Social distancing and hygiene measures will be at the front of mind if bushfires threaten communities to the point that evacuation centres need to be set up, the state government's agency-in-charge says.
Evacuation centres are often established during emergencies to provide places for people to go if they are forced from their homes and cannot stay with family or friends.
They are usually in community buildings - for example one was run out of Bulga Hall during the fires in the Hunter's outer reaches last season.
In an interview with the Newcastle Herald last week, NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Rob Rogers said Resilience NSW was the lead agency for evacuation centre policy and he understood protocols had been revised in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's all about social distancing, maximum numbers, just to ensure that we don't breach what [NSW] Health say for the type of facilities," he said.
"You don't want to spread COVID, you also need to make sure that everybody - including firefighters and agencies - are all doing the right thing. We all need to do this."
The bushfire danger period began a month early this week in parts of the Hunter - Muswellbrook, Singleton and Upper Hunter - with the remainder of the region set to begin the season on October 1.
The RFS is predicting conditions will not be as much of a handful for firefighters compared with the disastrous 2019-20 season, but have warned that any bad day could bring a dangerous blaze.
Resilience NSW executive director Marg Prendergast said COVID-19 brought new challenges to traditional disaster evacuation planning and the agency was adapting its practices to protect the public's health and safety.
"These controls include maintaining social distancing and personal hygiene, and the operation of assembly areas outside evacuation centres where evacuees may wait safely in their vehicles or other transport before being moved to an evacuation centre or alternative accommodation," she said.
"Personal Protective Equipment, such as masks, will also be introduced into evacuation centre kits. Persons entering evacuation centres may also be screened for symptoms.
"This will include temperature checks and questioning regarding symptoms or previous contact with known cases.
"Screening will be carried out at evacuation centres where NSW Health advises screening is necessary."
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