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Managing bushfire and grassfire risks in early childhood services

Information for early childhood services on how to plan for and manage bushfire and grassfire risks.

All early childhood services must plan for bushfires and grassfires

All approved early childhood providers and services must assess all possible risks to their service as part of their emergency management requirements. This includes the risk of bushfires and grassfires.

The obligations outlined on this page are based on:

  • the regulatory requirements under the National Quality Framework (NQF) and the Children’s Services Act (CS Act) and Regulations, and
  • the department’s emergency management policy for early childhood services.

Victoria is one of the most fire-prone areas in the world. Understanding your service’s level of risk is the first step in knowing what to do before and during a fire

You can also use the early childhood bushfire/grassfire readiness review checklist to help you to make sure your service is as ready as possible.

For information in languages other than English and audio files please visit: CFA fire resources and audio files translated into languages other than English (40 languages).

Services at high risk of bushfire or grassfire

Some early childhood services are at higher risk of bushfire or grassfire because of their location.

The way these risks are managed are different for centre-based services and family day care (FDC) services.

Centre-based services means:

  • Long day care services
  • Standalone kindergartens
  • Outside School Hours Care – before and after school care services
  • Vacation (school holidays) care services
  • Occasional care services
  • Limited hours care services

The department assesses these services each year using a methodology developed with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Services assessed as being at the highest risk of bushfire are placed on the Bushfire-at-risk register (BARR) (Categories 0,1,2 and 3).

Services assessed as being at some risk of bushfire or grassfire are listed as Category 4.

Family day care (FDC) services are not placed on the BARR or the Category 4 list.

Services on the BARR or listed as Category 4

Approved providers of services placed on the BARR or listed as Category 4 have additional requirements imposed as conditions on the service approval. Failing to comply may lead to enforcement action.

Approved providers must ensure:

  • The service closes pre-emptively* on days forecast as Catastrophic Fire Danger Rating (FDR) day in the Fire Weather District where the service is located.
  • the service’s emergency and evacuation policies include procedures in their Emergency Management Plan (EMP) for managing bushfire and grassfire related risks.

*Pre-emptive means that the service takes action before an emergency, not reacting to it.

The EMP must:

  • relate to the service’s location and operating context
  • include a list of the service’s emergency contacts
  • include procedures for:
    • monitoring and managing bushfire and grassfire risks and events
    • identifying and managing events that may cause planned, unplanned or pre-emptive closure of the service
    • notifying families of children enrolled at the service of any closure
    • reviewing and updating the EMP.
  • be kept up to date
  • be reviewed at least once per calendar year
  • be available to the Regulatory Authority (QARD) on request.

Services on the BARR no longer need to submit their EMP to the department.

Early childhood services co-located on school sites that are on the BARR or listed as Category 4

If your early childhood service is co-located on a school site which is listed on the BARR or Category 4, you should liaise with the school in developing your EMP, noting that:

  • on all days forecast to be Catastrophic FDR in their Fire Weather District, schools and early childhood services list on the BARR or Category 4 must close
  • schools on the BARR at the highest bushfire risk will pre-emptively relocate to a school site at a lower risk, close or move to remote learning in line with their risk category when the FDR in their Local Government Area (LGA) is forecast Extreme (Categories 1 and 2) or High (Category 0) as outlined in their EMP.
  • No one is permitted on the school site when the above pre-emptive actions are taken.

Read more about School Bushfire and grassfire preparedness: policy.

For information about emergency management planning for your service, contact the Security and Emergency Management Division at

Family day care services responsibilities

FDC services are not individually assessed for bushfire or grassfire risks, and are not placed on the BARR or listed as Category 4.

However, approved providers of FDC services have important responsibilities for managing bushfire and grassfire risks for their educators and the children attending FDC services.

Providers must ensure they:

  • identify all FDC educators operating from a residence or venue that may be at risk from bushfire or grassfire
  • maintain a record of all educators at risk from bushfire or grassfire
  • make sure that all these FDC educators prepare an EMP to manage bushfire and grassfire related risks and emergencies for their residence or venue
  • make sure each service and FDC educator has access to an operating telephone (landline or mobile) or other means of communication so they can communicate with emergency services and parents
  • make sure the identified FDC residences or venues in high bushfire or grassfire risk locations close on Catastrophic FDR days forecast in their Fire Weather District
  • inform families when FDC residences or venues cannot provide education and care due to a Catastrophic FDR day, or decision to close pre-emptively due to high temperatures.

Use the Bushfire At-Risk Register and Category 4 List to help in identifying which residences or venues are located in high risk of bushfire or grassfire areas.

The CFA has information to help in assessing risk.

FDC approved providers and educators must check the fire danger ratings each day during the summer season using either:

These obligations are conditions imposed on FDC service approval. Failing to comply may lead to enforcement action against the approved provider.

How to prepare for bushfire and grassfire risks

Understand the fire danger ratings

From 1 September 2022, Victoria moved to a new fire danger rating system that operates across Australia. It uses 4 different levels:

  • moderate
  • high
  • extreme
  • catastrophic.

Learn more about the new Australian Fire Danger Rating System.

Fire danger ratings (FDRs) are issued when there is a fire risk. They are:

The FDRs tell you how dangerous a fire could be if one started. They are important because they help you decide what actions to take to protect yourself and others from bushfires and grassfires.

Read more about:

Follow the warnings

Warnings are issued when a fire has started, and you need to take action.

You should never wait to receive an official warning before you act. Fires can start quickly and threaten homes and lives within minutes.

Make sure you understand the three warning levels and what they mean:

  • Advice
  • Watch and Act
  • Emergency Warnings

Don't expect warnings to be issued in any particular order. The first warning you could get could be an Emergency Warning.

Find out more:

Monitor the conditions

We recommend that all educators, volunteers, services and approved providers download the VicEmergency app and set up a ‘watch zone’ for your service’s location.

It will help you stay aware about:

  • local incidents and emergencies that may impact your service and
  • fire danger forecasts and warnings for events in the landscape.

To download the app:

You can also check the CFA Fire Bans and Fire Danger ratings in your area.

Services should follow their emergency and evacuation policy and procedures to:

  • reduce the risks
  • maintain children’s safety and wellbeing.

Close before an emergency (Pre-emptive closing)

Services and schools on the BARR or Category 4 must close pre-emptively on days that have been declared Catastrophic FDR in their Fire Weather District.

Note that schools on the BARR (Categories 0,1 and 2) have a lower threshold and will also take pre-emptive action in line with their risk category when the forecast is Extreme or High in their Local Government Area. 

All services should:

  • identify times when they may close the service pre-emptively to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of children and educators. For example where there is a forecast for extreme heat or weather event.
  • plan how they will communicate with families, and put this in their emergency policy.

Keep your contact details updated

All approved providers and services must keep their contact details up to date at all times, and especially before the bushfire season. 

Update these details for each NQF service and FDC educator through the NQA ITS portal

  • office hours details 
  • after hours contact details and 
  • emergency contact details so the department can contact you in the case of a bushfire. 

For children’s services (occasional care and limited hours services): 


For information about emergency management planning for your service, contact the Security and Emergency Management Division at


Quality Assessment and Regulation Division (QARD)

QARD is the regulatory authority for all early childhood services in Victoria.

For enquiries contact:

To contact your QARD regional office contact details.

Department regional contacts

Find your Department of Education Regional Office.

Emergency contacts

Call 000 in an emergency.