Whether you are a business owner, school principal, building manager, or part of a leadership structure within an organisation, it is your responsibility to ensure your staff, clients, students and residents are safe in the event of a bushfire.

With the bushfire season now here, it is time to review or create your emergency and incident management plans to ensure you are future-ready should a disaster strike.

How to plan for a bushfire

A clear and concise bushfire response and emergency plan will go a long way to ensuring your staff, students and visitors are safe should a bushfire occur. Thoroughly prepping your team on your bushfire plan and ensuring they know how and when to act will empower your staff to carry out the plan with calm efficiency.

Preparing your business, your premises and your personnel for a bushfire should involve the following measures.

Have a Plan

Take the time to review the current bushfire risk to your premises/organisation. Remember, this year is different now that La Nina and weather events are causing higher rain falls. Your region, secondary location and even work-from-home strategies are likely different this year  

Review your current emergency procedures and prepare a written bushfire plan and evacuation checklist. Aim to get this reviewed now to ensure validation will meet your needs.

Getting your employees to participate in this planning process will help you understand their individual needs, create a resilient culture, along with assisting them in understanding what their role will be in the event of an emergency.

A bushfire response and emergency plan should include the following information:

  • Who will be in charge? (Who takes over when they’re not available?)
  • The point in time you will evacuate.
  • Where your evacuation routes are.
  • Where first aid kits, fire equipment and other essentials are stored.
  • A copy of your business’s evacuation diagram.
  • Where your assembly area is located.
  • Where your alternate accommodation will be for residents or boarders.
  • Which staff are first-aid trained. Every workplace has a legal responsibility for ensuring adequate first-aid provisions and first-aid qualifications must be kept up to date.
  • What the protocols are for paid leave and entitlements should a bushfire affect the business’s ability to remain operational.
  • Contact details of all your staff members (and students and residents where applicable).

To ensure the best chance of your premises surviving a bushfire, make sure your plan includes the following last-minute preparations:

  • Turning off the gas supply.
  • Diverting any landlines to a designated mobile.
  • Closing off all doors and windows.
  • Blocking gaps beneath doors with wet blankets and towels (if it is deemed safe).
  • Moving doormats, equipment and outdoor furniture away from the building.

You should also consider having a plan for your suppliers and supply chain. What are their vulnerabilities and how would them being inaccessible affect your organisation? Many businesses are preparing for the new year with their supply chain front and centre, so should you if you’re not already.

Fire-Proofing the Property

Winter and early spring are the perfect seasons to prepare your property and facilities to ensure it is less flammable and easier to defend should a fire hit. If you haven’t caught up, there is still time as the weather generally remains wet. Even small efforts can make a big difference.

Fire-proofing your business may include the following measures:

  • Mowing the grass, cutting back branches and raking excessive leaves and debris from around the property.
  • Conducting an inventory of all flammable materials and substances on the premises and removing anything that is not entirely essential.
  • Installing hoses that reach all parts of the property, inside and out.
  • Purchasing and storing ladders and other fire equipment in an easy-to-reach location.

Preparing an Emergency Kit

When preparing an emergency kit, you should ask yourself what you, your employees and potentially other occupants (such as students and residents) would need for survival if a bushfire was imminent and you had to evacuate immediately.

Your emergency kit should include first-aid and supplies that will last up to three days should they be required.

Essentials to include in your kit:

  • A copy of your bushfire plan.
  • Battery-powered radio (including batteries).
  • Emergency mobile phone and charger.
  • Three days worth of long-life shelf food.
  • Protective gloves, goggles and masks.
  • Bottled water.
  • Bathroom suppliers, linen, additional water (relevant items for your organisation – like Aged Care homes, School boarding, Accommodation Services)
  • A USB containing important business documents.

At Bounce Readiness, we provide end-to-end incident and crisis management services. With resilience specialists who are trained in the latest government requirements, we can ensure your organisation is ready, resilient and responsive when it comes to bushfire season.