WITH Western Australia's COVID-19 restrictions likely to continue well into next year, another layer of complexity has been added to the State's emergency service operations, should WA require interstate assistance this coming bushfire and cyclone season.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) commissioner Darren Klemm said the organisation had already undertaken extensive planning internally and with its partner agencies in relation to COVID-19 safe operations.
WA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is managed by the State emergency co-ordinator and the State government with advice from the chief health officer, while Australian interagency assistance is co-ordinated nationally by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council's National Resource Sharing Centre (NRSC).
"DFES and emergency services from other jurisdictions meet regularly with NRSC regarding how States and Territories could assist each other during major incidents," Mr Klemm said.
"DFES has a very strong working relationship with emergency services in other jurisdictions and we will always consider requests for assistance."
Mr Klemm said each request for interstate assistance would be assessed on a case-by-case basis, considering issues such as border quarantine arrangements and rates of community transmission.
"DFES will follow national COVID-19 Interstate Deployment Protocols if WA is requested to send personnel interstate, or if interstate personnel are requested to assist in WA," he said.
"These protocols support the safe and rapid response to emergency situations and ensure a consistent, risk-based approach is applied across Australia."
Mr Klemm said if intrastate borders were to be reintroduced, emergency services personnel had an exemption to travel across the State as required.
DFES has also developed COVID-19 Safe Operational Guidelines which will assist in minimising COVID-19 risks for responding crews and the community.
This comes on the back of the State's official website for emergency information and warnings Emergency WA receiving a $200,000 upgrade.
Changes to the website to make it more user-friendly were driven by community feedback and include the addition of 'incident area' maps for selected fires, showing the estimated location of the hazard.
Mr Klemm said the inclusion of the incident area would help people make informed decisions to respond to emergencies.
"The incident area is an indication of where the fire has been and gives the public a greater understanding of what's going on during significant bushfires," he said.
"The incident area is informed by on-the-ground and aerial intelligence, however emergencies can escalate quickly and the shape might not show the full extent of the incident.
"Always follow the advice in official warnings and never solely rely on the incident area when making decisions in an emergency."
The Emergency WA website has also been customised to include WA Health issues community COVID-19 alerts and warnings.
Additional changes include a new menu allowing users to filter map layers by hazard, zoom function and warning display optimisation to make it quick and easy to find out more information about an incident and road names now appear in the satellite view.
The website will also have accessibility updates to ensure it supports the information needs of people with disabilities.
Launched in October 2016, Emergency WA has had 5.4 million visitors and more than 32 million page views, with its busiest day on January 9, 2020, which coincided with bushfires in Norseman, the Stirling Ranges, Baldivis and storms and flooding in the North West.
"Following the Black Summer bushfires in the Eastern States, Emergency WA has been tested to withstand huge spikes in website traffic in the event of a catastrophic incident," Mr Klemm said.
"Emergency WA is the official source of emergency information for all Western Australians, no matter where they live and what hazards they face."
- Familiarise yourself with the Emergency WA website at emergency.wa.gov.au