Preparing for bushfires and natural disasters

Practical advice to help visitor economy businesses prepare for the impacts of bushfires and other natural disasters.

Help protect your visitor economy business from the impacts of bushfires, floods and other natural disasters by being prepared. Have a thorough plan that you can effectively communicate with your employees, visitors and distributors, so you are ready to act in the event of bushfires or other natural disasters.

Quick tip: Communicate with your visitors

For bookings scheduled during bushfire season, you can share the NSW Rural Fire Service’s tips on Travelling in a Bushfire Area in your booking confirmation details.

Prepare up-to-date safety and evacuation information that you can share with visitors in the event of a bushfire emergency or natural disaster in hard copy and digitally.

Quick tip: Use online booking software to access and manage your booking details

Using cloud-based online booking software to manage all your bookings online enables you to access your guest's information quickly and easily from any device, which is important in the event of an emergency. Find out more about online booking software in the NSW First Guide: Sell Bookable Products Online.

When choosing an online booking system, check what functionality is offered in the event of bushfires or natural disasters, such as blocking out availability in an emergency, cancelling or rebooking guests and managing refunds for direct and third-party sales through the software. Review any resources they share ahead of bushfire season.

Quick tip: Ensure you have clear booking terms and conditions

Create or update terms and conditions for your bookings to ensure you have policies and processes in place for cancellations, refunds and postponement or rebooking in the event of a bushfire or other natural disaster.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) provides information for travel and accommodation businesses, outlining responsibilities under Australian Consumer Law. See below for their guide and other resources:

If you sell your products and experiences through a third party, such as an online travel agent (OTA) or inbound tour operator (ITO), ensure you have communicated your terms and conditions with them, and that you are aware of any related terms and conditions of theirs.

Quick tip: Prepare to adapt in an emergency

Tour and activity providers may consider preparing a contingency product offering in the event of a bushfire, such as an amended itinerary or alternative activities with a lower bushfire risk. Being prepared with contingency options ahead of time will enable you to quickly pivot your operations where it’s safe to do so – and to update your visitors and distribution partners with full details of these changes.

Ensure that any new or adapted visitor experiences and products have appropriate licenses and permits to operate and are covered by your Public Liability Insurance. For more information, refer to the NSW First Guide: Develop your visitor experience.

Being prepared with contingency options will enable you to quickly pivot your operations.

Quick Tip: Check your insurance

Protect your business against unforeseen events such as damage to assets due to bushfires or floods, or legal claims, by having adequate insurance. The Insurance Council of Australia has developed the Understand Insurance website to help you make decisions about your general insurance needs.

An insurance broker may be able to help if your circumstances are complex.

Quick Tip: Prepare emergency details

Make a list of all the key information sources so you can get up-to-date information in the event of a bushfire emergency or other natural disasters. Add key contacts and apps to your phone and make a hard copy of the list for quick access.

  • Add the Bushfire Information Line to your mobile phone contacts: 1800 679 737
  • Set your LGA disaster dashboard as a favourite on your phone or tablet. Contact your local council for details.
  • Phone apps: Hazards Near Me NSW, Emergency+, Live Traffic NSW
  • Make a list of your key visitor economy contacts in the region, including:

» Your distribution partners – to advise of any changes to current or future bookings

» Your local tourism manager and Visitor Information Centre, so you can reach out with updates.

If your business has limited mobile phone reception, consider a satellite phone, EPIRB device and analogue radio with working batteries so you can keep your guests safe and stay connected to up-to-date safety information in the event of a bushfire emergency or natural disaster.

Quick Tip: Know What to Do

The Fire Danger Ratings give you an indication of how dangerous a fire could be if one were to start. The fire danger ratings can be issued year-round.

There are four levels of fire danger – Moderate, High, Extreme and Catastrophic. When there is minimal risk, fire danger ratings signs will be set to ‘no rating’.

Each rating has a clear set of actions you can take to reduce your risk.

When there is a fire in the area, an emergency alert may be issued. Keep track of the alert level so you know what to do. Learn more about Alert Levels here.

Failure to act on an emergency alert may result in death or injury for you, your employees or your visitors.

Quick tip: Use the Get Ready Business guide

Prepare your business with the Get Ready Business guide. Its five-step plan includes:

  1. Know your risk
  2. Plan now
  3. Get your business ready
  4. Be aware
  5. Look out for each other

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) hosts an annual Get Ready Weekend, where you can engage with your local fire brigade.

For more tips, templates and checklists on business continuity planning, read the NSW Small Business Commission’s Prepare for the Unexpected guide.

For more information on planning and preparing for a bushfire, including making a bushfire survival plan, visit the NSW RFS’s Plan and Prepare guide.

Make a list of all the key information sources so you can get up-to-date information.


You should be aware of the specific risks relating to your area and note where early warning information comes from.

Connect with local Emergency Services or visit the following websites to learn more about preparing for specific hazards:

This Quick Tips guide has been produced by Destination NSW in collaboration with Rural Fire Service (RFS).

Access the PDF version of this article here.