Victoria’s had an all emergencies 2016-17 summer season.
There’s been sharks, heat, flash flooding, storms, thunderstorm asthma, water safety, fire, cruise ships and the tragic events of the Bourke St Incident and Essendon Plane Crash.
Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the summer season was no longer just about fire which is why the management of emergencies in Victoria has been moving towards an “all communities, all emergencies’’ approach.
“It’s certainly been a different kind of summer,’’ he said
“For our emergency services it has highlighted the way we work together to manage emergencies and protect the community, while the community has demonstrated its readiness to respond and resilience to recover.”
Mr Lapsley said water safety was a key issue this season with a number of drowning deaths and a focus on sharks, while heatwave conditions and severe thunderstorms significantly impacted the community, causing infrastructure and agriculture damage.
“Sharks have made the headlines this season with an increased number of sightings, including 100 individual sharks spotted on Boxing Day,’’ he said.
“Severe thunderstorms were experienced right across the state from the mini tornado in Mildura to flash flooding in Melbourne.
“Victoria’s climate is changing and we can expect more diverse, intense and frequent weather events.’’
Mr Lapsley said drones were used this summer season as part of a trial to gather intelligence and inform operational decision-making.
“We used drones in the Mildura storm event to provide real-time footage and to conduct impact assessments of infrastructure and agricultural damage,’’ he said.
“Drones fitted with water censors were used to detect sharks along the Victorian coast and complement the work done by helicopters to monitor public beaches following an increase in shark sightings.’’
“Drone technology has been very effective in capturing data and providing real-time information and intelligence which is used by emergency management agencies to make better decisions for Victorian communities.’’
Mr Lapsley said Victoria’s 2016-17 fire season started with a number of fires during the harvesting season across the north of the state and continued through with grassfire the focus and greatest risk.
Emergency services attended 2920 grass, scrub and bush fires from November to March, with more than 9000 hectares burnt.
“The fire potential has been there even with the milder weather we have experienced and Victoria has had a significant number of fires this season,’’ he said.
“What has been crucial is our ability to provide immediate response in the early stages, with that initial attack from both the ground and air being very effective.’’
Mr Lapsley said Victoria’s fleet of 48 aircraft had played a critical role in minimising the impacts of bush and grass fires, with pre-determined dispatch integral to keeping small fires small.
“Pre-determined dispatch means that aircraft can respond to fires at the same time as fire trucks do. It’s effective, efficient and well proven across the state,’’ he said.
“Thanks to the quick response of emergency services and the ability of our firefighters and aircraft to work together – we have had no major fires. This is an excellent outcome.
“The fire season is not over. The fire risk and potential is still there with March and April expected to be warm and dry.
“Victorians are reminded to remain focused and stay informed about what is happening in your area.’’
Victoria’s summer season stats:
1 November 2016 – 28 February 2017
Grass, Scrub & Bush Fires: 2920
Aircraft Dispatches: 874 (LATs 18 dispatches)
Fire Danger Ratings: Severe: 27, Extreme: 2
Total Fire Bans: 27 (including across multiple districts on same day)
Heat Health Alerts: 23 (including across multiple districts on same day)
Storm / Flood:
VICSES Requests for Assistance: 9939
Buildings Damaged: 2297
Warnings for all emergencies: 840 – Advice, Watch and Act, Emergency Warning, Evacuate, Community Information warnings