Waranga News

Council’s role in an emergency


With the recent outbreak of so many devastating early season bushfires around the country, fire risk is uppermost in the minds of many local residents. Campaspe Shire Council has outlined its role in emergency management, not only applying to the Code Red Day, but all emergency situations, whether flood, fire or other.

Mayor, Cr Adrian Weston said Council’s role in an emergency situation is to provide resources as requested through the Incident Control Centre and, if required, identify a suitable location for a relief centre, open it and staff it, again as directed by the control centre.

Prior to the emergency however, Council’s main role is in emergency planning. Council works with lead agencies in developing the Municipal Emergency Management Plan and the many sub-plans, capturing flood emergency, fire emergency, influenza pandemic, heatwave and more.

“Each emergency situation is led by a lead agency; for fire this is the CFA, for flood the SES,” the Mayor said.

On the recent Code Red Day the Incident Control Centre was set up in Bendigo. Led by the CFA and joined by representatives from all local councils and authorities, the situation across the region was monitored and managed.

At a local level, staff at Campaspe Shire kept in constant contact with the control centre. The control centre requested resources, with two water tankers sent to Strathallan. No relief centre was requested to be set up.

Fire risk in Rushworth

Rushworth is in the unusual situation of being surrounded by forests and in 2017, led by the local CFA and supported by Council, a 16 page information guide for residents around preparing for fire was completed. The booklet covers a range of topics including:

  • Understanding your risk
  • Reducing your risk
  • Leaving early
  • Bushfire survival options
  • Understanding warnings
  • Who to contact

The booklet was distributed across the township and encourages residents to develop a Bushfire Survival Plan.

“With a hot summer predicted ahead of us, I encourage residents to have another read of the booklet, develop their plan, and practice it,” the Mayor added.

“The CFA website also has a lot of resources about being fire ready.”

The only time a decision will be made on behalf of residents is if a decision is made by the lead agency to evacuate the town.

“This has only been done once, at Halls Gap a number of years ago, in a fire situation,” Cr Weston said.

Whilst Council has identified a number of areas suitable as a relief centre, these are only opened when and as directed by the control centre. In each emergency situation, consideration is given as to which relief centre may be suitable.

“We don’t publicise these in advance as we don’t want the community going to what they consider a relief centre, to find out it could be in the middle of the emergency,” Cr Weston said.

Campaspe Shire has one nominated Neighbourhood Safer Place, the Echuca South Recreation Reserve.

“This is considered a place of last resort and has been assessed by the CFA based on radiant heat outputs and many other stringent criteria,” Cr Weston said.

The best advice to Rushworth residents is to have a plan and if they feel uncomfortable during an extreme heat event at home, to consider staying with family or friends. The decision to leave should be done early.

The Rushworth Community Information Guide is available through the CFA’s website.