Bushfires Royal Commission Implementation Monitor annual report 2014

5 Aug 2014

The Bushfires Royal Commission Implementation Monitor is responsible for monitoring and reviewing the progress of the State in implementing the recommendations of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission's Reports.

The tabling of the 2014 Annual Report concludes the BRCIM's responsibilities under theBushfires Royal Commission Implementation Monitor Act 2011 (BRCIM Act).  A proposal for monitoring the implementation actions which remain ongoing at 31 July 2014 is provided in the 2014 Annual Report.

Executive summary

This 2014 Annual Report addresses the implementation actions 
that were reported in the 2013 Annual Report as ‘In Progress’ 
or subject to further monitoring. This report does not address 
all of the 305 implementation actions that the State committed 
to implement in response to the VBRC’s 67 recommendations. 
However, a summary of the status of each of the actions can be 
found at Appendix 1. A more detailed account of the response 
undertaken by the State to the actions can be found in the 
2012 Final Report.

The 2013-14 fire season was the busiest and most challenging 
since 2009. Major bush and grass fires occurred across the 
state, including in remote locations in mountainous and Mallee 
country, on the urban fringe and in a large open cut coal mine at 
Hazelwood. Some of these major fires are the subject of review, 
including the independent Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry. As a 
consequence of post-season reviews of the 2012-13 and 2013-
14 fire seasons, the BRCIM has had an opportunity to consider 
the efficacy of the implementation of several actions undertaken 
by the State since 2009.

Some of these actions, although implemented in previous 
years, had not been tested in an operational environment since 
first introduced. Of particular interest to the BRCIM was the 
exercise of new evacuation policy and procedures that occurred 
on a number of occasions during the 2013-14 fire season. 
The successful evacuation of Halls Gap during the Grampians 
fire in particular has provided valuable learnings which 
have already been captured and shared with emergency 
management practitioners across the state.

Further, the BRCIM was able to examine evidence of joint 
agency operations on a greater scale than in previous years. 
For example, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) was tasked 
to support the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the Department 
of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) at fires in Wallan, 
the Grampians and the Hazelwood Mine and spent extended 
periods working under new interoperability arrangements.
During the 2013-14 fire season it was clear to the BRCIM that 
many of the measures addressed since 2009 had delivered 
positive outcomes. For example, the pre-determined dispatch 
of aircraft greatly enhanced air response capability. The BRCIM 
is pleased to note the State ’s commitment to pre-determined 
dispatch as the standard aircraft dispatch procedure during 
all future fire seasons. There was clear evidence of improved 
command and control arrangements at the State Control Centre 
(SCC) and at regional level.

The governance arrangements for emergency management 
in Victoria have been significantly improved since the 
establishment in 2013 of the State Crisis and Resilience Council 
(SCRC). The BRCIM has attended the meetings of the SCRC 
and has observed that this council functions effectively as the 
peak body for emergency management in Victoria.
The introduction of Emergency Management Victoria 
(EMV) and the Emergency Management Commissioner 
(EMC) on 1 July 2014 should provide greater impetus for 
effective emergency management under the all hazards, 
all agencies philosophy. The introduction on the same 
date of the office of the Inspector-General for Emergency 
Management (IGEM) should for the first time provide Victoria 
with a robust, audit and review assurance capacity. 

The BRCIM is able to report that there has been significant 
progress during the past year in the implementation of several 
actions. Of particular note are

> the successful implementation of Emergency Alert (EA) 
Phase 2 

> the successful completion of the Community Fire Refuges 
Pilot Program (CFRPP) and the construction and opening 
of three community fire refuges (CFRs)

> the positive progress of the powerline reform program under 
the direction of the Powerline Bushfire Safety Oversight 
Committee (PBSOC)

> the progress made in developing a risk based approach 
to planned burning.

While a small number of actions are progressing more slowly 
than was initially forecast, the BRCIM is satisfied that there is 
evidence of adequate progress. However, one matter remains 
problematic; implementation action 49(i) – develop guidelines 
for retrofitting class 9 buildings. This is well overdue and the 
BRCIM has received no evidence of progress of this action 
during 2013-14.

Given the heavy workload on the fire agencies this past fire 
season, it is noteworthy that this has not detracted from the 
Fire Services Commissioner (FSC) and the fire agencies’ 
commitment to deliver on the VBRC recommendations.
Despite the significant number of Victorians directly threatened 
by bushfire during 2013-14, only one death occurred at Rose’s 
Gap. This is important as it indicates that finally we may be 
witnessing some evidence that our community is beginning 
to respond to the enhanced level of warnings and advice 
communicated to them by the fire authorities. Nevertheless, 
the BRCIM remains very concerned about the level of 
community complacency regarding the risk of fire that has 
been highlighted in previous reports. The BRCIM urges the 
State to retain an ongoing focus on community education 
and participation in mitigating the risk of fire.

A great deal of work has been done by the State to address 
the many shortcomings identified by the VBRC and much of 
this remains ongoing. This work should now become part of 
the daily business activities of the agencies that, under the 
new emergency management arrangements, must adopt a 
more cooperative, coordinated and proactive approach to 
risk management. As discussed elsewhere in this report, it is 
important to understand that all 67 VBRC recommendations 
are inextricably interdependent. No single recommendation 
is effective in its own right. Fully implementing all of the 
recommendations will only reduce the overall risk of bushfire. 
The risk can never be eliminated and bushfire safety in Victoria 
remains the ongoing shared responsibility of us all.

As this report concludes a five year undertaking to report 
on the progress and efficacy of the implementation of 
the recommendations of the VBRC, the BRCIM records 
appreciation for the high level of support and cooperation from 
all departments and agencies involved in delivering 
these outcomes.

Publication Details
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