A message from the Commissioner on the wet start to summer

This first weekend of summer saw record-breaking rainfall in many parts of our state.

In some areas this was welcomed, particularly in Gippsland, but for most of the state it was a reminder that we can still be exposed to challenging patterns of wet weather this late in the year.

We work very closely with the Bureau of Meteorology and they keep us informed incredibly well, enabling Victorians to make the best decisions for themselves.

The weather forecast was clear and in response we were proactive in our approach in communicating with communities. The rain was there in Melbourne on Friday and Saturday across the metropolitan area as well as the central, north east and eastern parts of Victoria.

Some totals were above 200mm in two days and that’s huge. We saw some of the impacts of the heavy rains in Euroa and Myrtleford. The exact location, timing and intensity of rain is a challenge.  

There has been a lot of feedback and talk about whether we over communicated or over warned because it impacted in different ways. On Friday we took the decision to send much of Victoria a text message using the emergency alert telephone system with a precautionary heads up; 7.4 million sent over eight hours and 6.7 million connected.

The nature of the system meant that some got it more than once, some didn't get it at all. It's why we use multiple channels to get information out, and those channels all stood up to the test.

Warning the community of the weather event was right and allowed time for people to plan and be prepared. I have no doubt this decision minimised impacts.

Well done to the Victorian communities who listened and took the advice that was provided to make safe and informed decisions. But the emergency management sector will keep working closely with the Bureau to learn and improve the information we provide and how because that is the best way for us to keep improving. 

We may still see impacts in the north-east across roads and paddocks for a while yet, and we will need to monitor what that means for the fire risk in that part of the state.

In some areas the rain will delay the threat of fire, in others it is likely to add to the already large fuel load present in much of the high country. As a sector we're doing the work now to determine what impact this rain has on the summer fire season.

In the meantime, there are lessons in this for us, and we will look closely at those.

Emergency management is a shared responsibility with the community and we each have a role to play, but there can be no doubt we do it best when we do it as a collective community - local councils, emergency management agencies and departments, industry and our partners like Red Cross and Victorian Council of Churches who are all ready to be there for us.

Whether it’s the threat of flood or storms or fire, or any other emergency this summer, stay aware of your local conditions and keep in touch with those around you.