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The new normal: getting and staying prepared for summer's bushfires


Eurobodalla has been hard hit by bushfire. Extreme conditions on Tuesday 31 December, Saturday 4 January, Friday 10 January and Thursday 23 January saw heavy fire impact on our towns and villages, as well as rural areas.

The threat continues and the community should take steps to prepare for more fire impacts as the dry summer continues. Good rain is the only thing that will extinguish these fires.

There are things we can all do to better manage our response to bad fire days and be more self-reliant.

What’s your plan?

All Eurobodalla residents should by now have a bushfire survival plan and be ready to enact it. Knowing what your triggers will be – what you will do and when – can help you make the right decision at the right time without the anxiety associated with indecision. The RFS Fire Danger Ratings and Alert levels are there to help you.

Leaving early is always the safest option. Leaving early means well before smoke and embers are on your doorstep. If you have any doubts about your ability to cope, you should plan to leave early, well before a fire reaches your area and well before you are under threat. People who are at higher risk, such as children, elderly, disabled or with medical problems, should always leave early.

NSW RFS prioritise the protection of life and property, in that order. The Eurobodalla firefront is expansive, and firefighting resources are deployed strategically to provide optimal coverage.

RFS crews put significant effort into backburning and containment when conditions are good. This doesn’t mean those areas are secure, only that fire might be more easily controlled.

Understand the Fires Near Me app

You can view the NSW RFS Fires Near Me webpage or download the app to your device.

Alert levels indicate how serious a fire is, and should trigger your actions. These are always up to date.Red: Emergency Warning – you may be in danger and need to take action immediately. Any delay now puts your life at risk.Yellow: Watch And Act – conditions are changing and you need to start taking action now to protect you and your family.Blue: Advice – a fire has started or continues to burn. There is no immediate danger. Stay up to date in case the situation changes.White Diamond – is typically for an incident where crews are on their way, or an incident that has been automatically generated by people calling Triple Zero. NSW RFS use weather and wind forecasts to predict increased fire activity. You can use Fire Danger Ratings and incident updates on Fires Near Me to help you plan ahead.Do not rely only on the Fires Near Me maps to determine your actions. During an escalating situation the firefronts may move more quickly than the maps can be updated.Your focus should be on monitoring the alerts and what each alert level means for your plan.

On a bad fire day

Emergency services will provide as much information as possible in the lead up to a bad fire day. But if we’ve learned anything, it’s that these fires are unpredictable. Therefore it’s vital you are confident with your plan, and what you will do and when.

If you live near bush or in a rural area:

be ready to enact your fire planif you aren’t prepared to the highest standard to defend your property, you should leave in plenty of time to get to friends and family in a main town, or an area already burnt, or an evacuation centre

If you live right in town (not on the bush fringe) or in an area that’s already been burnt:

you are generally safe to stay at homemonitor conditions, be prepared to enact your plan and know your triggers to leave and where you will gobe ready for possible ember attacks - your bushfire survival plan tells you how to manage themthis advice applies if you receive an RFS emergency warning on your phone to seek shelter (in this case, your shelter is your home positioned in a safer area)you can still choose to attend an evacuation centre if that’s your preference

As a last resort, know the location of your closest RFS Neighbourhood Safer Places.

The right information

Get your information from official sources only – Rural Fire Service, Eurobodalla Emergency Operations Centre, Live Traffic NSW, and the media outlets broadcasting that information or sharing it on social media.Scanner conversations are not authorised information. Sharing radio talk on social media is irresponsible.Sharing unverified information or gossip can influence people to make bad decisions that can put them at risk.

Be prepared

On bad fire days we regularly lose power and telecommunications, and roads are often closed. We’ve all done this a few times now - be prepared:

Keep your car filled with fuel Have enough non-perishable food for a few days in case shops are closed Don’t fill your freezer with food - you’ll only need to throw it away if power is lost Consider a portable gas camping stove so you can cook when the power is off Have a battery-powered radio on hand for information and for company Consider an internet dongle and portable charger to keep your devices powered up If you use a permanent or portable generator at your home, follow the installation and safety recommendations of its manufacturer, including operating outdoors only with plenty of ventilation Familiarise yourself with Fires Near Me, Live Traffic, and a weather app - know the conditions around you There’s no better time to get to know your neighbours – prepare and work together Stay informed. Official emergency updates produced by the Eurobodalla Emergency Operations Centre are distributed to all local news outlets, community associations, evacuation centres, and published on Eurobodalla Council’s website and Facebook. We deliver paper copies to communities where power is out for an extended time.

Leaving home

Whether you decide to leave home because you’re feeling anxious, or are told to relocate, your first choice should be to go to family or friends who live in a town centre (away from bush) or an area that has been burnt already.If family or friends in a safe area isn’t an option, head for your nearest evacuation centre. Sometimes communities organise their own unofficial places to seek shelter, like a local licensed club. If the club gives permission, the EOC will advise of these options in the emergency updates.Prepare a bag of clothing, medication and toiletries ahead of time, and be sure important documents - birth certificate, passport, house deeds, etc - are in the bag, or stored somewhere safe from fire. Don’t forget wallet, phone and charger. Google ‘go-bag’ for more info.Have precious things stored somewhere safe from fire, or packed and ready to take Turn off gas and electricity before you leave (if you forget this step, don’t return home - you may be putting yourself in danger)Plan ahead for the welfare of your animals.

Evacuation centres

Eurobodalla’s evacuation centres are located at:

Hanging Rock Function Centre, Hanging Rock Place, Batemans BayMoruya Showground, Albert Street, MoruyaNarooma Leisure Centre, Bluewater Drive, Narooma

Evacuation centres are opened up when required based on NSW RFS advice and are managed by the NSW Office of Emergency Management. EOC daily updates advise which centres are open and their hours. The information is also available on www.emergency.nsw.gov.au and on Eurobodalla Council’s website and Facebook.

Evacuation centres are a lifeboat, not a cruise ship. Be as self-sufficient as you can. Bring your own bedding and towels, and your own food. People with babies and young children, please bring nappies, formula, baby food, toys and activities. The strong preference is to re-house all animals with friends or family out of the fire zone. If that isn’t an option, smaller pets are welcome at the evacuation centres. Please bring pet food and bowls.

Large animals (such as horses) can be accommodated under owner-care at Moruya Showground. Local Land Services reps are onsite at the showground to assist with animal welfare. For livestock, you can contact the Agriculture and Animal Services hotline on 1800 814 647 for advice.

People with camping equipment may camp on the grounds of each evacuation centre. Pack up tents and store them in cars before a fire front arrives. Embers will burn tents and make it unsafe for others.

Register your whereabouts

Whether you evacuate to a centre or to family and friends, register online at Register.Find.Reunite. This allows family and friends to find you without contacting response teams, which allows teams to focus on those most in need.

People with medical conditions

When fires threaten, people with medical conditions should move to an official evacuation centre immediately. Please take your required medication and copies of prescriptions. Do not present to the hospital unless you require immediate medical attention. The evacuation centres offer food, water, safety, company and St John’s Ambulance personnel.

Schools

Schools will determine their approach to bad fire days based on advice from Rural Fire Service. Parents should take advice from their school.

Water

Please help conserve water for essential drinking water and firefighting. The shire’s water storage facility at Deep Creek Dam is now below fifty percent capacity.

Do not wet down buildings or grounds or leave sprinklers and hoses running. This is only useful when properties are under threat of fire or ember attack. An ember is a hot glowing coal – cold and blackened leaves are not embers.

Roads

When fires threaten, only drive when essential or to move into town for safety. Put your headlights on. Otherwise stay off the roads. Smoke and roaming animals are a threat to your safety, and RFS and emergency services crews need unimpeded road access to do their job.

Expect the highway and local roads to close during fire impacts. Consider this when making your bushfire survival plan.

When a road is blocked or closed, obey the traffic control - it’s for your own safety. Please be respectful and stay out of fire-affected areas unless you’re a resident.

Power/Electricity

Generators are in position at critical locations including evacuation centres, water and sewer facilities, hospitals, fuel stations, aged-care facilities and supermarkets.

Fires have damaged the electricity network in numerous locations, with at least 500 power poles requiring replacement. Please stay eight metres away from any damaged electrical infrastructure. Always consider down wires to be live.

Essential Energy updates are included in the EOC update. Customers can also call Essential Energy on 132080.

Rubbish and bins

After fire impacts, kerbside collections services will resume when roads are open. Keep all three bins on the kerb and they will be collected as quickly as possible and potentially not according to the usual schedule. Unless otherwise advised, bins should continue to be used as usual for waste (red) , recycling (yellow) and green waste (green).

Eurobodalla’s three tips have all been impacted by fire. EOC updates will include information about waste when relevant, as well as at www.esc.nsw.gov.au/waste

Fire affected land managers – stock and infrastructure assistance

Fire affected land managers can call Agricultural and Animal Services on 1800 814 647 to report stock losses and infrastructure damage, request animal assessment, or request emergency fodder or water.

NSW Police

NSW Police have deployed dozens of extra personnel to Eurobodalla to assist in the emergency response. A key role will be patrolling fire-impacted areas to prevent theft. If you notice suspicious activity, please call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Visitors

NSW RFS lifted the tourist exclusion zone on 12 January. Eurobodalla Council understands there are some residents who don’t feel ready to welcome visitors. There are just as many who need visitors to keep the doors of their business open and to continue employing local people. Business recovery will help community recovery, and Council’s tourism messaging is honest about the impacts of the fires on our community and the landscape, but also welcomes those who’d like to come and support us. Visitors are urged to check local conditions before travelling, and to monitor conditions while here.

Mental health services

Confidential services are available 24/7, and include:

NSW Mental Health Line – 1800 011 511Lifeline – 13 11 14Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call Triple Zero (000) or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

Eurobodalla Emergency Operations Centre team

Eurobodalla EOC is the multi-agency team managing the bushfire emergency in our shire. We’re here so our firefighters – RFS, NPWS and Forestry – can focus on firefighting. We are based in Moruya and comprise local officers representing NSW Police, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Essential Energy, NSW SES, NSW Ambulance, NSW Disaster Welfare, NSW Local Health District, Transport for NSW, NSW DPI Agriculture and Animal Services, NSW Local Lands Service.

Key contacts

Fires Near Me – app, website, T 1800 679 737 Live Traffic – app, website, T 132 701 NSW Disaster Assistance – website, T 1800 018 444 Recovery information – www.esc.nsw.gov.au/recovery

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