Bushfire Ready Map

Confidentiality of Data

Response to a Local Government in Western Australia enquiring about confidentiality of property owner data collected with Bushfire Ready Map and if Occupant name could be not shown in mapped data:

Property owner data (as ‘Occupant’) collected during a Bushfire Ready Map assessment doesn’t need to be included in the data processed to a KML file for a ‘Map’ showing on Google Earth. Though it is optimal if the name of a contact person is processed into information available in the ‘Map’. Often members of a Brigade fighting a fire would associate a person’s name with a home but not necessarily a street or lot address which would show on the ‘pin’ in the standard ‘Map’. 

In the first paragraph at http://bushfirereadymap.com/ , we state: 

Bushfire Ready Map assessments are intended to be conducted by Bushfire Brigade Officers and the information is to be held confidentially by the relevant Brigade to assist service provision during a bushfire.” 

In the Western Australian context where Local Government appoints Chief Bushfire Control Officers and Bushfire Control Officers pursuant to section 38 (and 38A) of the Bush Fires Act 1954, the information collected by use of Bushfire Ready Map would be held by the Chief Bushfire Control Officer for the Local Government and the Bushfire Control Officer and Captain for the specific Brigade. 

Section 38(3) makes clear that the relevant Local Government subjects the Chief Bushfire Control Officer to the same control and standards of conduct (including privacy/confidentiality of information) as apply to all officers of the Local Government, per: 

The local government may, in respect to bush fire control officers appointed under the provisions of this section, exercise so far as they can be made applicable the same powers as it may exercise in respect to its other officers, under the provisions of the Acts under which those other officers are appointed.” 

It is less clear what privacy/confidentiality of information controls apply to officers of Bush Fire Brigades under sections (41), (42), (43), and (44).  In general, the functions and activities of a Brigade appear to be under the control of the elected Captain, except when there is an active fire and the Bushfire Control Officer/s take control. 

Section 44(1)(c) empowers officers of a Brigade to: 

take any measures which in the circumstances are reasonable and appear to him to be necessary or expedient for the protection of life and property”. 

In this context, it is reasonably practical for officers of a Brigade to visit relevant homes to assess bushfire hazard and risk management and to hold the information for use in a bushfire. The assessment process also indicates gaps in preparedness at homes (eg less than 10% of homes surveyed have a written Bushfire Plan, and less than 50% of homes have a 20 metre Building Protection Zone).  

In practical terms in regard to privacy of information, each Bushfire Brigade has contact information on ratepayers/property owners in their area now (usually on paper or PDF) they should be treating as confidential and not be providing to ‘third parties’ for use unrelated to the function and activities of the Bushfire Brigade. With Bushfire Ready Map, the Brigade’s Bushfire Control Officer and Captain would have the KML file for the local ‘Map’. Other members of the Brigade would receive ‘generic’ reports on level of preparedness of homes in relation to hazards (eg less than 10% of homes have written Bushfire Plans). 

In general, home owners in bushfire prone areas are delighted to receive a visit from local Bushfire Brigade officers to discuss preparation for bushfire. For most homes it is the first time they have ever been visited by persons from either a Bushfire Brigade or the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

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Bushfire Ready Map