As summer approaches, you need to ensure your bushfire plan and other seasonal risk strategies are up-to-date. And now with the pandemic, there are extra risks to consider as well
During 2020, the main thing many of us had on our minds was COVID-19, and it could be easy to forget the devastating bushfires that occurred just a year ago.
However, fires are not the only risks to consider for summer. Others include heatwaves, Christmas gatherings, and seasonal closures, as well as staying COVID-safe.
With summer almost here, now is the time to start getting ready for these types of events.
1. Bushfire risk management
Prepare your property
A few simple tasks now could make all the difference during bushfire season. These include creating a defensive space, clearing your gutters, storing flammable chemicals and maintaining trees on the property.
For more detail on preparing your property for bushfire season, check out our previous article.
Check and update your emergency response plan
A sound fire response plan should include procedures for evacuation, communication, emergency supplies, First Aid, and disaster recovery. Read our previous emergency planning articles for more information on this.
You should also determine what fire danger rating will be the trigger for cancelling events or for enacting your plan. Another thing to consider is what you will do if people on your premises are unable to leave at any point due to fire.
A further issue to consider is updating your bushfire plan for COVID. Unfortunately, the pandemic has created an extra layer of risk for emergencies. Considerations for this include:
- Your ‘leave early’ destination may not be available due to the restrictions.
- You may need to add extra items to your emergency kit, such as face masks, hand sanitiser, and antibacterial wipes.
- If you are caring for vulnerable people during fire season, you should continue to practice COVID-safe actions like wearing a mask and regular hand-washing.
The more prepared you can be now, the better off your community will be!
2. Preparing for summer heatwaves
Heatwaves kill hundreds of Australians every year. The highest risk groups are the elderly, very young children, and people who have a medical condition.
Preventing heat-related illnesses involves avoiding heat exposure, keeping hydrated, staying indoors or in the shade, and avoiding excess activity on hot days.
It’s also important to know the signs of heat stress or heatstroke so you can recognise it if it happens in your community and respond accordingly. This is outlined below.
- Heat stress/exhaustion – signs include dizziness, weak pulse, sweating, being cool to touch, and muscle cramping. If this occurs, move the person into the shade, and make an effort to cool them down through rest and increased fluid intake.
- Heatstroke – this is a very dangerous state and one that needs immediate medical treatment. Signs include headache, redness, thumping pulse, dry skin, high temperature (over 40 deg), and loss of consciousness. If you suspect heatstroke, call 000 immediately for assistance and cool the person through wetting and fanning but do not provide drinks.
See our previous post for more information on preparing your faith centre for heatwaves.
3. Christmas gatherings
What with parties, presents and Carols, Christmas is a time for more gatherings than usual, and with that comes extra risks.
Apart from fires and heat, the risks include slips, trips and falls, cash theft, food poisoning, crowd control, and security. And with COVID-19 we now have an extra risk to think about!
To prevent accidents and injuries at Christmas time you need to ensure you have plans in place in place for First Aid and emergencies and to make sure your fire equipment is in good order.
Our previous article on keeping safe during the Christmas season provides more details.
Also, see below for COVID-19 safety tips for gatherings.
4. Property closures during summer
The main risks for property shutdowns are break-ins, vandalism, and fire.
Risk management considerations include secure locking systems, removing valuables, shutting off utilities, and keeping up with grounds maintenance. You should also let your insurer know if your property is going to be closed and unused for any significant length of time.
Our previous post on property shutdowns has more information.
5. COVID safety
It’s been a tough year for everyone, especially in Victoria where the restrictions were strongest. Now that the restrictions are easing we can all breathe a little easier, but we still need to take precautions.
The restriction changes in Victoria now mean that religious gatherings can have 150 people indoors and 300 outdoors, while funerals and weddings can have 150 guests. Face masks are still required indoors, and outdoors if you cannot manage 1.5m distancing. Leaders can remove their masks while preaching, reading or officiating, but if they do people should keep a distance of 5m from them.
Your centre should also practice the same hygiene measures as before – such as hand washing, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow. Food and drinks should also not be shared between people.
While larger gatherings are now permitted, outdoor ones are preferable to indoor as they are much safer. Faith centres are also being encouraged to hold virtual or online gatherings where possible instead.
Cleaning, hygiene and other requirements
There are certain procedures you should follow, as outlined here.
- Cleaning – shared spaces should be cleaned regularly, especially frequently-touched surfaces such as seating.
- Record keeping – records of people attending gatherings should be kept to assist with contact tracing.
- Display signage – this is encouraged in order to explain COVID-safe practices and to direct the flow of traffic in the car park and building.
- Contact – minimise contact between people through barriers, floor markings, spacing out of seating, and creating an alternative to handshakes and hugs.
- Singing – this should preferably happen outside where the risk is considerably lower.
- Car-pooling – this is discouraged due to the risk it poses.
If gatherings are likely to be too difficult to manage for your organisation, you may want to consider holding online ones or cancelling events until the pandemic risk has passed.
Check your insurance cover
The end of the year is also a good time to check your insurance cover to make sure it’s up to date and adequate for your organisation’s risks.
For information on church insurance, church liability cover, or insurance for charities and not-for-profits, contact us on 13 000 FAITH or send us an online message.
Written by Tess
Tags: emergency, fire, pandemics, weather