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Report name
Inquiry into the 2019-20 Victorian Fire Season - Phase 1
Lead agency
EMV - Emergency Management Victoria
Due date
November 2021
IGEM considers that this action has been implemented
Recommendation theme
Recommendation 11: Evacuation
Recommendation details

The Inspector-General for Emergency Management recommends that Victoria Police – in collaboration with the community and the emergency management sector – reflect on events of the 2019-20 fire season to review and enhance evacuation plans and processes with consideration of:
a)    high risk areas (including remote locations)
b)    early evacuation triggers
c)    the potential for isolated communities
d)    the presence of tourists and non-residents
e)    individual decisions to not evacuate
f)    the inability to evacuate
g)    consequence management and compounding events such as the loss of essential services or health impacts.


The Victorian Government commits to improving evacuation decision-making processes– for example, through expanded use of more sophisticated tools such as spatially based evacuation planning currently being trialled along the Great Ocean Road.

Summary of progress

EMV and the Victorian Government are addressing this action through a collaboration to develop two evacuation decision-making support tools – Simulations of Emergency Evacuations for Knowledge, Education and Response (SEEKER)  and State-Wide Analysis of Evacuation Risk (SAFER).

SEEKER was developed through a collaboration between EMV, DELWP, RMIT University, CSIRO, Department of Premier and Cabinet, and the Victorian Public Sector Commission as an evacuation modelling, decision support system that can: 
•    design an evacuation scenario to be simulated
•    run an evacuation simulation
•    carry out an analysis of the potential impact of a predicted hazard on a road network
•    visualise the outcome of the simulated evacuation and produce summary results.  

SEEKER provides rapid integrated analysis of bushfire behaviour, human behaviour and traffic simulations. It supports timely decisions by providing information on:
•    the extent and severity of fire impact to the community
•    complications associated with large numbers of tourists, major events, and transient populations in the region
•    expected responses of community members to the fire situation and official warnings
•    impact of activating traffic management plans given available resources
•    trigger points for decision-making
•    road speed and capacity constraints with respect to evacuating and background traffic
•    unplanned consequences of traffic accidents or blockages as a result of trees over roads
•    evacuation outcomes against a base case of no evacuation. 

CSIRO’s Climate and Disaster Resilience Technical Report (July 2020) notes that SEEKER addresses a significant gap in evacuation planning and risk mitigation capabilities and delivers an evacuation modelling platform that can support emergency management organisations in undertaking evacuation planning. 

In December 2021 EMV coordinated a training exercise, involving a scenario of bushfires threatening coastal townships and summer traffic on the Great Ocean Road. The scenario was set in real-time and tested the IMT’s evacuation decision-making under pressure on a severe fire danger day. 

The exercise outcomes have been documented in a conference paper presented at the 2022 the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) conference. The paper notes that the exercise ‘opened the eyes’ of response agencies to the complexity of evacuation in a congested environment, and to the fact that ordering an evacuation, under short timeframes, may worsen the outcome for some people due to traffic bottlenecks that can form.

Under the evacuation modelling project CSIRO and RMIT are developing a statewide risk assessment tool, SAFER. 

SAFER measures the combined risk imposed by multiple fires across the full geographic extent of an Australian state. The tool computes several evacuability risk metrics from datasets comprising a road network, a population dataset, and the geographical extents of bushfire scenarios.

SAFER and SEEKER have complementary purposes to support evacuation decision-making processes.

SAFER allows the end user to compute the maximum theoretical flow supported by the road network at the state-level across a large set of simulated fires. This allows decision-makers to quickly identify which communities and roads have elevated risks with respect to those fires. Once these ‘hotspots’ have been identified, SEEKER allows detailed scenarios-based analysis of consequences for a single fire and different mitigation strategies and evacuation options can be investigated ahead of time. 

EMV advised that the previous funding sources for these evacuation modelling projects ended on 30 June 2022, however National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA) funding has been sourced for further development of the tools with a more national focus. 

IGEM notes that in 2022, NRRA and Emergency Management Australia (EMA) merged to form a new organisation – the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

EMV advised that Victoria will continue to engage with NEMRRA as part of its ongoing commitment to improve evacuation decision-making processes. EMV will also monitor the further development of the tools to evaluate their applicability for operational use.

More information on SEEKER and SAFER can be found at research.csiro.au/evacuation/ (External link)