In light of the recent Victorian fires I’m asked:

… if you’d write a piece outlining the evacuation legislation in the various states?

It’s my understanding that not all States have mandatory or enforceable evacuation orders, including Victoria which has recommended Lorne residents to leave (happy to be corrected here).

Who can order it? Under what circumstances?

I’m not going to go chapter and verse into all states but for a discussion that may be a bit out of date but still a useful guide, see Elsie Loh, ‘Evacuation powers of emergency workers and emergency-service organisations in Australia’ (2007) 22(4) Australian Journal of Emergency Management 3-7.

The reality is that every state has some provision where an officer in charge or the state emergency manager (by whatever title) can ‘order’ an evacuation and usually can accompany that with a threat of force. As noted the circumstances will differ with each jurisdiction.

The biggest exemption in Victoria where it is still the case that a person who has a pecuniary interest in a property cannot be compelled to evacuate (see Country Fire Authority Act 1958 (Vic) ss 30 and 31 but see contra Emergency Management Act 1986 (Vic) s 36B).

The reality is however that no-one is really going to enforce these. The resources it would take to actually force someone out of the danger zone and the risk to the people (police, CFA etc) to do it would be too burdensome. For further discussion see my earlier post Legality of forced evacuations during NSW Bushfires (January 10, 2014).