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.
Victoria Police will work with regions, partner agencies and the community to review, enhance and further develop evacuation plans for high-risk communities including those in remote locations. A key focus will be visitors and tourists planning to travel within these locations.
IGEM’s 2021 progress report noted that VicPol does not have standardised evacuation plans ahead of time as each incident requires a tailored approach that can be modified as an event evolves. IGEM notes that Joint Standard Operating Procedure (JSOP) 03.12 'Evacuation for Major Emergencies' provides standardised procedures for the decision, warning, withdrawal, shelter and eventual return of persons impacted by major emergencies. The JSOP applies to CFA, DELWP (FFMVic), FRV and VICSES personnel, with VicPol discharging their responsibilities for evacuation in accordance with their agency policies and procedures.
VicPol is implementing this action by conducting evacuation exercises in each of Victoria's eight government regions, involving sector partners and community members. This alternative approach recognises the value of ahead-of-time exercising in high-risk communities to enable VicPol to test, review, enhance and develop its policies and procedures.
IGEM’s 2021 progress report noted that VicPol had conducted five of the eight exercises with three exercises (Eastern Metropolitan, Gippsland and North-West Metropolitan regions) postponed due to the June 2021 extreme weather event and COVID-19 pandemic impacts.
During 2022, VicPol completed the remaining three exercises:
• Exercise Motus (Eastern Metropolitan) – conducted in May 2022
• Exercise Venus (Gippsland) – agency exercise conducted in April 2022, with a related community exercise conducted in May 2022.
• Exercise Walkaway (North West Metropolitan) – conducted in August 2022.
VicPol provided IGEM with materials demonstrating that each of the three exercises tested agency preparations, planning and decision-making for managing local community evacuation and traffic management in an emerging incident at the regional and incident levels.
IGEM notes that across the three exercises there was a focus on visitors and tourists planning to travel to these locations where appropriate, including the development of insights as part of the post-exercise reports.