Chief Executive Update

  Comment Banner September 2009

A Message from the Chief Executive, David Place

David Place - medium portrait

South Australia is set to embark on a significant and sustained period of change in how the government and the community prepares for and responds to bushfires.

SA's Bushfire Task Force, established to examine the issues arising from the Royal Commission into the devastating Victorian bushfires of February 7 2009, has accelerated, and provided a renewed focus, for the State's bushfire preparedness.

On Thursday, 10 September 2009, the State Government announced some of the initiatives and recommendations put forward by the Task Force that will be implemented to help elevate South Australia to a new state of fire readiness.

  One of the priorities is the new telephone and text messaging warning system which will be up and running in time for this year's fire danger season. This new system, managed by SAFECOM, will allow alerts relating to the most severe fire threats to be sent to landlines and mobile phones based on the owner's billing address.

South Australia will also adopt a new national framework for fire warnings which includes an enhanced Fire Danger Rating system incorporating a new category of Catastrophic (Code Red) and new warning categories.

The Catastrophic level refers to days when the Fire Danger Rating is in excess of 100, similar to those conditions experienced in Victoria. In these conditions, even homes that are well prepared and built to the highest standards of bushfire prevention are likely to be lost and the safest option is to leave early.

The accompanying new warning categories - 'Watch and Act' and 'Emergency Warning' - will deliver clearer information to the community to help people make informed decisions about what actions they need to take to survive a bushfire.

Other key recommendations to be implemented include:

  • The adoption of a new national theme of Prepare. Act. Survive.
  • CFS introducing procedures for "directed evacuation" involving Police and other emergency services
  • Identifying "Neighbourhood Safer Places" to be used as an alternative for shelter from a bushfire
  • Conducting a "Bushfire Prevention and Awareness Week"
  • Developing a dwelling bushfire shelter guideline
  • Amending the CFS siren policy to recommend that working CFS station sirens can be used to provide warnings to communities in specified situations
  • New legislation simplifying the rules about managing native vegetation for bushfire prevention.

Underpinning all of the changes and initiatives is the message that bushfire safety is a shared responsibility and people simply won't survive unless they are prepared and take the appropriate action.

SAFECOM and the CFS in particular are taking a lead role in steering this new era of change but the whole sector has a role to play.

While there will be profound changes to the way we educate and communicate with the community, how we respond to bushfires on the ground and in our work practices behind the scenes, we must not lose sight of the reason for all of these changes - making South Australia as fire safe as possible and ultimately, to save lives.

Talking about new ways of communicating with the community, I was delighted to hear the first combined CFS, SES and SAFECOM stand at the Royal Adelaide Show was recently recognised with a Highly Commended certificate, building on the award-winning efforts in previous years of the MFS. Congratulations to all involved!

David Place - Signature

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