Australia — Fire-prone hills schools are razing trees and pruning overgrown shrubs to make them bushfire ready.
The state-wide program is being rolled out this year by the Education Department and the CFS, which visited Coromandel Valley Primary last week (pictured). The CFS met with schools in Belair, Hawthorndene, Blackwood, Bellevue Heights and Eden Hills last December to develop a Bushfire Action Plan.
Under the plan, about 20 high-risk schools across the state are being taught what to do before, during and after a bushfire.
Most schools contacted last week by the Hills and Valley Messenger were in the process of informing families of their new fire policies, with the CFS on hand to educate students if needed.
Coromandel Valley Primary School principal Chris Bayly said 15 trees had been razed on the grounds following a CFS inspection last month.
“Fires don’t happen very often but we want to make the area as safe as possible for everyone if it ever does,” he said.
“This action plan details what the practice will be if there’s a fire coming towards the school.”
Belair Primary School principal Sue Woollard said it was important for teachers and students to prepare for a bushfire.
“It’s a very thorough set of procedures to make sure everybody knows what actions to take,” she said.
CFS prevention services manager Leigh Miller said students would not be evacuated from schools in the event of a bushfire but would be sent to a refuge within the grounds.
“If there’s a fire in the building then people have to get out but in a bushfire the safest place to be is in a well prepared home or building,” he said.
“All the research shows it’s actually better for the kids to stay at school in a controlled environment.”
Mr Miller said the January Belair bushfire highlighted the need for action plans both in the home and at schools.
“This is a great partnership between the CFS and schools and something that we needed to do for a long time.
“It’s really good for schools to have a bushfire action plan but families also need to know what they’re going to do in a fire.”
While the plan was not compulsory, Education Department media liaison manager Mel Hein said it helped schools manage fire threats and ensure student safety.