Recovering from an emergency

Overview

Fire recovery  

 

Emergency events and natural disasters can affect us in a huge variety of ways. Council has a legislated role to coordinate relief and recovery at the local level during and after an emergency, as well as to provide support to response agencies. This may include supporting agencies by providing resources, operating a Municipal Emergency Coordination Centre and establishing an Emergency Relief Centre for affected people.

The following pages provide general information on emergency recovery. Council responds to acute individual incidents on a case by case basis.

Wye River-Jamieson Track fire recovery information

If your property was impacted by Wye River-Jamieson Track fire of late 2015–2016, please visit the WyeSep Connect pages, which provide detailed information on the clean-up and recovery process, as well as services that are available.

Animal welfare

Wildlife

If local residents or visitors to fire-affected areas see wildlife that appear injured or distressed, they should contact the Wildlife Welfare Officer at the Incident Control Centre on 5233 5565.

A wildlife triage station has been established in Lorne with veterinarians to assess and treat injured wildlife found by firefighters and Wildlife Officers in nearby bushfire areas.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has a small wildlife rescue team, including accredited volunteers, operating on the fire ground. As fire grounds are dangerous, only accredited rescue volunteers, led by an experienced Wildlife Officer, are able to search for wildlife in bushfire affected areas.

Pets

If your animals are injured, seek veterinary treatment immediately.

If your pets are lost, notify your local shire and neighbours, and check animal shelters daily.

Found a lost, stray or injured animal?

Visit the state government's stray and unwanted animals website.        

Asbestos

What do I do if I am concerned about asbestos fibres polluting my property after a serious fire?

Inspect surfaces around your house for signs of ash and dust from the fire.

You can clean-up fine layers of dust by taking the following steps:

1. Wear Personal Protection Equipment.

2. Open windows so that the area is well ventilated.

3. Wet surfaces with a fine water spray to reduce the risk of dust particles floating into the air.

4. Carefully clean surfaces with wet soapy cleaning materials or mops.

5. After finishing the work, place disposable coveralls, P2 mask, cleaning materials and mops in a sealed disposal garbage bag.

6. Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands and have a shower when have finished.

If you believe your house has excessive amounts of dust from the fire, you will need to get advice from an Occupational Hygienist. An Occupational Hygienist can inspect your property and test for asbestos. If the hygienist finds large amounts of asbestos fibres that present a risk, you will need to contact an asbestos cleaning specialist.

How will the risk of asbestos be managed when fire damaged sites are cleared? Will neighbouring properties be at risk?

This work must be undertaken in accordance with health and safety laws so that workers, the public and neighbouring properties are protected. Dust prevention laws must be complied with. Work Safe Victoria, the regulator responsible, oversees compliance.

If I have existing asbestos in my house, what should I do?

Asbestos is a common product used and often found in homes built prior to 1970. If you do have asbestos and wish to remove and dispose of it, you should contact a specialist asbestos removalist.

What should I do if I think I’ve been exposed to, or breathed in asbestos?

Asbestos fibres pose a risk to your health when they are airborne and breathed in. It is quite likely that asbestos fibres are in ash and materials around fire damaged buildings. If ash from neighbouring building materials contains asbestos fibres and is breathed in, there is a small risk of contracting an asbestos related disease.

However, it is important to note that the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease is higher when you are frequently breathing in large amounts of asbestos fibres.

If you are concerned, you should contact your doctor.

Coping with future bushfire risk

How are the various levels of government dealing with future bushfire risk?

The Victorian Government is partnering with Colac Otway Shire to map bushfire risk – known as 'bushfire attack levels', as well as colleting a wide range of information to improve future rebuilding decisions.

Bushfire attack levels are a well-established tool that are recognised in Australian Standards and help us understand fire risk to properties. Prepared by qualified fire impact consultants, these levels will provide us with crucial information to build properties that aim to minimise the risk of bushfire impacts in the future.

Damage to agricultural property and livestock

 Where can I seek help to manage livestock after an emergency?

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has a range of information available to assist with managing livestock and horses during and after an emergency.  For more information visit the DELWP website

Financial support 

What is done to support local businesses after an emergency?

The Small Business Mentoring Service is available to affected businesses, with mentors working with owners and operators whose businesses may have suffered adverse effects from disasters.

Where can I enquire about financial assistance?

You can also call the Victorian Emergency Recovery Information Line on 1300 799 232.

Further information can also be found at the Disaster Legal Help website.

Health and wellbeing

What emotional support is available?

 • The aftermath of an emergency is a very stressful time for many. In times such as these, we encourage parents and carers to access this information to help support children who may be distressed

• Another option to receive emotional support is to visit with your local GP or health service provider who can tell you what is available in your local area.

• Emergencies create a high level of stress that can have a significant effect on emotional health and wellbeing. You may feel exhausted and emotional and these reactions can occur hours, days, weeks or even months after the event. Physical and emotional reactions are a normal response to distress and trauma. Some common emotional reactions include fear, guilt, anger, anxiety or depression.

• For support and advice you can call Lifeline on 131 114 and Beyondblue on 1300 224 636 or visit betterhealth.vic.gov.au

• Other support services include Parentline 13 22 89 and the Department of Health and Human Services

What if I’m affected by smoke?

 • Smoke from grass and bushfires can reduce air quality in rural or urban areas. Children, pregnant women, older people or people with an existing heart or lung condition, including asthma, are more sensitive to the effects of breathing in fine smoke particles. Visit the Better Health Channel for more information about smoke and your health.

• Signs of short term smoke irritation such as itchy eyes; sore throat, runny nose and coughing usually clear up in healthy adults once away from the smoke.

• See your doctor or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24 if you are experiencing any symptoms.

• Anyone experiencing wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing should call 000.           

Insurance

What do I do about insurance claims?

A 24 hour Insurance Council of Australia hotline operates and can be reached on 1800 734 621.

People affected by fires can call the disaster hotline on 1800 734 621 for information and general advice about insurance issues (not for claims lodgements). 

Power           

What about power outages?

For information on what to do during a power outage visit the state government's energy and resources power outage website

Water    

Is my water tank likely to be contaminated after a nearby bushfire?

For people who return to their homes in bushfire affected areas, even if your house is undamaged, your water tanks may be contaminated.

Often house roofs and water tanks can be contaminated with ash from fires, or from saltwater and fire retardant from aerial firefighting efforts.

If the water in your tank looks, tastes or smells unusual, assume it is contaminated. For further information about how to check the quality of water in your tank, visit the Better Health Channel: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/bushfires-and-water-tanks

Even if your water tank is contaminated, you may still use your water for other purposes such as flushing toilets, watering the garden, firefighting and cleaning (non-food preparation).