What are places of last resort in a bushfire?

empty sports field

Nyasha Jokomo

Posted January 25, 2024

While the safest option is always to leave high-risk areas early, Neighbourhood Safer Places and Community Fire Refuges are a place of last resort during a bushfire.

If you live in, or are travelling around regional areas during summer bushfire season, you might want to be aware of places of last resort.

Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSP) and Community Fire Refuges, also known as Bushfire Place of Last Resort (BPLR) are locations that may provide some protection if you are unable to evacuate an area and are caught in an area impacted by bushfire.

The safest plan is always to monitor warnings and leave early, particularly on Catastrophic Fire Danger Rating days as recommended by The Country Fire Authority (CFA). There is no guarantee of your safety when sheltering at a place of last resort.

Instead, they can provide critical shelter and support when all other options have been exhausted.

The CFA urges the importance of understanding what these places are, how they function, and their significance in preparing for an emergency during bushfire season.

cars with caravans on a country highway

The safest plan is always to monitor warnings and leave early as NSPs are only a place of last resort. Image: Getty.


What Are Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSPs)?

The role of Neighbourhood Safer Places

While NSPs are invaluable resources, it's essential to clarify their purpose:

Last resort safety: NSPs are designated for use when individuals have no other safe options. They are not a primary means of protection against bushfires; instead, they are the last line of defence when all other evacuation routes are blocked.

Protection from flames and embers: NSPs are typically situated in areas that minimise exposure to the direct threat of flames, flying embers and radiant heat, which are common in bushfires. NSPs are not purpose-built, fire proof structures. They are often an existing location or clearing that allows you to have distance from the bushfire. These could be at a local area building such as a sports pavilion or hall, or it could be a community sports field, foreshore or park.

Accessibility: They are designed to be easily accessible, allowing residents to reach them quickly on foot or by a short drive. However, it is important to note that not all local areas will have an NSP so search for your local area ahead of time so you are aware of your nearest NSP.


What to expect at an NSP

Your safety is not guaranteed by sheltering at an NSP. It offers a safer place when all other options are exhausted, however it cannot be considered as ‘safe’.

It can be dangerous travelling to an NSP as bushfire conditions often lead to low visibility because of smoke and flames. You may run into hinderances such as fallen trees blocking your route, car accidents and traffic congestion.

Emergency services may not be present at an NSP. There are no support services available such as food, water or medical provisions. 


What is a Community Fire Refuge?

A Community Fire Refuge differs from an NSP in that it offers a purpose built or modified building that can help provide protection from radiant heat and embers. These shelters also exist as a last resort measure for individuals who may find themselves in immediate danger when all other plans have failed. There are currently five designated Community Fire Refuges in Victoria and these are only activated and opened once there is significant fire danger in the local areas.

family sitting on sofa looking at map around a table

NSPs are not a substitute for proactive planning so it is best to be prepared ahead of bushfire season. Image: Getty.


Preparing ahead of bushfire season

The CFA recommends to prepare ahead of bushfire season to help stay safe. NSPs are not substitutes for proactive planning, early evacuation, and fire-ready property management. The goal is to minimise the need to use NSPs by taking preventive measures and responding promptly to evacuation orders.

Fire-Ready Property

The first step is preparing your property to help protect during bushfire season. This includes clearing debris, maintaining a defensible space, and installing fire-resistant features.

Emergency Kit

Prepare a comprehensive bushfire survival kit with essential supplies to sustain you during evacuation or while sheltering in an NSP.

Evacuation Plan

Develop a well-thought-out evacuation plan for your family. Know multiple evacuation routes and have a designated meeting point in case of separation. When authorities issue evacuation orders, act swiftly. Leaving early reduces the risks associated with navigating through deteriorating conditions.


Stay connected with loved ones and neighbours to ensure everyone is aware of the situation and can make informed decisions.

Stay Informed

Monitor the bushfire alert levels and Fire Danger Ratings in your area. Always follow the advice and direction of emergency services.

Those who will be in bushfire-prone areas should consider downloading the VicEmergency app on their smartphones and save the number to the VicEmergency Hotline: 1800 226 226.

If you are in a life-threatening situation, call 000 immediately. 

These resources and apps can help you during bushfire season:

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The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s)issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Ltd ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.