Pearl Beach - active bushfire protection system
The town of Pearl Beach, on NSW’s Central Coast, will be better prepared should disaster strike again with its active bushfire protection system
The recent opening of a Community Support Centre at the Pearl Beach Community Memorial Hall, gives residents and visitors a safe place to retreat when bushfires or severe weather threaten.
In the wake of the devastating Black Summer bushfires of 2019/2020, the Pearl Beach Safety Advisory Group applied for government support to make their local community hall a much safer place for residents and visitors unable to evacuate in such events.
With a grant of $91,630 from the Australian Government’s Black Summer Bushfire Recovery program, the Advisory Group designed and executed an active bushfire protection system for the Community Support Centre.
Ben Kearney, a key driver of the design of the active bushfire protection system, and member of the Advisory Group, outlined what has been done to enhance the safety of the Centre.
“We’ve installed rainwater tanks, we’ve put in pumps and we’ve got sprinklers that cover all of the roof and the walls. We’ve got a solar panel system that gives us power independent from the grid.”
Another member of the Advisory Group, Paul Toohey, said that in the event of a bushfire or a storm, this community could be without power for a number of days.
“One of the concerns is if there is a bushfire, even storms, past records show that we lose power, and this can last for days.
“Solar power with battery storage and a backup generator were also installed to make sure there was reliable power for the bushfire pumps and for the hall to continue operation during emergency events including blackouts,” Paul said.
Paul also highlighted that another benefit of the active bushfire protection system was the social resilience and peace of mind it provided community members. If power and mobile coverage are affected by fire or storm, the Centre’s NBN internet and emergency power may be the only practical means of communication within Pearl Beach during an emergency.
He also reiterated that the key aim of this initiative is to improve the bushfire resilience of the Pearl Beach community by creating a safe evacuation centre, lessening the risk and impact of bushfires if the village is cut off by fire.
“Essentially, Pearl Beach is a high risk suburb both for bushfires and storms. So it’s all about preparedness for the future. The infrastructure is now in place and we’re looking at getting prepared and are training people in the community right now to operate when this infrastructure is activated as a neighbourhood safe place.”