If you own a commercial building or run a business in a bushfire prone area, it is vital to know how to prepare for a bushfire, especially during the hotter, high-risk summer months. Ensuring staff are well prepared and equipped to safely leave the area is the responsibility of every business owner. As we move into bushfire season across Australia, here are some important steps you and your business can take;
1. Understand your bushfire risk
2. Minimise risk by preparing your business
Identifying the risk of a bushfire to your operations is an important first step. Business owners can determine the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) for their area by contacting their local council or fire service. BAL’s are specified in Australian Standards AS 3959 as classifications of bushfire intensity levels from Low to Flame Zone measuring the severity of a building’s potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat, and direct flame contact. Understand other bushfire risks surrounding your business, taking into account vegetation, topography, and what days your area will be more susceptible to bushfire – for example, when there has been little rainfall.
This involves preparing and maintaining your defendable space through vegetation management and ensuring adequate water supply and delivery. Regular maintenance should include clearing gutters that are also protected by ember proofing gutter guards. Ventilation is important for all businesses, however, bushfire specific ventilation will protect those organisations that must comply with Australian Standards AS 3959. CSR Edmonds’ Hurricane Bush Fire Rated (BFR) ventilation technology is constructed from non-combustible materials offering increased protection from ember attack. Your business will also need firefighting equipment such as extinguishers, fire blankets and emergency kits that include first-aid and supplies for up to three days.
3. Create a bushfire plan
A bushfire plan for businesses must take into account how to act in the event of a fire of any level. Bushfires can occur without warning in many different conditions, so staff need to be prepared for all possible scenarios. Alternative actions should also be documented in the event that “Plan A” doesn’t go as expected. A bushfire plan for businesses should consider how you will monitor and communicate fire risk and emergency warnings to staff, how they should act and when, and if your business has any other obligations in the event of emergency. It should also include detailed information on assembly points and emergency contact details for each staff member.
4. Prepare your people
All staff and visitors to your organisation should be aware of the fire plan that is in place and how to react in the event of emergency. Defined roles and responsibilities within the team such as ‘First Aid Officer’ or ‘Fire Warden’ may be appropriate. Identify those staff that have first-aid qualifications and train further staff if needed. Having a bushfire plan clearly written and practiced often will help staff understand where evacuation points are located, minimising panic during a real emergency. Find more information on preparing people in your organisation here.
All businesses are urged to contact their state’s fire service and region’s local council for detailed information on their fire risk, regulations they must adhere to, and any emergency procedures already in place for their local area. Please note that this guide is an indication only and all businesses need to take into account their individual needs and responsibilities.