Reviews of the 2019-20 Bushfire Season

Reviews of the 2019-20 Bushfire Season

ACT Emergency Services Agency Operational Review of the Bushfire Season 2019/20

On 20 August 2020, the ACT Emergency Services Agency Operational Review of the Bushfire Season 2019/20 was publicly released following an independent analysis of the ACTESA’s planning, response and recovery over the 2019-20 bushfire season. A Summary of the Review is also available.

ACTESA Commissioner Georgeina Whelan commissioned the Operational Review in May 2020 to ensure the ACTESA honours a culture of continuous improvement across all phases of emergency management, reinforcing a strong commitment to delivering the highest levels of service and protection to the ACT community. The external consultants collected personal insights from volunteers and staff through an analysis of after-action reviews, a number of one-on-one interviews and reviewed emergency legislation, guidelines and operating procedures. 31 recommendations are outlined in the Operational Review aimed to enhance future bushfire planning and response capabilities.

The ACTESA has embraced the lessons learned since the Operational Report was published and is working tirelessly to implement changes to improve its capability, collective training, preparedness, personnel, planning and incident management strategies.

In 12 short months, the ACTESA has already taken proactive steps to make improvements which include:

  • Recruitment of new permanent specialist roles including a Fire Behaviour Analyst, an Aviation specialist and a Strategic Planner within the ACTRFS team, all of which will help fatigue management and boost the existing specialist skills within the Agency.
  • Newly identified collaborative training pathways are available to ACTRFS and ACTSES volunteer members who are interested in developing their skills and qualifications in areas such as first aid, navigation, leadership, aviation and other specialist capabilities.
  • Implementation of new software for frontline crews, enabling quicker dispatch, better planning and improved communication during times of crisis.
  • The ACTRFS, ACTF&R and ACTSES have received several new road and aerial assets to their fleets including three helicopters – Helitac 274, 275 and the Firebird 100, and a new High Capacity Pump truck to help strengthen emergency planning, preparation and response during bushfires and floods.
  • Enhanced airbase facilities with newly installed helipads to allow additional aircraft to land, and an irrigation system designed to help keep dust suppression down which means less maintenance for the aircraft.
  • Expanded retardant mixing base at the Canberra Airport with better pump capability and storage facilities, which allows crews to fill more planes simultaneously.
  • Additional personnel have been trained in airbase operations, airbase management and radio communications for the Agency’s aviation roles.
  • Implementation of a standardised national warning system while works continue on a national fire danger rating system.
  • Strengthened relationships and networks with other agencies, both within the ACT and interstate.

Review of Whole of ACT Government Coordination and Response during the 2019-20 Bushfire Season

The Review of Whole of ACT Government Coordination and Response during the 2019-20 Bushfire Season was tabled at the Legislative Assembly and publicly released by the Minister for Police and Emergency Services on 20 August 2020.

The review was led by ACTESA Deputy Commissioner Ray Johnson.

The Report provides insights into the whole of ACT Government coordination and response to the bushfire season of 2019-20 in the ACT when a State of Emergency was declared. There are 35 recommendations for Government to consider.

Some recommendations that focused on key updates to the Emergencies Act 2004 have already been implemented through the Emergencies Amendment Bill 2020.


These reports are being considered against other reviews which have been published, including those submitted by the Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements and the ACT Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety.