Barely a week into the New Year and already South Australia has battled its worst bushfires since the 1983 Ash Wednesday blaze, while Victorian's have managed to contain significant fires on several fronts across their state.
Australia is one of the most fire-prone countries in the world. According to the Bureau of Meteorology's State of the Climate 2014 Report, extreme fire weather has increased and the fire season has lengthened across large parts of Australia since the 1970s. Lower than average Spring rainfalls across most of Southern Australia and a forecast of above average temperatures over the coming months could make for a disastrous fire season.
Our volatile climate also means we are prone to other extreme weather events including floods, storms and tropical cyclones. The months between November and April are peak times for both bushfire and cyclone events, presenting a very serious risk of injury and loss of life, property damage, disruption to business processes and preventing the delivery of important services. It may take weeks or even months for organisations to return to normal operations, property damage could be extensive, and roads may be closed causing essential services to be cut off for extended periods of time.
Though little can be done to prevent natural disasters from occurring, it is possible to minimise the risks. Having emergency plans in place before the bushfire and cyclone season begins can increase people's safety, minimise losses, maintain business continuity and get back to delivering its services sooner.
Church organisations should:
- Identify the risks associated with natural disasters in every day operations and for special events including camps or excursions. Remember, whether you are directly impacted or not, you can be affected by a disaster.
- Assess the effectiveness of any existing controls to manage the risk, or reduce the severity of consequences.
- Develop emergency plans and implement any new controls necessary.
- Review business continuity plans.
- Monitor information from emergency services and state fire agencies for advice and emergency warnings specific for their local area.
- Make sure insurance cover is adequate, including the sum insured for removal of debris.
CCI has a number of useful resources available at www.risksupport.org.au or by calling risksupport on 1300 660 827. They include the Surviving Bushfire Fact Sheet and Surviving Cyclone Fact Sheet, along with guides to Managing Risk In Catholic Organisations – Conducting a Risk Assessment, Developing a Risk Treatment Plan and the Business Continuity Management Fact Sheet.
Australian Bureau of Meteorology www.bom.gov.au
Australian Broadcasting Service
www.abc.net.au/newsradio and www.abc.net.au/emergency
Emergency Management Australia
CCI has a number of useful Resources on this and many other topics available on this website or by calling the risksupport Helpdesk on 1300 660 827.