Emergency management responsibilities

Local government has a wide range of responsibilities in Victoria's emergency management arrangements.

Councils work with state government emergency management agencies such as the police, fire authorities, ambulance services and the SES to ensure a coordinated approach to emergency events and a safer outcome for communities.

While local government is not the lead agency to respond to any emergency, it has a support role for a range of emergencies including, bushfires, flood, earthquakes and dam safety.

The key emergency management responsibilities of councils stem primarily from Part 4 of the Emergency Management Act 1986 (EM Act). This act requires councils to:

  • have a municipal emergency management plan (MEMP)
  • establish a Municipal Emergency Management Planning Committee (MEMPC) involving local stakeholder organisations to develop the plan
  • maintain the plan
  • allow the audit of the plan
  • appoint at least one Municipal Emergency Resource Officer (MERO) to coordinate the use of municipal resources needed for responding to and recovering from emergencies.

Proposed legislation currently being considered by Parliament would amend these obligations.

Councils are identified as the lead agency for relief and recovery at the local level in the Emergency Management Manual Victoria but this role of councils is not set out in legislation. All councils appoint a Municipal Recovery Manager (MRM) to plan for and lead this activity.

The Country Fire Authority Act 1958 (CFA Act) has similar requirements relating to fire planning. Councils have to:

  • appoint a Municipal Fire Prevention Officer (MFPO) (section 96A)
  • appoint a committee (sections 54 and 55)
  • adopt a municipal fire prevention plan (section 55A).

In addition the role of the MFPO includes the inspection of hazards and the issuing of fire prevention notices under section 41 of the act.

For councils in the Metropolitan Fire District, the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Act 1958 (the MFB Act) also requires the appointment of a MFPO for each municipality (section 5A) and the requirement to inspect and issue notices (section 87).

The EM Act and the CFA Act were recently amended to require councils to designate neighbourhood safer places for use in bushfires.

Emergency management responsibilities also arise in the delivery of council services and provisions in other Victorian legislation. For example: as significant operators of child care and kindergarten services, councils must maintain an emergency management plan to manage internal and external risks.