WHS: Bushfire

The risk of bushfire effects many areas of South Australia and those in fire prone areas will be well aware of the dangers. Those in semi urban regions and the Adelaide foothills are probably less conscious of the danger despite the very high potential risks.

There is now an expectation that bushfire safety and survival has a place in businesses and in organisations in relation to the safety of people and risk management. Bushfire safety and awareness is also a prerequisite for Synod employees/volunteers who are ‘on the road’.

Church Councils and Synod staff with property-related responsibilities should ensure the following measures are undertaken in bushfire prone areas, semi urban regions and Adelaide foothills:

  • developing policy & procedures – Be Bushfire ready; prepare your bush fire survival plan – Prepare, Act, Survive
  • ensuring all fire safety/guarding and fighting equipment that is required under legislation is in place and regularly maintained to the minimum requirements
  • adequate training for employees and volunteers on procedures and responsibilities
  • regular consultation occurs with employees and volunteers
  • maintaining grounds

Appropriate procedures during the bushfire season for organisations include:

  • preparing property in high risk areas
  • considering whether activities can be safely conducted on high risk days
  • ensuring volunteers and employees are informed, equipped and prepared
  • considering whether activities can be safely conducted on high risk days
  • contractors and visitors are advised of procedures
  • ensuring those who travel to or through high risk areas check conditions before leaving and can revise their plans if necessary
  • South Australian CFS for News & Updates cfs.sa.gov.au / Bushfire Information Hotline  1800 362 361

The 3 main factors that contribute to the intensity and speed of a fire are as follows:

1.  Vegetation

A bushfire in a forest (filled with heavy undergrowth) will be very hot, yet may move quickly; while a fire in grassland may be less intense, but will burn very quickly.  Bushfires in coastal scrub burn very hot yet do not move as fast as a grass fire.  While all these bushfires may burn differently, they all have the potential to claim lives and destroy property.  Therefore, reduction of vegetation is an essential part of a fire protection strategy because it is the best method for reducing the intensity of a bushfire.  Check with the local council before undertaking burn offs or vegetation clearance.

2.  Weather

Conditions such as extreme heat, low humidity, gusting winds and low rainfall dramatically increase a bushfire’s intensity and the rate at which it spreads.  Dry vegetation ignites and burns much more easily.  In SA, the northerly winds pose the greatest danger.  However, experience has shown that a south-westerly change, although cooler, can increase this danger by moving the fire in a different direction and catching people unawares. The bushfire protection strategy should take into consideration that fires are most likely to come from the northern and western sides.

3.  Topography

Fires burn more quickly and with greater intensity up slopes than on flat ground or downhill – the most dangerous property sites are on ridge-tops and steep slopes.  North-facing slopes also receive more direct sunlight which dries out vegetation and can result in more intense fires.  Topography can also affect road access – for example it may limit major roads to narrow streets that can make it difficult for people to get out or fire trucks to get in.

Some additional tips on preparing church property:

  • Keep gardens regularly watered wherever possible
  • Keep gutters and down-pipes clear from debris
  • Keep area surrounding property well maintained and as clear as possible from trees and shrubs, cutting away dead branches from trees and clearing undergrowth

Country Fire Service has recently launched a “Bushfire safety & survival for business and organisations”.  An impressive development is an ‘I-Phone application’ for RSS feeds in relation to fire danger alerts; this allows individuals to be informed and responsible for making appropriate choices in relation to safety.  The CFS will also use Facebook and twitter as well as the traditional radio broadcasts and website updates to provide advice.

Comprehensive information and appropriate resources are available through the SA Country Fire Service website (see link below).

Relevant Information

  • Statutory Compliance & Property Policy, please contact Building Projects and Compliance Officer at property@sa.uca.org.au

Relevant Links

Other Relevant Information