Bushfire-prone schools plan for 'catastrophic' blazes

27 February 2012

published by www.theherald.com.au


Australia -- SELECTED Hunter schools will be closed and staff and students transferred nearby under a plan to deal with bushfire-prone schools when there is potential for a ‘‘catastrophic’’ blaze.

Hunter schools and TAFE sites have been included on a list of almost 700 NSW Education Department sites the Rural Fire Service has identified as bushfire prone.

The service has given the list to the NSW Education Department, which said it had started assessing those sites at risk and determining possible pre-emptive action if there was a bushfire with a catastrophic-level warning.

Among those identified was Mount Hutton Public School.

The school told parents last week that if there was a catastrophic-level warning, schools on the register would temporarily close and staff and students would be transferred to another school until the danger had passed.

Its staff and students would most likely be transferred to Windale Public School.

A department spokesman said there was no final list of schools or actions because the assessments were still under way and schools were still being notified.

‘‘And, an independent review of the assessments is still to be done,’’ he said.

Mount Hutton principal Jim Findlay said the classification gave the school more certainty about what it should do if there was a catastrophic fire danger rating.

‘‘When the forecast for the following day is for a catastrophic fire day, we will be informed at 4.30pm,’’ he told parents.

‘‘Within the next hour or so we will text and/or email families where possible, and telephone families who do not have internet or mobile access.

‘‘The information will also be displayed on the school’s noticeboard.’’

New fire danger ratings and warning systems were introduced following the Victorian bushfires in February 2009, which killed 173 people.

They now include low-moderate, high, very high, severe, extreme and catastrophic.