The Three Bushfire Warnings: What School Staff Members Need To Do

Posted on: 25 July 2016


Bushfires are a common occurrence in Australia, especially in certain states. With more than 50,000 bushfires in Australia annually, it's vital that school principals and teachers know what to do in the event of a warning. Make sure you and your staff members know what to do if you receive one of the three possible bushfire warnings.

Advice warning

An advice warning offers schools early notification that there is a bushfire in the area. At this stage, the bushfire presents nothing more than a smoke hazard and poses no threat to lives or property, but staff members should take early precautions.

Principals should instigate the Emergency and Critical Incident Management Plan, which includes several important steps to help control the risk of smoke inhalation. For example, you will need to turn off evaporative air conditioners, and staff members must start to check and patrol all areas of the school for any worsening conditions.

Watch and act warning

A watch and act warning presents a more serious threat. A bushfire at this stage may threaten the school, and staff members must get ready to take urgent action.

The principal or a senior staff member will need to contact the local controlling agency to get instruction on whether to evacuate the school to a place that poses less risk. In all Australian states, the authorities identify a hierarchy of safer places. The Incident Management Plan should detail the identified safer places for your school..

The emergency services will consider various factors when deciding to advise you to move to a safer place. Factors include the bushfire location, the available route to a safer place and your ability to get there. Your staff members must always follow the emergency services' instructions.

Emergency warning

An emergency warning is a sign of immediate danger. In many cases, the authorities will broadcast an emergency signal over the radio, television or other communication system. If this occurs, staff members must immediately cease all activities to listen to the announcement, as the emergency services will give instructions about what to do after the siren.

Following the emergency warning, the principal or senior staff member must contact the local incident controller for advice about whether to evacuate or move to the safer place. Again, various factors will influence this decision, and staff members must quickly follow the instructions given. An emergency warning indicates that you may not have much time to act.

In the event of a bushfire, the emergency services may issue one of three warnings. To protect the lives of students, it's vital that all staff members know exactly what to do in each case.