would be vital to the fire preparation effort.

"This year's first-ever Fire Action Week is an important week for all Victorians and we congratulate all our emergency services and other partners like Bunnings, for playing a vital role in getting our state fire-ready, " Mr Cameron said.

"It's a time to focus on what we all need to do to protect our families, our properties and our communities from fires. So please, find out what is happening in your local area and play your part in getting yourself, your family, your property and your community ready for the threat of fires."

Mr Jennings said in addition to its regular program of fuel reduction work Parks Victoria would be conducting fuel clearing and reduction work across Victoria during Fire Action Week.

"I encourage Victorians to get involved, contact your local Parks Victoria ‘friends group' for more information and activities in your local area," Mr Jennings said.

"Our government is putting on 700 seasonal firefighters across the state ahead of the fire season and crews have been deployed from September, a month earlier than last year.

"We need all Victorians to be involved in getting ready for the fire season - it's going to take a whole-of-state effort to prepare ourselves and our communities."

Click here to download an important message from Victorian Premier John Brumby (10mb) *real player required.  

For more information please visit the CFA website or www.communityprograms.cfa.vic.gov.au

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