BUSHFIRE drills are put to the test up to five times a year at a local primary school where well-practised evacuation plans are routine.
Darlington Primary School assistant principal Maree James said with almost 400 young students surrounded by bushland and national parks, evacuation procedures were taken “very seriously”.
“We practise the bushfire evacuation plan twice in term one and again in term four – the peak periods – and we also practise our plans in terms two and three,” she said.
“Darlington is a beautiful place to live and work, but it is a high risk area.”
Following the first drill of the year, she said it was important for children and the community to remain vigilant about fire safety procedures.
“Practising the bushfire drills, I believe is very important to continue the children’s awareness and to ensure they take everything seriously,” she said.
“There have been fire risks close by in the forest… only a few years ago some of our staff, students and families were affected by the Parkerville bushfire.”
A bushfire in Helena Valley last year gave the school a live situation for the children and staff to practise the evacuation procedures.
“I think it’s really important they keep abreast of keeping safe and knowing exactly what to do and ultimately not panicking,” she said.
“When something like that happens in a neighbouring community and affects people you know, it really brings home the reality of the bushfire risks that we face.”
In case of an alert, students bring flammable materials inside buildings sprinklers are turned on and students make their way to an undercover area, where teachers place smoke-prevention materials at the base of windows.
Ms James said the school informed parents when a drill will take place, with details of evacuation procedures available in newsletters and on the school website.
“Last year we invited the community to meet DFES representatives to find out how they could prepare their homes as well,” she said.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) Assistant Commissioner Darren Klemm said it was vital for schools to practise their bushfire evacuation plans.
“DFES advises people to get out early when there is the threat of bushfire, but for some places such as schools, hospitals or retirement homes it can take more time to relocate everyone to safety,” he said.
“It can be difficult for people to make rational decisions when they’re faced with danger.”
Visit Emergency WA for more information about how to prepare for bushfires.