States continue overhaul of bushfire policies

By Rob O’Brien
State Governments have continued to overhaul their policies around bushfires in the wake of the interim report by the Victorian Bushfire Commission.

NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia have all endorsed a new framework, recommended by the national bushfire taskforce, to implement a ‘catastrophic’ rating, indicating that the Fire Danger Index exceeds 100.

The rating will be used to warn people that their homes are no longer defendable.

The South Australian Government last week announced a new telephone and text messaging warning system, to be up and running in time for this year’s fire danger season.

Premier Mike Rann said the State Government would invest $12.4 million over the next five years to establish and roll out the system in tandem with the Federal Government, which is injecting $15 million into the project.
“This new warning alert system means alerts relating to the most severe fire threats will be sent to landlines and mobile phones based on the owner’s billing address for this bushfire season," he said. 
“People will also be able to ‘opt in’ to the service should they have friends or relatives living in bushfire prone regions.
“I am told that by the 2010/11 Bushfire Season, the system will be advanced enough to send messages to mobile phone users travelling through a defined emergency area." 
Rann said the state would also adopt a nationally agreed slogan of ‘PRAPRE. ACT. SURVIVE to raise public awareness around the bushfire season.
“This is being introduced to reinforce the very real message that people simply won’t survive unless they are prepared and take the appropriate action,” he said.
Other key recommendations made by SA’s Bushfire Task Force that will be implemented include identifying ‘Neighbourhood Safer Places’ to be used as an alternative for shelter from a bushfire; conducting a ‘Bushfire Prevention and Awareness Week’ in preparation for fire danger season; and, develop a dwelling bushfire shelter guideline.

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