EVACUATION IN PRACTICE
What do fire authorities say?
When Emergency Supremo Craig Lapsley says “leave and live”, we believe he is sending out a message of defeat and fear based on half truths. The message of fear is reinforced by another ad that says 4 out of 5 people die near their home in a bushfire, which is another pernicious half truth.
What he is publicly admitting is this – Although the CFA has assets of $1.2 billion and a budget of half a billion dollars per year to protect the community, and tens of thousands of unpaid volunteers, they cannot protect you from the severe running bushfire. So he wants you to run away like scared rabbits.
Maybe their evacuation policy means well. They want to prevent a death toll like the disastrous policy failure on Black Saturday. But they have not thought it through.
Think about it. (1) A severe bushfire attack is precisely the time the community needs protection. They pay the fire levy for protection against severe fires, not for mild fires.
Think about it (2) There is no evidence that evacuation is a valid fire protection policy.
Think about it (3) The government knows that evacuation causes house loss. We show you in Bushfire Solution Paper 6A that the formula for house loss rate on a severe bushfire attack in a well prepared community is:
House loss rate = 0.64 x house vacancy rate + 13
Thus if house vacancy rate is 50%, house loss rate is approx 45%. A vacancy rate of 90% leads to a house loss rate of 60%. By comparison, Marysville’s actual vacancy rate was 90%, and the house loss rate was 90%. The higher loss rate implies the community was not well prepared.
We cannot believe government leaders seriously want evacuation to be successful. How many Marysville’s do they want to cause? 90% evacuation / 90% house loss / 23% houses rebuilt after 5 years / countless lives still shattered. But they continue to invest in warnings and evacuation protocols, and media advertising about warnings and evacuations, and brush house loss off as acceptable collateral damage.
Is the “leave and live” message now a permanent government policy? How long do you have to run from perceived danger? Or are the fire agencies working on a secret plan, and when that comes to fruition you won’t have to run away any more? Are they finally going to bushfire-protect your community so that it is safe to stay? They might have forgotten three points. (1) We are dealing with a flame that burns wood and grass gases and we have total control over those gases because we control the fuel. (2) It is very un-Australian to run from danger. (3) They do not reveal the whole story.
They should tell you the whole story so they cannot be accused of misleading you, ie, the consequences of running away:
• Their fire fighters will not defend your vacant house
• Vacant undefended houses have very high house loss rate
They should also give you viable alternatives, like quoting that 45% of properties were self defended on Black Saturday.
They claim they are implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendations. But, the closest recommendation was “to prepare a comprehensive evacuation policy”. We have not yet found this policy.
Evacuation in practice 2014 and 2015
We have recorded their evacuation warnings over the past two seasons.Some are very confusing. Some are absurb.
The confusing happens when a town is being threatened. When there is time to evacuate, they promote evacuation. When the fire gets closer, they say there is no time to evacuate, and advise people to stay indoors. How can the same town be a danger one minute and a safe haven the next?
The absurd happened at Halls Gap in 2014. They decided to order its evacuation. There was a fire to the North West that was still running after three days. Evacuations did not stop when the SW wind change came. Internet messages continued to advise people to evacuate because the fire was approaching from the north west, long after the wind was a very strong southerly. The other absurdity was that Halls Gap is so well bushfire-protected from the flame from the north west by the huge cliffs, that the only danger is from ember attack and simultaneous house ignitions. The evacuation order shows us that the fire agencies have learnt nothing from the 2003 Duffy bushfire attack.