The savage bush fires devasting the east coast of Australia have had the NSW Government declare the threat as catastrophic and, in consequence, a State of Emergency across New South Wales (NSW).
The Cemeteries & Crematoria Association of New South Wales (CCANSW) would also remind cemetery operators and administrators that they have a duty of care to provide for the health and safety of its staff and the visiting public coming into cemeteries, gardens and buildings. A bushfire is an obvious threat to the health and safety of anyone caught in its path.
The CCANSW has developed "Bush Fire Emergency Plan" guidelines to assist with managing the safety of all attending a Cemetery, by identifying and assessing potential fire risks, and implementing actions to reduce those risks to an acceptable level.
Members may access the guidelines online here.
Funerals or other services in a high risk fire area may expose staff, funeral directors and mourners to the risk of bushfire in the right set of conditions. It is important to note that many of these people present may have increased vulnerability for one or more of the following reasons:
- They may have little or no education or knowledge in relation to bushfire;
- They may have reduced capacity through age, disability, health or other impediment to evaluate the risks and to respond adequately to the bushfire threat;
- They may present organisational difficulties for evacuation and/or management;
- They may be vulnerable to physical stresses and anxiety arising from the bushfire threat, including heat and smoke;
- There may be significant communication barriers.
Catastrophic Danger Rating:
Catastrophic danger designation represents the worst case scenario conditions for bushfires (including grass fires). These are the days when catastrophic outcomes are most likely if a bushfire starts and takes hold. Most buildings are not designed or constructed to withstand fires in these conditions. The safest place to be is away from high risk bushfire areas. Avoid forested areas, thick bush or long, dry grass.
Cemetery sites considered to be effected by Catastrophic, Extreme and Severe declared days should have specific instructions in place.
CATASTROPHIC Fire Danger Rating: Due to poor routes available to exiting the area, cemeteries will accept the RFS recommendation that Funerals planned for CATASTROPHIC days be deferred. The Cemetery will also not perform any other tasks, have staff on site or knowingly permit contractors to be on site on these days.
We encourage all members to review and enact the attached guideline. We also encourage you to contact your local Funeral Directors, making them aware of your Bush Fire Emergency Plan.
Should you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact the CCANSW Secretariat.