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Is your family bushfire ready?

6 January 2021

Hundreds of public schools, preschools and kindergartens are in bushfire prone areas.

Every one of the at-risk sites has a plan to keep students and staff safe in a bushfire emergency.

Families also have a role to play.

Here’s a handy guide on what you need to know and where to find it.

For more detailed information visit on the bushfire season preparation page.

Know your school or preschool’s bushfire risk

Every public school and preschool in a bushfire prone area has a bushfire risk rating based on the potential for exposure to ember attack, radiant heat or direct flame in the event of a bushfire emergency.

The risk rating indicates whether the site needs to have a bushfire response plan. The bushfire response plan explains what will happen if there’s a bushfire emergency nearby and identifies the building or location in which staff and students will take shelter if needed.

Schools and preschools that have been categorised as ‘high bushfire risk’ will close if the CFS declares a catastrophic fire danger rating for their district.

If there’s a closure it means that no services will be offered, including OSHC and vacation care, so families need to arrange for care on that day. Bus services that run through catastrophic rated districts will also be cancelled.

The site might also be directed to close if there’s an upgraded bushfire risk on the day.

Transport services may also be varied, cancelled or delayed if there is a likelihood they will be affected by bushfire activity.

ACTION:

  • Check if your site has a ‘high bushfire risk’ rating at the Department for Education’s website
  • If the site is in a high risk category, familiarise yourself with its emergency communication and child collection procedures
  • Make a plan on who will supervise and / or collect your child if there’s an emergency or a site closure

Know how your site communicates in an emergency

Your child’s school or preschool will notify you of an impending closure on the evening before a catastrophic bushfire day. It will also let you know if bus services have been cancelled.  

This might be via text message, email, telephone or an app such as SkoolBag.

Where possible, you will be kept up to date on any live emergency situation.

Remember that communications networks can be damaged by the bushfire, so it may not be possible for the site to let you know what is happening throughout the day. During an active bushfire emergency, school and preschool staff will be prioritising the safety and welfare of your children. It is important that these activities are not affected by incoming phone calls and messages from parents and caregivers.

The department liaises directly with emergency services and sites, so during a live emergency you should contact the Emergency Information Hotline on 1800 000 279 for up-to-date information.

ACTION:

  • Make sure you know and can access the communication methods your site uses in emergencies
  • Make sure the site always has your most up to date contact details.

Know what to do in a live bushfire emergency

If there’s a bushfire emergency nearby, schools and preschools will move everyone to a designated bushfire shelter and remain there until the fire front has passed.

If your child is in the school’s bushfire shelter, they are accounted for and supervised. This is the safest place for them to be at that moment. If there is a requirement for staff and students to be evacuated, it will be directed and managed by emergency services personnel.

Travelling to the school to collect your child could put you and your child at risk during an active bushfire emergency. There may be reduced visibility on roads from smoke, along with road closures in place that you are not aware of before you leave. Bushfires can be unpredictable and fast moving. You may not be able to out-run or avoid the fire in your vehicle.

You should consider whether it is safe for you to travel to and from the site and, if you collect your child, whether you have a safer place to go.

Remember that you will also be adding to the traffic on the road which may impact the ability of emergency services to access the area and provide assistance.

If you do attend the school to collect your child, you may be asked to stay with them at the shelter.

It is important in these circumstances to always follow the advice of emergency service personnel and to listen to the instructions and information from the school or preschool.

 

The information on this page only applies to state government education and care services.