The recent Climate Council report warns that Australia might see its worst grassfires in 49 years this summer. Which is why it’s never too early to start preparing for grassfire season. 

So what can your council do right now – in the colder months – to manage grassfire risk?

Plenty. Read on to learn what you can tick off the list, immediately.

Worst grassfire season in sight

For the last three years, Australia has experienced above-average rainfall due to a protracted La Niña event. This has resulted in increased vegetation growth in New South Wales – especially west of the Great Divide.

But since the start of autumn, the weather has shifted from wet to dry. And these drier conditions are expected to persist throughout the cold season into spring.

Climate models have also indicated that Australia could experience El Niño conditions towards the second half of 2023. This means we’re looking at a rapid curing of grasslands – and a significant risk of widespread grassfires throughout spring and summer.

It’s no wonder that a recent Climate Council report warned that Australia is at risk of the worst grassfires in 49 years.

Key actions to take now

Since grasslands cover approximately 80% of our state, this dire grassfire warning mustn’t be taken lightly.

But what can councils do to prepare while we’re still in autumn and winter? Isn’t this something to be looked at when we’re closer to spring?

Absolutely not.

Because if your council is in an at-risk region, you must start as early as you can. Which makes now the best time to begin planning – and to ensure you have everything you need to manage the upcoming grassfire season.

Some key tips to get your preparation rolling:

  1. Start engaging with all relevant stakeholders. Not just your internal teams, but external stakeholders too – and that includes your local emergency management committee. Be sure to maintain effective communication and consultation channels throughout the seasons.
  2. Put emergency management in place. Make sure that all stakeholders can easily access these plans, and that all prevention, response and recovery processes are based on current recommendations.
  3. Update your business continuity plan. This is key to minimise disruption to your council’s core business functions. Review the document to ensure it covers all bases, so you can remain operational before, during and after any emergencies.
  4. Check that you’re using the right fire danger rating signage. Consult your local NSW RFS to ensure that you have the most current fire danger rating signage.

Other crucial tasks to keep you in check

Here’s a quick checklist of more practical steps to help keep your council grassfire ready:

  • Convey critical fire danger information – such as total fire bans – on the staff intranet, public website and social media channels
  • Introduce regular programs to inspect and maintain assets that may be impacted by grassfires – including hazard reduction slashing for roadsides, and weed spraying
  • Develop risk mitigation strategies for high-risk locations, such as waste facilities
  • Ensure hot works procedures are developed, clearly communicated and followed
  • Check that plant and equipment subject to adverse working conditions are inspected and maintained above OEM requirements
  • Ensure that the relevant employees are trained to use first-attack firefighting equipment

To learn more about reducing the risk of grassfires, check the NSW RFS website and consult with your local NSW RFS representative.

You can also contact your Regional Risk Manager for support through the risk assessment and planning process.

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