Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSPs) are places of last resort when all other bushfire plans have failed.
Neighbourhood Safer Places are:
- Locations that may provide some protection from direct flame and radiant heat, but they do not guarantee safety.
- Not an alternative to planning to leave early or to stay and defend your property; they are a place of last resort if all other fire plans have failed.
- An existing location and not a purpose-built, fire-proof structure.
Locations of NSPs
- A NSP may be at a local sports field, foreshore or park, or they may be located within a community facility such as a hall, community centre or school.
- It is important to know that NSPs are not always a building or structure - they can simply be a clearing that provides a level of protection from radiant heat.
- NSPs are identified with a green and white sign which includes the words 'Bushfire Neighbourhood Safer Place - A Place of Last Resort'
- NSPs are established by local government - not all townships have designated Neighbourhood Safer Places - Places of Last Resort.
NSPs do not guarantee safety
- In a fire, the CFA or other emergency services may not be present at an NSP.
- NSPs may not have the capacity to cater for special needs.
- There will be no support services (food or drink, material aid) or provision for pets.
- NSPs may not provide shelter from the elements, particularly from heat and flying embers. On extreme and Code Red Fire Danger Rating days, the temperature is likely to be more than 35°C and the heat and sun will impact on those who shelter at an NSP.
- NSPs will not guarantee a person's safety - they are places of last resort to shelter during a fire front when all other plans have failed.
Things to consider if you decide to shelter at an NSP
- Safety and survival cannot be guaranteed at an NSP and there may be no support or services provided. NSPs will offer limited protection against radiant heat and embers.
- Travelling to a place of last resort is dangerous. Traffic congestion, fire activity, accidents or fallen trees may block the route.
- Visibility is likely to be extremely poor due to smoke.
- People sheltering at an NSP are likely to experience extreme conditions such as heat, high winds, fire noise, and exposure to embers and radiant heat and may experience breathing difficulties due to smoke and ash.
- NSPs are places of absolute last resort.
How NSPs are designated
- Councils identify, designate and maintain Neighbourhood Safer Places
- Councils request CFA to assess potential Neighbourhood Safer Places against their Neighbourhood Safer Places - Assessment Guidelines.
- The basic principle of a NSP is that it may afford some protection from radiant heat, the biggest killer during bushfire.
- CFA's criteria for NSPs are based on radiant heat calculations taking significant vegetation into account. Each site will be evaluated on its own merit. See Neighbourhood Safer Places - Assessment Guidelines (PDF 65K) | (DOC 77K)
- CFA assess potential NSPs to ensure sites will not exceed the prescribed maximum potential for radiant heat exposure, and provides its assessment to the relevant council.
- If the site meets with CFAs assessment criteria, Council then assess the site against other criteria outlined in a Municipal NSP Plan, including access and egress, vegetation clearance, traffic management and uses allowed within buffer zones. Agreements with landowners must also be negotiated in some cases.
Where to go if there are no NSPs in your area
- The safest decision, if you are in a high-risk area, is to leave early. Plan to be safe - do not plan to access a place of last resort.
- The key is planning ahead. Everyone should have a Bushfire Survival Plan and should practise it. In high-risk fire areas, on days of Severe, Extreme or Code Red conditions, plan to leave the area the night before or early in the day.
- When the Fire Danger Rating is Severe, Extreme, or Code Red consider staying with family or friends in a low-risk area, or taking a day trip to your nearest regional centre.
- If your Bushfire Survival Plan has failed and fire is approaching, look for an open area that is as far from vegetation as possible, or a solid structure that will provide shelter from radiant heat. Such places are truly a last resort, to be considered only when all other plans have failed.
- People should not rely on sheltering at an NSP - in the event of a fire, the safest option is to leave early. The safest place to be is out of a high-risk bushfire area