Education department reviews makes 22 new recommendations for improving communication with schools during bushfires

08 September 2016

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Australia —   MORE improvements must be made to communication with schools and parents during bushfires, the Education Department’s annual fire danger season review has found.

More than 20 new recommendations have been added to the seven already made in a preliminary report on the Pinery bushfire, which threatened 20 schools in November, 2015. Two children were endangered when they were allowed to walk home during the deadly blaze.

In June The Advertiser revealed government documents showing schools were left to fend for themselves without adequate support from the department at the height of the fire.

Some changes were made in time for Term 1 this year including an SMS system for communication with principals and non-government schools, and having Education Department officials at State Co-ordination Centres during major incidents.

The new recommendations include:

MORE accurate information on how close active bushfires are to schools and preschools;

IMPROVING school transport arrangements on days of “catastrophic” fire danger rating, and

when total fire bans are declared;

CLEARER protocols for communicating with schools and preschools on occasions when multiple sites must be contacted, and clearer instructions to their leaders;

BETTER post-emergency trauma and psychological first aid training to principals,

counsellors and support workers.

Education Minister Susan Close said the latest review found there was a need for “greater awareness and consistency in communication across all levels”.

A Government spokeswoman said all the new recomendations were expected to be acted upon in time for the upcoming fire danger season.