Thursday, 17 December 2009

Some thoughts on bushfires and Emergency Services

By way of background, I rate myself as fairly risk tolerant with respect to bushfires.  I certainly loathe, with a passion:
  • the anal-retentive panic-merchants who seem to populate the Bush fire mob in Canberra, and 
  • the politicians who use bush fires to keep the population terrified and thus under control.
It is interesting that the enquiry into the bushfires in Victoria earlier in 2009 have brought out a lot of issues about incompetence for the State Fire people.  I had thought that this was stuff being dug out by folk who wouldn't appreciate that things get done in an emergency in less than ideal ways.  However, I have been paying a bit of attention to fire warnings in our area (mainly because the weather is hot, dry and windy, and the area is covered with a lot of dry grass - as a result of good rain in September and October and very little in November).  I now wonder if an IQ above 90 disqualifies people from serving in bushfire administration.

My key resource is a map put out by NSW Emergency Services purporting to show where there are fire bans and the levels of risk in the declared areas.

In the previous period of disgusting weather there were no symbols to indicate a fie ban on the map.  I thought this was simply a nerd glitch (I LOVE tautology) but did report it to the Minister for Emergency Services (who it so happens is our local State MP.

Today (!7 December) in the early afternoon it is about 36 degrees C, the wind is howling up to 78kph, and the humidity isabout 10%!  Lovely.  So I went to check that everywhere around here is fire-banned.  Here is the map.

Note the area to the South West of the State.  Coloured dark red for "Severe Fire Danger" but no fire ban!!!  I checked the text and it wasn't simply a matter of forgetting to include the symbol: they do not have a ban there (they do however have a very active thunderstomr system heading their way!  This is insane, especially as the area to the North (about the size of France) is under the highest rating of Catastrohic!

I thought to send the guys in the RFS an email pointing this out to them but there is no email address on their website.  Knowing what would happen if I tried to ring them - various switchboards and call centrres would suck money from me - I sent another message to the Minister.

Some peolpe do not learn.

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