Fire warning system gets an overhaul

Australia’s new, simplified fire warning system with practical calls to action for communities is beginning its rollout.

The new Australian Fire Danger Ratings System (AFDRS) reduces the number of warning levels from six to four, and aims to provide national consistency, Emergency Management Victoria Commissioner Andrew Crisp told reporters.

“This is about protecting our community. And once again, removing some of the confusion out of the system that we had in the past,” Mr Crisp said.

As of September 1, the AFDRS risk levels and advice are:

  • Moderate: Plan and prepare
  • High: Be ready to act
  • Extreme: Take action now to protect life and property
  • Catastrophic: For your survival, leave bushfire areas

It removes the previous ratings of low-moderate, very high and severe.

Forest Fire Management Victoria Chief Fire Officer Chris Hardman said the system improvements would be exceptional over time.

“In the last 20 years, there’s been 4.9 million hectares of bushfires in Victoria and the communities right across our state have felt the impacts of those bushfires,” Mr Hardman said.

“We are very much looking forward to utilising the system.”

The Bureau of Meteorology will contribute data on temperature, precipitation, humidity, soil moisture and wind speed to determine fire danger in the short-term and provide long-range forecasts.

“The system uses the latest in scientific understanding about weather, fuel and fire behaviour in different types of vegetation to improve the reliability of our fire danger forecasts,” BOM forecaster Diana Eadie said.

At a media conference on Victoria’s upcoming emergency season, Ms Eadie said BOM was forecasting a wetter than average spring and a 70 per cent likelihood of a La Nina weather event.

“If we do see that La Nina develop, then there is that potential that we could see a continuation of those wetter conditions persisting into summer as well,” Ms Eadie said.

Despite the forecast, Country Fire Authority Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said Victorians should not be complacent.

“We’re really in this strange situation where quite potentially, we are going to see fires and floods,” he said.

“Our community just generally need to be aware of that and be prepared.”

Mr Heffernan urged Victorians to understand the new fire ratings system.

“Get to know what they are, get to know what they mean for you and have that conversation with your family.”


Adrian Black
(Australian Associated Press)


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