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Inconsistent information, firefighting deficiencies addressed in royal commission interim report

Dominic Giannini1 September 2020
Orroral Valley fire

The interim report from the Royal Commission was handed down the same day as the bushfire outlook for the next three months. Photo: Gary Hooker ACTRFS via ESA Twitter.

Consistent bushfire information across state borders, more clarity about the roles and responsibilities of different levels of government and the need to reassess Australia’s current firefighting capacity have all been flagged in the interim report of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements (also known as the Bushfire Royal Commission).

Although the interim report has not provided any recommendations, it has addressed some of the deficiencies in responding to last summer’s catastrophic bushfires, including the need for consistent access to information about air quality, bushfire warning systems, evacuation directions and bushfire movements to ensure clear and quick communication across jurisdictions.

The Royal Commission has heard that cross-border evacuations and inconsistent terminology caused confusion as fires approached because bushfire warning systems are different in each state and territory.


READ ALSO: Firetrucks sent to Queanbeyan had “continuous mechanical issues”, royal commission hears


This also created difficulties for people who used different apps across state borders. For example, NSW’s Fires Near Me app stopped providing information at the Victorian border, despite the fire traversing both states. Air-quality ratings were also different across jurisdictions.

Warning stages

The different fire warning stages across Australia. Photo: Royal Commission.

“The work on the Australian Warning System should be finished as a priority,” the report says.

“Likewise, there are variations in the current fire danger ratings across state and territory fire authorities, and in the guidance on how to react to each level.

“For example, in Victoria, ’Catastrophic’ is ’Code Red’, and in Tasmania ‘Catastrophic’ is represented by black, not red. Some states show the fire danger index for each rating and others do not.

“Nationally consistent and comparable data and information, when made widely available, can deliver efficiencies, avoid duplication, improve understanding, and facilitate decision making.”

Clarity about which department and level of government is responsible for what is also needed, the Royal Commission found.

“Clarity about the roles and responsibilities of various levels of government is therefore necessary to ensure services are delivered effectively and efficiently. State and territory governments have primary responsibility for managing natural disasters,” the report says.

“‘Combat agencies’, such as rural fire services and state emergency services, lead the response to natural disasters. It is for state and territory governments to request Australian Government assistance in support of these responsibilities.

“While state and territory governments can, and do, cooperate among themselves, the Australian Government can play an important national coordination role. The Australian Government also has capability and capacity not available to the states and territories.”

Last summer, bushfires burnt between 24 and 40 million hectares across Australia, killing 32 people and destroying more than 3000 homes, as well as thousands of other structures.

Around $7.6 billion in losses have been attributed to the fires from insurance claims, healthcare costs and foregone tourism.

The interim report was released on the same day as the 2020 bushfire season outlook, which found that apart from some pockets along the Queensland coast and north Western Australia, the rest of the country can expect a normal level of fire risk.

The full report can be found at the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements website.

Bushfire outlook

Above-average fire potential locations in 2019 compared to 2020. Photo: BNHCRC.

Original Article published by Dominic Giannini on The RiotACT.

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One Response to Inconsistent information, firefighting deficiencies addressed in royal commission interim report

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Karen Gouvas Karen Gouvas 12:43 pm 29 Sep 20

Funding should be allocated to Develope a better Data Collection site that all States and Territories have the same Security Access to and the only Department capable of implementing and maintaining 24hrs access to the System would have to be one Fire Headquarters for gathering and complying daily gathered Data would be The Rural Fire Services and merge The State Emergency Services into one Department so when there is a Australian Declaration that a Alert of Catastrophic Warning is activated by the two Chieftains it is there and then Declared and other Department’s be informed and on stand by The Australian Police who should also have access to the latest information on the the new designed Computer System (Program) and the every State and Territory and the above Regional Offices attached to the main Program System also should have access The Australian Ambulance Service should have access for life updates it needs to be discussed thoroughly making sure no important Australian Emergency Service has not been given access to the site , built a new Headquartes building incorporating all the latest Internet Companies and their fastest NBN Services, make it a tight Security Building to enter Implement a good Software Company that will offer 24hrs Customer Service Backup to all Government Departments to the main facility and other attached Govt Departments everywhere in Australia, when setting up data collection have a call centre with Operators here in Australia
Recording updates from all bodies mentioned above make sure to also implement a good Virus Software Company that can provide Protection of the Computer System offering every form of protection Malware,all virus,hackers, every threat against the System & data,the latest Hardware consider a wall large enough to have each State and Territory Tele Conferencing constant live warnings,it might take years to build and implement,also implement the one Standard Alert warning icon system to the Public have the same Standard Security fire or flood warning icons right across all off Australian States and Territories and your HQ uses the same warning icons, also use Standards & Controls,Procedures Manuals issued to all Departments obliviously reflecting their own Standards & Controls and Proceduure Manuals put Tenders out that fit all the criteria’s for each Department.And involve Chieftains in all decisions they know excactly what they want & need to make this work.Also don’t forget the Indigenous Fire burning skills as in this slow burning they also read the canopies of vegetation their main concern is building native animals escapes path ways when burning off undergrowth. It’s only when you all get together and discuss this from never happening again the bad bushfire of 2019 you all work together as one for Australia and it’s endangered Fuana , wildlife sadly we will see less loss of Human lives (32) including volunteers from overseas and out buildings and homes etc, Headquarters also needs a large car park.

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