5.17 Shelter Options

The State’s revised Bushfire Safety Policy refers to ‘shelter in place’ within its eleven principles to “guide the development and implementation of strategies and initiatives to enhance the safety of people from bushfires”. The Policy states: “Bushfire safety involves effective planning and preparation prior to a fire, making informed decisions during the event, and having access to a range of safety options, in particular places to shelter from the effects of the fire.”

With the review of the Bushfire Safety Policy Framework, attention has been given to formalising and integrating a range of options in the development of a bushfire survival options triptych (leave early, well prepared, last resort) and the development of a Shelter Options Hierarchy.

The hierarchy rates options from low to higher risk options:

  • Leaving Early;
  • Private Bushfire Shelters (bunkers);
  • Community Fire Refuges;
  • Defending a well prepared property;
  • Neighbourhood Safer Places – Places of Last Resort (NSP-PLR),
  • Gathering at informal places;
  • Defending an ill prepared property; and
  • Leaving late.

Extensive education campaigns and programs have been conducted for many years on bushfire planning and preparation, however despite this, research consistently shows that a large majority of people do not have a comprehensive plan and will ‘wait and see’ what the situation is before acting. Consequently people may undertake risky options such as leaving late or defending an ill-prepared property.

5.17.1 Community Fire Refuges – (Bushfire only)

A community fire refuge is a designated building open to the public that can provide short-term shelter from the immediate life-threatening effects of a bushfire event. Community fire refuges are one of a number of contingency shelter options contained in Victoria’s Bushfire Safety Policy Framework which places paramount important on the protection of life and the safety of the individual.

Community fire refuges should be considered in the context of all of the survival options available to a community in a high bushfire risk area. Leaving early on high-risk days is always the safest option.

There are currently no Community Fire Refuges in Colac Otway Shire.

5.17.2 Neighbourhood Safer Places - Places of Last Resort

NSPs are not community fire refuges or emergency relief centres. NSPs are places of last resort during the passage of a bushfire, and are intended to be used by persons whose primary bushfire plans have failed. NSPs are places of relative safety only. They do not guarantee the survival of those who assemble there. Furthermore, there may be serious risks to safety encountered in travelling, and seeking access, to NSPs during bushfire events. Depending on the direction of a particular fire, it may not be a safer place to assemble than other places within the municipal district.

Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSP) are identified in the Colac Otway Fire Management Plan and meet guidelines issued by the Country Fire Authority and the criteria in the Colac Otway Shire Neighbourhood Safer Places Plan.

Locations are clearly identifiable with agreed signage and information. NSPs within the Colac Otway Shire have been identified and assessed by the CFA. A list of designated NSPs is provided in Appendix 14 – Designated Neighbourhood Safer Places

All processes, relating to Neighbourhood Safer Places, including maintenance, audit and informing the community of the location of NSP-PLRs are detailed in the Colac Otway Shire Neighbourhood Safer Places Plan.

5.16 Evacuation

5.18 Resource Sharing