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Another Devastating Fire Season Reaching an End ...

Posted 28 February 2013 by Peter Kakris (Crisisworks)

With the Australian summer now officially over, we thought we'd reflect on what has been a testing time for Crisisworks users both in terms of municipal emergency response and recovery.

Between the 1st December 2012 and today alone there were a total of more than 200 incidents and 2,300 activities logged in Crisisworks across multiple Australian states.

The threat of bushfires is certainly not over and the bushfire season began very early this year for some ...

An Early Start to the Season

Bushfire season began early for Wellington Shire and was a long one. The council activated for a fire at Loch Sport which burned over 700 hectares ...

In Victoria, the CFA in November warned that the 2012/13 bushfire season could be the deadliest post 2008/09 and Black Saturday.

As the bushfire season began in earnest, Crisisworks was activated by a number of councils in Central Victoria between Melbourne and Bendigo.

Destructive and Deadly January

While the 2012/13 summer bushfires were not a repeat of the devastating scale of Black Saturday, they were accompanied by heavy loss to property and loss of life.

January began with a severe heatwave across southern Australia. In Victoria several councils activated Crisisworks the state experienced a record 14 successive days above 30 degrees. The hot dry conditions fuelled several early fires and councils in both Victoria and New South Wales were on standby.

2013 bushfires (image by Chuq http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

Crisisworks was utilised during the Chepstowe fires in early January which burned a large area west of Ballarat in Snake Valley, Chepstowe and Carngham, causing extensive damage to livestock and property including the destruction of 9 homes.

In mid January, Crisisworks was activated by several councils in response to fires in Gippsland where EOC Interoperability was put into action.  Wellington Shire in east Gippsland also activated in response to what was to become a deadly fire. 

Across the border in mid and late January Crisisworks was activated by multiple councils in New South Wales for one of its worst fire outbreaks in the state's history.

A Fiery and Fatal February

In February, Alpine Shire activated Crisisworks for what was to become the large and deadly Harrietville-Alpine fire complex. Two people lost their lives fighting the fire which burned over 27,000 hectares of bushland and threatened both Mount Hotham and Harrietville.

Not Only Bushfires ...

While fires stole the headlines, the summer of 2013 was a time of unpredictable weather for councils. In Western Victoria a municipality was able to track its recovery effort from a damaging tornado-like storm. In addition Crisisworks was employed by councils to manage their response and recovery activity following structure fires.

Preparing for Anything

Across the state, the Crisisworks team supported municipal emergency preparation efforts as many councils conducted testing and training exercises in the system.

In December the Crisisworks team trained users at Mitchell Shire, assisted City of Stonnington with Crisisworks during its emergency planning and the City of Boroondara with a Large Scale Relief Exercise for Melbourne's Eastern Region.

It's Not Over Yet ...

It has been a long hot summer that has certainly kept Crisisworks on its toes.  Emergencies have also occurred elsewhere across the country, notably the destructive Dunalley fires in Tasmania and extensive flooding in Queensland and New South Wales during January. While most of the summer bushfires are now under control, some may continue to burn well into March.

For some Crisisworks users, the focus could continue through use of Crisisworks for recovery, planning and preparedness. Many councils will continue to follow up with the post impact and recovery features including new mobile apps. The cost and audit reporting features may well be used to respond to the probes and inquiries that could follow. With the system's correct use, these aspects should be much simplified and more detailed for them.

Natural disasters are, by their nature, unpredictable. Though that does not mean that they can't be planned for. With effective tools for enhanced communication and awareness, Crisisworks is there when our customers need it and the Crisisworks team is there to help get the most of it.

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