Concerns over confusing bushfire warning messages was taken up by Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, who is seeking improvements in communications before summer.
“There was considerable confusion on Sunday last week, when warnings with very different advice were received in short proximity,” he said.
At 1.31pm on October 1, an emergency warning was issued for Loch Sport, which stated, “Shelter indoors now. You are in danger, act now to protect yourself. It is too late to leave. The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately.”
However, at 1.38pm, seven minutes later, a new alert was issued for Loch Sport which stated, “Leave Now. Don't wait - if you are not prepared to stay, leaving now is the safest option.”
“You really could not get two more contradictory messages so close together and, while I am full of praise for our firefighters, we cannot have this confusing messaging being put out to the public from Emergency Management Victorian (EMV) head office in what can literally be a matter of life and death.
Mr Bull said Finding 6.3 in the Inspector-General for Emergency Management (IGEM) inquiry following the 2019/20 fires was “The community received mixed messages around staying or leaving following the Code Red declaration and as a result they were not clear on evacuation requirements” and it recommended this be addressed.
“Another matter I raised in Parliament last week that I want to see addressed is around the Victorian Fire Rating system classifications.
“On September 19, the temperature exceeded 35 degrees in East Gippsland with hot northerly winds and, by the middle of the day, fires raged in the landscape on the Victorian / NSW border.
“In NSW the fire danger rating was listed as ‘catastrophic’ – the highest rating that can be given, but over the line of the Victorian border, there was no public fire rating at all.
“People rightfully asked, how can it be catastrophic in one state and just over the border with the exact same temperature and strong wind, there is no rating.
“On making enquiry, I was astounded to be told the difference was the contract arrangements between the Weather Bureau and Emergency Management Victoria with the Bureau not contracted to assessing this rating until October in Victoria, but NSW has an arrangement that kicks in earlier.
“It is a matter I want addressed for future fire seasons,” he said.
Caption: Nationals State MP, Tim Bull, says it is imperative the emergency warning communication messages and is calling on the Government must be improved before this summer.
Photo: The Loch Sport firegrounds. (Photo Credit: Karen Fraser)