How will you know when it's time to evacuate your property or activate your emergency plan?
Developing a clear set of triggers will increase your ability to react quickly and make decisions when a crisis event occurs.
Identify triggers to act
Make your triggers concrete, measurable and suitable to your specific business situation.
When setting your triggers, consider:
- the level of physical risk to your business and the risks to people's lives
- the location of your premises or business activities
- your duty of care to your employees and customers and how long would it take to inform them of a risk or threat, especially if they are vulnerable or have special needs
- the advice provided by the emergency services agencies.
Triggers for different crisis events
Certain crisis events have more lead-time than others, so you'll need different triggers for different crisis events. This needs to be based on your risk assessment.
If you operate in a high-risk bushfire area, use the advice under the Fire Danger Rating system and the advice provided for the three warning levels to determine the triggers for your bushfire safety procedures:
- Watch and Act
- Emergency Warning.
Other crisis events
You may wish to define other triggers suitable to your specific business situation, including:
- an incident on your premises such as a fire
- an emergency warning issued by the emergency services agencies
- local information and observations such as forecast of heavy rainfall
- the scale and tone of the media coverage of the event – this always spikes the public's need for information
- advice from your regional tourism board or DJPR tourism branch
- a severe weather warning or severe thunderstorm warning issued by the Bureau of Meteorology.
Advice from emergency services agencies may be one of the following:
- an emergency alert message provided by Victoria's emergency broadcasters
- commercial radio
- ABC Local Radio
- SkyNews Television
- a number of community stations
- a message via the national telephone-based warning system, Emergency Alert
- a voice message on landline telephones
- text message on mobile phones
- notification via VicEmergency
The warning system provides emergency service organisations with enhanced ability to issue emergency warnings to the community and is another tool for tourism operators to provide advice to clients.
Decide how to activate your plan
After you have identified your triggers to act, you'll need to define how your plan is activated.
Decide who has the authority to activate the emergency management plan, and what steps that person (or persons) will take to initiate activities.
Include these decisions in your emergency management plan.
Put in place a system to monitor your identified triggers such as:
- checking the local newspaper for forecast heavy rain
- listening to the radio on high-risk days.
Plan to stay or go
If a natural disaster is imminent or predicted by emergency services, you may decide to evacuate your business or to 'shelter in place'.
Your decision to stay or go will depend on:
- your circumstances and location
- the nature of the imminent disaster
- the advice of the state's emergency services agencies.
Remember – your duty of care to clients and staff as part of the Occupational Health & Safety legislation includes employees, contractors, visitors and customers. Preparation will help to ensure everyone can evacuate quickly and safely.
You should understand and plan for both possibilities by developing clear, well thought-out procedures in your emergency management plan.
Option 1: Evacuate your business
The ability to effectively evacuate staff, clients and visitors can save lives. Having evacuation procedures avoids confusion and possible injury during an emergency situation.
Recommendation to evacuate
Evacuation will only be recommended if there's an imminent threat to you and evacuation can be undertaken safely. In fast-moving emergencies, you may not always receive a warning or a recommendation to evacuate.
Under Victoria's emergency management plan, the decision to recommend that people evacuate is made by the Incident Controller. This decision is based on:
- the scale of the threat
- modelling and predictive information
- specific populations
- health and safety risks.
While evacuation is largely voluntary in Victoria and is your choice how to respond to a recommendation to evacuate, the advice should be treated seriously and within the context of your duty of care to staff and clients.
How will I know when to evacuate?
You should remain vigilant for warnings and other emergency information on days of severe or extreme weather events such as Code Red fire danger days.
Listen to your emergency broadcasters:
- ABC Local Radio
- Commercial radio
- Designated community radio stations
- Sky News television.
In a bushfire emergency:
- check incidents and warnings on the VicEmergency website
- call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on 1800 240 667.
In a flood or storm emergency:
- visit the Vic Emergency website
- call the Victoria SES Flood and Storm Information Line on 1300 842 737.
You may also receive an emergency warning via your landline or mobile phone (Emergency Alert), emergency service websites, VicEmergency app or local contact (door knocking or police car loudspeaker).
What do I do when I am advised to evacuate?
When evacuating, follow all directions and instructions from emergency services:
- immediately follow the directions contained in the evacuation advice from emergency services
- secure your premises if time permits
- follow your evacuation procedures.
The safest option in the lead-up to an emergency is to always leave early.
Leaving early is the recommended course of action and should be your first consideration and included in your planning.
If there is a bushfire in your area – you should not rely on a call to evacuate. On Code Red, Extreme and Severe days, the safest option is to leave high-risk areas before fire threatens.
Incident on site
For more information on fire and evacuation, consult your local fire authority (MFB or CFA), local council or shire.
If you're in a multi-tenanted building, make sure the building manager runs practice evacuations for all tenants as part of your lease arrangements.
Option 2: Plan to shelter in place
There may be some circumstances, such as fast-moving emergencies, where a safe evacuation is not possible and you need to seek an alternative shelter option. You should understand the different threats and plan for all possibilities.
There may be situations when it's best to stay where you are to avoid any uncertainty outside. For instance, chemical contaminants may be released into the environment in such quantity or proximity to your business that it is safer to remain indoors rather than to evacuate staff and clients.
If you are instructed by the emergency services to take shelter, do so immediately. For bushfires, this may be to shelter in place or go to Neighbourhood Safer Places, Places of Last Resort or refuges.