Morning at the caravan park

Australians have for centuries used spare time to holiday around this country. Many opt to use facilities like caravan parks. Therefore it’s incumbent that owners of parks to comply with caravan park rules and regulations. Designed to keep, the generally transient population, safe from harm during emergencies.

Caravan Parks are relatively complex facilities and quite unique in term of accommodation and emergency preparedness & response. Furthermore, they have potential risks that alter over time and should be mitigated and maintained if they pose a significant risk to occupants and employees. This can be done by applying the principle of good risk management outlined in Australian Standard 4360.

What is a caravan park?

In terms of a definition within Victoria, Australia (Residential Tenancies Act 1997), they are a location where moveable dwellings are situated. Also, it should be noted that there may be fixed dwellings within the facility, but primarily it is an area for parking of movable dwellings. 

This causes a series of complexities under the law. As an example the CFA Act 1958 states as follows:

Provisions about total fire bans:

Section 40 (4b) dwelling means a building used or designed for use as a residence, but does not include a caravan or tent or another portable place of residence.

Therefore, cooking within a caravan in a caravan park on a day of total fire ban seems like it is not allowed (country area of Victoria). This is not the case as Section 34A (2) (b) (CFA Act 1958) indicates the following which covers the entire Division 3 including section 40 (Total Fire Bans):

34A Meaning of in the open air

  • (1) For the purposes of this Division, a fire is in the open-air if it is in any place other than within a permanent structure.
  • (2) In this section permanent structure—
                  (a) means a structure of a permanent kind consisting of a roof and fully enclosed on all sides;
                  (b) includes a caravan; and 
                  (c) does not include a tent.

Therefore, in Victoria, we can use cooking appliances in a caravan (thanks, AH) on days of the total fire ban.

Note: Section 40 (4B) should be read in conjunction with section 40 (4) & (4A) (Click Here to review legislation)


RV's at the caravan Park

Provision for safety and associated objectives

There are five main provisions for managing safety within caravan parks and they are:

  • Maintenance for emergency service access
  • Prevention of Fire Spread
  • Maintenance of firefighting equipment
  • Identification and management of fire hazards
  • Development and implementation of emergency plans

Provision & maintenance of emergency service access

Even though these provisions have been formulated in relation to the fire services it is imperative that all emergency services are provided access, as required, during emergencies. Certainly, the Ambulance service requires access with vehicles so they can have their tools of the trade available within close proximity.

The fire services are a little unique as they have large firefighting trucks and even some of their equipment requires good clear spacing to allow appropriate access during emergencies. If trees, occupants cars and other obstructions are allowed to intrude into the emergency vehicle space the results could be life-threatening.

Prevention of Fire Spread

Within this provision, we can also talk about fire spread. I.e. if caravans, tents or even cabins are to close. There is the potential for rapid and devastating fire spread. So there are a number of the requirement to maintain appropriate separation.

Provision and maintenance of firefighting equipment

There are two important groups of equipment here. That equipment designed for firefighters and equipment which is installed and provided for occupants.

Firstly, the equipment that is proved to the occupants includes items like hose reels, fire extinguishers and fire blankets. This equipment fills a significant gap in response. For Example: When a fire breaks out there is a time delay before emergency services arrive. During this time residents and owners are empowered to take action, if safe to do so,  with the equipment provided and required under relevant Building Codes around Australia.

Those taking this action potential can save lives and property by their actions. And as part of health and safety legislation, there is a requirement for owners to plan for and provide a response to emergencies within their scope of training. Some organisation ask/require their employees not to combat a fire or other situation but only ensure that everyone within the facility is safe. No two emergencies are exactly the same and sometimes intervention or other action may be required to ensure other employees are safe.

Fire hydrant at a caravan park on a cold morning

Secondly, the other installed firefighting equipment is for firefighters. Generally, it links into specialist firefighting appliances and provides higher flows to combat escalating emergency situations. Generally, specialist training is required on such equipment as it may potentially provide a hazard to the user if not trained in its use.

Identification and management of fire hazards

Gas, electricity and hazardous materials provide significant hazards and if the risk isn’t treated appropriately there is a significant risk of harm.

LPG is under pressure and highly flammable. It has a number of associated hazards which can be generally mitigated by training and signage. Simply identifying a hazard with a sign can alert occupant that certain actions should be taken to ensure safety. I.e. turning off BBQ & gas valves when finished cooking. Physical isolation of cylinders can also mitigate certain risk.

Over the past decade, electrical safety has improved and business operators require all appliances and other electrical equipment to be tested and tags regularly. Within the Caravan Park environment, this is important due to the presence of children and unrelated people using the facility

There are many other hazards, including hazardous chemicals, which must be identified and associated risks reduced. Trained health and safety reps can be used to identify and mitigate risks but it’s always a good idea to have a health and safety specialist assist with such activities.

Development and implementation of an emergency management plan

A plan of this type will provide a guide for those task with initial emergency response activities. Emergencies are happening every minute of every day somewhere in Australia. So a set of relevant and workable procedures allow for a controlled and coordinated response to emergencies. Furthermore,  caravan park owners will not only reduce the risk of litigation but may, in turn, keep their livelihood safe.

In Conclusion

This is a very brief summary of the caravan park rules and regulations. Even so, due to a poor past, emergency response to emergencies, legislation has been altered or introduced to help keep park residents safe during emergencies.

Furthermore, this legislation ensures appropriate equipment and hazard identification is identified with the objective of keeping caravan park employees and residents safe.

By Ken Walker

Hi, I'm Ken. I am the owner and senior director of Syncretic training Group Pty Ltd. If you have any questions about the website content or require guidance please let us know we are always happy to help.

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