Bushfire planning & crisis response

Bushfire planning & crisis response

6 minute read

Bushfire planning and crisis response. Preparing for summer 2024

Ahead of what is expected to be a very hot and dry summer, with high bushfire risk predicted in almost all States across the country.

Here’s a recap of the key takeaways from the Risk Management Institute of Australia (RMIA) webinar with Battleground and Lockton, to help energy sector and critical infrastructure owners prepare for and respond effectively to the coming bushfire season.

Key Takeaways

  • Emergency Planning
    Exercise your emergency or crisis plans in consultation with your jurisdictions fire services
  • Community Reliance On Essential Services
    Use up-to-date science to understand the compounding and cascading impacts of emergencies
  • Supply Chain Continuity
    Achieve a greater ROI on both your bushfire risk and supply chain continuity
  • Improving Response Arrangement
    Share emergency information across, up and down your organisation and with emergency service

The recommendations of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements were intended for Federal and State Governments primarily, but they provide tremendous insights for all businesses, especially utilities and critical infrastructure (CI) owners and operators.


Emergency Planning

Do you plan for the bushfire season in consultation with your jurisdictions rural or country fire services?

You may well know where current and active incidents are and whether they threaten your networks and assets through data feeds into your control room, but do the authorities have geospatial mapping of your assets?

Do they know where they are and whether loss of specific assets represents a material risk to the community in that area?

When was the last time you exercised your emergency or crisis plans?

Exercising with emergency services and Government agencies comes easier for Government owned utilities, but the linkages are essential and pre-season liaison and exercising (train as you would fight) is essential.

Community Reliance On Essential Services

Governments are thinking more about the compounding and cascading impacts of emergencies.

For energy utilities, especially the electricity sector, that means de-energisation and loss of supply for communities. Those strategies are very specific about the quantifiable criteria, i.e. if a fire ban has been declared in a particular bushfire region and the wind reaches X kph, then we de-energise to prevent dropped lines and bushfire ignition.

But the cascading impacts of those decisions can include loss of supply for farm firefighting equipment, loss of supply for drinking water pumping stations, or for community members reliant on biomedical devices in the home.

So those decisions aren’t as cut and dried as they might seem, and are they based on up-to-date science?

The new Australian Fire Danger Rating System (AFDRS) uses more detailed data, the latest fire prediction models and eight vegetation types (compared to the previous two).

If you’re a generator or transmission/distribution network operator, is the science behind your bushfire ignition and de-energisation strategies current?

Supply Chain Continuity

All businesses need a good understanding of their supply chain risks in order to manage impacts on their business’s critical operations.

This presents an opportunity for CI owners and operators because the requirements detailed in the amendments to the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act (SOCI) and supply chains in particular, are consistent with the Royal Commission’s findings about managing impacts on communities.  

Many CI owners and operators will by now have established Critical Infrastructure Risk Management Programs (CIRMP) to minimise or eliminate material risks to and disruption of their supply chains, including loss of major suppliers and failure or lowered capacity. That might include for example, your aerial services provider who is critical in performing line inspections to facilitate re-energisation after an asset has tripped or been de-energised, but what if that provider has been impacted by bushfire, their facility or aircraft are damaged, or they just can’t fly.

What contingencies do you have for performing that essential inspection to re-energise and reconnect the community?

What does your business continuity plan say? There’s clear opportunity to achieve greater return on investment in both your bushfire risk and supply chain continuity programs and demonstrate genuine commitment to both regulators and underwriters.

Improving Response Arrangements

Information management and sharing was called out specifically by the Royal Commission. How do you share emergency information across, up and down your organisation and with the emergency services, relating to asset bushfire impacts and risk. For example would the asset risk justify tasking of firefighting resources if that asset loss would have a significant impact on a community, and do the authorities know that, or even know those assets are there?

  • How do you communicate in a crisis?
  • Where do you store your crisis plans, records and resources?
  • Can your crisis management team communicate and access these records if you lose connectivity in your facilities, or if they’re all working from home, or at another location if they’ve left their homes because of bushfire risk?

Watch the full Webinar

If you haven’t considered these in advance of the bushfire season, now’s the time.

Speak with Mark today and be ready for tomorrow.

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