Neighbourhood Safer Places What are they? Where are they?

Over the past few months, signs like the one pictured have appeared on the Lorne Foreshore and around at Point Grey.  Recently, CFA Officers conducted a public briefing to explain how they assessed potential Neighbourhood Safer Places and what they did and didn’t offer.

Unfortunately, the briefing took place on a Tuesday afternoon at 2.00pm, not a convenient time for many, we would suggest. Perhaps it explains why only four members of the Lorne community turned up.

The gist of the briefing is that CFA Officers have examined various sites proposed by Councils and assessed them against a set of criteria which determines whether or not a particular location can be deemed to be classified as a Neighbourhood Safer Place also known as a “Bushfire Place of Last Resort“; NSP-BPLR for short.  

The following is an excerpt from the CFA website explaining Neighbourhood Safer Places.

What are NSP-BPLRs?

  • A ‘Neighbourhood Safer Place’ also known as a ‘Bushfire Place of Last Resort’ (NSP-BPLR) is a place of last resort when all other bushfire plans have failed.
  • Locations that may provide some protection from direct flame and heat from a fire, but they do not guarantee safety.
  • They are 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.
  • They are not an existing location and not a purpose-built, fire-proof structure. It is important to know that many NSP-BPLRs are simply a clearing that provides separation distance from the bushfire hazard (e.g. forest).
  • They are not to be confused with Community Fire Refuges, Relief Centres, Recovery Centres or Assembly Areas, each of which have a different and specific purpose.
  • They are not an appropriate destination when leaving the area early.
  • They are not a place of shelter from other types of emergencies (e.g. to escape rising floodwaters or severe weather events).

The Surf Coast Shire offers the following advice on Neighbourhood Safer Places.

Things you should know about Bushfire Places of Last Resort – Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSP):

  • It does not replace a well thought out and practised plan. Going to a Bushfire Place of Last Resort should be your last resort when your plans have failed. 
  • It may be that your home or one of your neighbours’ offers better protection than an NSP.
  • Travelling to an NSP when there is a bushfire can be extremely dangerous, there is no guarantee that you will be safe doing so.
  • Sheltering at an NSP may not prevent death or injury from fire, embers or radiant heat.
  • You should only use an NSP when your primary bushfire plan has failed or cannot be implemented.
  • There is no guarantee that CFA or other emergency services will be present during a bushfire.
  • No special facilities will be provided for people with special needs, including those requiring medical attention.
  • NSPs have limited capacity and may be uncomfortable.
  • You may be on your own, emergency service agencies may not be able to assist you at an NSP.
  • Food, drinks and provision for animals will not be provided.

These places are to be maintained to ensure continued compliance with the CFA criteria against which each location was initially assessed.  The compliant locations within the Lorne Ward of the Surf Coast Shire are:

  • Deans Marsh
    • Martians Café site – Car Park Cnr Birregurra-Deans Marsh Road and Deans Marsh-Lorne Road, Deans Marsh
  • Lorne
    • Point Grey – Picnic Area and Carpark. Great Ocean Road (between Mountjoy Parade and Hird Street) Lorne 3232.
    • Lorne Foreshore – Mountjoy Parade opposite William Street Lorne 3232.

Whilst the responsibility for compliance of these locations rests with the Surf Coast Shire, Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) as the Land Manager has the responsibility for maintenance.

On the occasion of the bushfire at Wye River on Christmas Day 2015, many hundreds of people relocated to the Foreshore and the Point Grey precinct.  Many were ill prepared for the situation and at the Foreshore it was the initiative of the President of the Lorne Surf Life Saving Club to open the Surf Club and thereby provide a more comfortable environment in which to shelter.

Given that these Neighbourhood Safer places are now formally designated and signposted, perhaps there should a conversation about whether there should be some provision of basic resources such as drinking fountains, masks, blankets, water, first-aid supplies etc., to be located in proximity to each designated location and administered by local community representatives.  This would ensure some basic support for people who are not equipped for whatever reason, including visitors staying in Lorne during the holiday season, when the risk of bushfire is higher.

If you would like to offer comment, please email and we will ensure that all feedback is collated and passed on to Surf Coast Shire and CFA as appropriate.

Committee for Lorne