Community bushfire safety options on school premises
Neighbourhood Safer Places
Some Victorian government schools have buildings or land authorised by the Minister for Education to be a Neighbourhood Safer Place (NSP).
NSPs provide an option of last resort during the passage of a bushfire. They are typically open spaces, such as sporting ovals.
NSPs are intended to be used by persons whose primary bushfire plans have failed. They are places of relative safety only.
The NSP may or may not be the same location as school’s Shelter-in-Place (SIP) building.
The NSP is assessed annually by 31 August by the municipal council to determine ongoing suitability to be a designated NSP.
Community Fire Refuges
A Community Fire Refuge (CFR) provides a place of last resort for the local community in the event of a bushfire threatening the area, when all other plans have failed.
CFRs offer a higher level of protection than residential dwellings but do not guarantee survival in the event of an emergency. As such, CFRs do not replace the need for community members to have their own bushfire survival plan. The safest option is to leave bushfire risk areas early on days where the Fire Danger Rating (FDR) is Extreme or Catastrophic.
Ferny Creek Primary School and Millwarra Primary School are the only Victorian schools that have a CFR in one of their school buildings. These buildings operate as their intended educational purpose, until activated as a CFR.
The decision to activate CFRs will rest with the fire services through the State Response Controller, Regional Controller or Incident Controller, in accordance with local operating procedures. If there is a serious threat from bushfire or grassfire and a warning or recommendation to evacuate is issued or as otherwise determined by the Incident Control Centre or State Control Centre, the community will be permitted to occupy the building as a fire refuge.
If the CFR is activated within school hours, the school’s staff and students have priority access to the refuge and school staff will provide a safe space for students and the rest of the public.
The site-specific Community Fire Refuge Operating Procedures Manual maintained by Emergency Management Victoria outlines the operational procedures for the preparation, activation, opening and operation of the CFR during a fire event. Further information on CFRs can be found on the page.
Reviewed 30 March 2023