Page 3580 - Week 11 - Thursday, 22 September 2005

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had been identified in other jurisdictions following major bushfires and had focused on the contentious issue of whether to stay and protect houses or to evacuate before the fire approached areas. The evacuation strategy is part of the ACT emergency management plan.

The ACT has adopted an all-hazards warning system. The system is intended to provide clear information to the community on the likelihood that an incident will occur that will require evacuation or alternative action. It provides direction on the actions required by ACT Policing, the ESA and other agencies, and a public information message. The message is preceded by the standard emergency warning signal. The levels of warning comprise blue, which is potential impact within 24 hours; yellow, probable impact within 12 hours; orange, certain impact between four and 12 hours; red, immediate impact within the next four hours; and white, return after the threat or danger to residents has passed.

The ACT handy map in the Yellow Pages is intended to provide a simple means to communicate the location of an incident of the likely area in relation to the warning system. The alphanumerical grid covers the ACT and surrounding region. The community is asked to identify the grid squares in which they live and work and those where special needs members of their family are located. This is a key requirement in larger scale incidents and is used in north Queensland for cyclone tracking.

The ESA is rightly proud of its media memorandum of understanding. Its purpose is to provide a reliable flow of information to the community through the media. This overcomes reliance on mobile/fixed telephone and internet services that may not be operating during a major emergency. The ACT is the first jurisdiction to have an approved MOU with all media organisations—TV, radio and print—that establishes a partnership in the dissemination of information. The MOU includes the provision of timely and accurate information from the ESA to the media organisations through liaison officers; the provision of pooled recordings and photographs; training and deployment of accredited journalists; and participation in simulated exercises and activities to develop procedures.

Operational analysis is an essential action that is intended to maintain best practice within the ACT. Operational analysis will occur through simulated incidents/discussion exercises for existing areas, and to guide risk assessments and planning considerations in proposed new developments. The development of partnerships with the community provides a greater capacity to manage complex situations and enables the emergency services to better deal with the specific incident. Its strength lies in a shared knowledge of all hazards, shared responsibilities and provision of reliable and timely information.

ESA and the ACT land managers have been working closely together to be ready for the next fire season. Since last fire season land management agency firefighting staff have increased their skill levels by attending a number of nationally recognised training courses, including four-wheel drive, incident planning, incident operations, navigate in urban and rural environments, and operate pumps. Land management agency staff also participated in a major remote area firefighting exercise.

Twelve land management agency firefighting staff have received their certificate II in firefighting operations, while four received their national firefighting medal, recognising

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