No doubt all of you will have your Fire Readiness on your “to do” list with a warm summer approaching. Our thoughts are with those communities already impacted this year with warm and windy weather as well as our fire authorities in all that they do.
Below is a reminder of the tourism-related resources available to ensure you are prepared and familiar with fire danger ratings and official information sources. These not only assist you in keeping abreast of conditions and any incidents – but place you in a better position to assist visitors maintain quality service.
Please be aware of the potentially damaging impact of posting images of fire and/or smoke via your business social media accounts – particularly in the lead-up to this peak tourism season.
UP-TO-DATE FIRE INFORMATION SOURCES
Stay informed via multiple channels and regular monitoring:
- Via www.emergency.vic.gov.au
- Tune into local ABC, commercial and community designated radio stations or Sky News TV
- Call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on freecall 1800 240 667
- Deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech/communication impairment can contact VBIL via the National Relay Service on 1800 555 677
- For help with English, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 (freecall) and ask them to telephone VBIL. If you know someone who cannot speak English, provide them with this number
- Download the FireReady App and follow @CFA_Updates on Twitter (#VicFires) or Facebook www.facebook.com/cfavic
- For info on road closures – Vic Roads www.vicroads.vic.gov.au
- For info on park closures – Parks Victoria www.parks.vic.gov.au or 13 19 63
FIRE DANGER RATINGS
All tourism operators should be familiar with the triggers and recommended actions for Code Red,Extreme and Severe Fire Danger Ratings, which tell you how bad a fire would be if one started. Download this important one-pager.
Ratings are forecast using Bureau of Meteorology data for up to four days in advance, based on weather and other environmental conditions such as fuel load. During the warmer months, check Fire Danger Ratings for the Northern Fire District (Greater Shepparton & Strathbogie) and the North Central Fire District (Mitchell & Murrindindi) every day so that you know when the local conditions are dangerous.
The rating is your prompt to take action to stay safe – and to make relevant fire information available to tourists in your care so that they can make their own informed decisions.
WARNINGS AND ADVICE MESSAGES
The CFA and partner agencies have developed a series of short, animated videos to help explain what can be expected from Warnings and Advice messages: www.cfa.vic.gov.au/warnings-restrictions/about-warnings/
You may find the “Warnings: Bushfire and grassfires” clip (second in the playlist) particularly useful.
TOURISM BUSINESS FIRE READY KIT
We hope that you have already taken the opportunity to refresh on the Tourism Business Fire Ready Kit developed by Tourism Victoria and the CFA and have your plans in place. This tourism-specific kit will help you understand your risks, prepare your business and employees, plan how to inform customers, identify their triggers to act and write a plan.
- Download a PDF version of the Tourism Business Fire Ready Kit PDF
- Download a PDF version of the Tourism Business Fire Ready Kit WORD
Hard copies of the Fire Ready Kit can be also be ordered by contacting Tourism Victoria on 03 9653 9777. For further fire planning information or support, visit cfa.vic.gov.au or call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.
Tourism Victoria has also developed two short video case studies featuring Victorian businesses which can be viewed online: Preparing your business for bushfire.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text animation_delay="200"]
ORDER FREE RESOURCES
Tourism Victoria and the CFA have developed a range of free resources which explain how to stay aware of Fire Danger Ratings and fire warnings and inform visitors about fire safety. These include brochures and displays designed specifically for Visitor Information Centres and accommodation operators but also general tourism businesses. Order fire safety resources for your business.
Community Information Guides, which provide local information that will help people plan what to do on high risk days or if a fire starts, are also available for higher risk destinations across the Northern and North Central fire districts. Check to find your destination’s Community Information Guide (if available) here.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text animation_delay="200"]
VISITOR BOOKINGS ON A CODE RED DAY
While there have been very few Code Red Days declared over the past few years, it’s timely to re fresh and consider how we as individual businesses and as a tourism region best approach possible scenarios.
In the event that a Code Red day is declared for the Northern or North Central Fire Districts and you have guests booked into your accommodation or bookable activity, you may wish to consider the following:
- Alert visitors already in your care to the Code Red declaration as well as any visitors scheduled to stay in your accommodation on a Code Red day;
- Provide a copy of your local Community Information Guide to help your visitors make their own informed decisions about what actions they will take on a Code Red day;
- Refer to the Consumer Affairs fact sheet, When customers cancel: guidance for tourism businesses, to consider what circumstances might apply to your booking;
- If your guest wishes to cancel their booking – as there is no explicit legislation governing cancellations in the event of a Code Red declaration, you should ensure you have decided on a consistent cancellation policy in this event. It is suggested that you attempt to maintain goodwill by negotiating to rebook the guest for another date.
The above steps would also be a prudent course of action if an Extreme Fire Danger Rating is issued.
THE AGENCY-TOURISM PARTNERSHIP
Over the past couple of years the lines of communication between the CFA and other fire agencies, and tourism, have strengthened. The CFA recognises the tourism industry as partners in disseminating vital fire information to travellers that is accurate and timely. Equally, the partnership extends to working with tourism operators to minimise the impact of fire activity on visitation.
This conversation is an open and ongoing dialogue. At a state level, the CFA work closely with Tourism Victoria towards these goals. At a regional level the Hume Region Emergency Management Team and Emergency Management Victoria work with Goulburn River Valley Tourism to ensure they are aware of regional tourism considerations in managing fire incidents. Goulburn River Valley Tourism sits on the group and attends regular phone conferences throughout the summer season.
In addition Goulburn River Valley Tourism works with local councils, the CFA and Tourism Victoria to clarify messaging for tourists, tourism operators and event organisers.
If you are hosting an event throughout the fire season we urge you to use free event listing tools (such as EventsVictoria) to ensure your event is on our radar.
WE ARE HERE TO SUPPORT WITH TOURISM MESSAGING
Some things to consider in the event of a significant fire incident near your town or elsewhere in the region:
- It is important that our tourism community communicates a unified, considered and positive message via the media and social media - this is critical in maintaining trust and integrity in the eyes of our visitors and potential visitors;
- We are here to assist with tourism messaging and request that all tourism-related media enquiries be directed to Goulburn River Valley Tourism or your local shire/council. All safety-related enquiries should of course be referred to the region’s fire authorities;
- Goulburn River Valley Tourism monitors media related to crisis events and takes every effort to ensure accurate tourism messaging and minimise impact to tourism businesses. In partnership with the CFA, Tourism Victoria and local shire/council partners, Goulburn River Valley Tourism will communicate ‘open for business’ messages via social media and media outlets as appropriate.
We encourage operators to contact Goulburn River Valley Tourism or your local shire/council management to discuss ways to best approach social media in relation to a crisis event in your destination or elsewhere in the region.