Plan to stay or go

If a natural disaster is imminent or predicted by emergency services, you may decide to evacuate your business or to ‘shelter in place’. 

Your decision to stay or go will depend on:

  • Your circumstances and location
  • The nature of the imminent disaster
  • The advice of the State’s emergency services agencies

Remember your duty of care to clients and staff as part of the Occupational Health & Safety legislation. This includes employees, contractors, visitors and customers. Preparation will help to ensure everyone can evacuate quickly and safely.

You should understand and plan for both possibilities by developing clear, well thought out procedures in your emergency management plan. For more information on emergency planning, see the Planning and procedures page

Option 1 - Evacuate your business

The ability to effectively evacuate staff, clients and visitors can save lives. Having evacuation procedures avoids confusion and possible injury during an emergency situation.

For information on developing evacuation procedures, refer to the Evacuation procedures page

Recommendation to evacuate

Evacuation will only be recommended if there is an imminent threat to you, and evacuation can be undertaken safely. In fast-moving emergencies you may not always receive a warning or a recommendation to evacuate.

Under Victoria’s Emergency Management Arrangements External link the  decision to recommend that people evacuate is made by the Incident Controller. This decision is based on the scale of threat, modelling and predictive information, timing, specific populations and health and safety risks.

While evacuation is largely voluntary in Victoria and therefore it is your choice how you will respond to a recommendation to evacuate, the advice should be treated seriously and within the context of your duty of care to staff and clients. 

Learn more about evacuation from the Emergency Management Victoria website External link 

How will I know when to evacuate?

You should remain vigilant for warnings and other emergency information on days of severe or extreme weather events such as Code Red fire danger days.

Listen to your emergency broadcasters:

  • ABC Local Radio
  • Commercial radio
  • Designated community radio stations
  • Sky News television

In a bushfire emergency:

  • Check Incidents and Warnings on the VicEmergency website External link
  • Call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on 1800 240 667

In a flood or storm emergency:

You may also receive an emergency warning via your landline or mobile phone (Emergency Alert), emergency service websites, or local contact (doorknocking or police car loudspeaker).

What do I do when I am advised to evacuate?

When evacuating, follow all directions and instructions from emergency services.

  • Immediately follow the directions contained in the evacuation advice from emergency services
  • Secure your premises if time permits
  • Follow your evacuation procedures

Leave early

The safest option in the lead up to an emergency is always to leave early. Leaving early is the recommended course of action and should be your first consideration and included in your planning.

Bushfire advice

If there is a bushfire in your area you should not rely on a call to evacuate. On Code Red, Extreme and Severe days the safest option is to leave high risk areas before fire threatens.

Incident on site 

For more information on fire and evacuation, consult your local fire authority (MFB or CFA), local council or shire.

If you are in a multi-tenanted building, make sure the building manager runs practice evacuations for all tenants as part of your lease arrangements.

Option 2 - Plan to shelter in place

There may be some circumstances, such as fast-moving emergencies, where a safe evacuation is not possible and you need to seek an alternative shelter option. You should understand the different threats and plan for all possibilities.

There may be situations when it's best to stay where you are to avoid any uncertainty outside. For instance, chemical contaminants may be released into the environment in such quantity or proximity to your business that it is safer to remain indoors rather than to evacuate staff and clients.

If you are instructed by the emergency services to take shelter, do so immediately. For bushfires this may be to shelter in place, or go to Neighbourhood Safer Places, Places of Last Resort or refuges.

Last Updated 24th July 2017