Caring for Community Safety
Fire & Rescue NSW
Clearly, those of us who live and work in the major metropolitan areas are less likely to suffer the awful consequences that can follow a bushfire. Even we, however, are by no means immune to their dangers…
Meanwhile, businesses that reside in rural or regional areas often have to spend the months of summer with the ever-present possibility that a freak wind, a chance electrical spark or even just some dumb drongo with a carelessly discarded cigarette butt could cause a real drama or tragedy, something at the very least to cause a company to dust off the latest copy of its Business Continuity Plan (BCP).
Assuming it has one.
Even medium-sized companies and big corporations in city centres can be affected by bushfires, says Mark Reilly. He is Manager Fire Safety Assessment Unit of Fire & Rescue New South Wales, which does a fine job of keeping the state’s population safe from not only fire but all the other slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that can occur in a modern environment. It is also the seventh largest urban fire and rescue service in the world. Other states have similarly dedicated organisations, risks and advice, so for non-NSW residents, very much the same applies.
Mark knows that any destructive event can knock out vital infrastructure – bringing down power lines, for example, or cutting off a road used to supply components for your production line (or to ship perishable products to your customers). There is also a secondary impact, if staff are unable to get to work. “Unfortunately, no one in Australia is really immune to the impact of major bushfires,” says Mark.
While he and his team do not see a serious level of complacency, he does believe there could be greater attention paid to resilience and planning for recovery. It is vital to have a plan in place in order to be able, for example, to identify the staff who may be affected by a particular fire event. Depending on the company’s location, it may be important to be able to identify the appropriate emergency response teams.
Mark’s day to day responsibility is to ensure the built business environment is as safe from the dangers of fire and attendant risks as possible. Everyone should have a BCP, which, he says, boils down to ‘pre-crisis’, ‘crisis’ and ‘consequences’ management. “Because no matter where you are in Australia, it will happen. No state is immune from major wildfires or environmental disasters. It is a cyclical phenomenon around the country, as you can see from the last couple of years.”
Apart from the very real drama of the bushfire and other disasters, Mark’s department has a comprehensive suite of information for businesses on how to minimise risk and plan for the worst (see the website at www.fire.nsw.gov.au), including advice on drawing up BCPs.
But local business in any given NSW community is welcome (and many take advantage of the opportunity) to get together with consumers to ensure greater protection. Insurance companies are an obvious example, not least because they, as well as the consumer, can directly benefit from reduction in accidents or incidents, and can pass on any reduction in claims to their policy holders. Many of these jointly run programmes are educational, though not only for kids – all kinds of businesses can take part in educating their staffs in how to avoid and prevent, as well as deal with any incidents that do occur.
Fire & Rescue NSW are committed to reducing the occurrence and impact of emergency incidents on the people, environment, and economy of the state, committed to global best practice, Mark explains. The organisation is continuously researching existing fire safety programmes looking to deliver new ways to disseminate important fire safety information to the community.
The online Home Fire Safety Audit is a good example; a joint initiative between Fire & Rescue NSW and principal community engagement partner GIO, it works by taking users through a virtual home, identifying key fire risks and asking questions about fire related behaviour, which then provides personalised recommendations that allow them to address and minimise these risks. It provides a rich interactive experience, customised to each user. Users can register a username and password so they can save their results, come back in the future and undertake another audit, and even email a friend or share their results via social networking sites. A similar programme has been developed for small and medium sized businesses.
In an ideal NSW, Mark points out, the fire truck would never be used but would sit there needing occasional polishing. That would mean everyone is safe and happy, but unfortunately that is not always the case. “Every time a fire truck rolls out of the station with lights flashing and sirens blazing, unfortunately someone in society is in dire need or distress. If we can get into the cycle of events and educate people to minimise the number of fires or accidents, that means there is less time on the road for our firefighters.” And more time for them to spend further educating the public and further reducing the number of incidents.
Mind how you go. And make sure that BCP is written, up to date and stored somewhere safe.