The use of safer is safer than safe in bushfire zones

IT IS no accident that the State Government and Country Fire Authority are nominating Neighbourhood Safer Places in areas of high fire risk over Neighbourhood Safe Places.The use of the word “safer” rather than “safe” is deliberate.Neither, the Government nor the CFA wants to create an impression in the minds of residents that they will be safe if they evacuate to one of these places during a bushfire threat.It is not a guarantee they can make, as February’s tragic Black Saturday fires proved.This week, when 104 NSPs across Victoria were made public, the Government was again at pains to point out that they were places of last resort – somewhere to go when every other avenue had been exhausted.Ideally, all residents living in high-risk areas will have secure fire plans in place that will mean they won’t need to relocate to a Neighbourhood Safer Place.Nevertheless, the NSPs need to be there as a back-up of last resort.In the Ballarat region, Safer Places have been identified for all designated high-risk areas except three.Hepburn Springs, Dereel and Blackwood remain without an identified location, largely because most spaces deemed suitable did not meet the CFA guidelines.One only has to look at the environment in which these towns are located to see why identifying a suitable NSP against strict guidelines is a difficult task.The lack of an NSP doesn’t mean residents are at any greater risk from bushfire.What it does mean is that residents of these areas need to be extra sure of their fire plans and if that means getting out, then it’s getting out early.This year’s Black Saturday fires were a wake-up call to all of us that bushfires are deadly. If disaster strikes we can’t rely on other people – governments or firefighters in particular – to save our lives or our property. It is our own actions, particularly in regards to preparation, that will give the best chance of survival.Looking to others to guarantee our safety is never going to be a sure thing.
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