Blackash developed a new Schools Bushfire Risk Assessment Tool (SBRAT) and framework for the state-wide assessment of NSW public schools to determine the category of school bushfire risk for the NSW Department of Education.

The 2019/ 2020 bushfire season impacted a significant number of NSW schools and all of the school communities throughout the 2019 2020 bushfire season. In January 2020, the NSW Government commissioned an independent expert inquiry into the 2019-20 bushfire season to provide input to NSW ahead of the next bushfire season. In response to the recommendations of that inquiry, the Department of Education (DoE) set about reviewing the Bushfire Risk Register, which categorises all schools based on their bushfire risk.

  • The consideration of bushfire risk for site assessment purposes. The site assessment of bushfire risk for schools as a vulnerable communities at a broader landscape scale is complex

The categorisation on the register informs the level of action required (e.g. temporarily cease operations) by the school in a bushfire emergency.

Until the development of the SBRAT and associated framework by Blackash, the DoE did not have a fit for purpose tool to assess bushfire risk of the 2,200 schools across the portfolio.

Key outcomes of the project were that the DoE needed to improve its:

  • accountability framework to manage bushfire risk across the portfolio (Framework).
  • operating/information systems to track and program works to treat inherent and residual bushfire risk at school sites (System).

The SBRAT is a 2-stage process that guides a specialist Fire Protection Authority Australia (FPAA) Bushfire Planning & Design (BPAD) Level 3 Certified practitioner through a series of risk-based questions, the outcome of which determines a schools’ bushfire risk rating, for publishing on the department’s bushfire risk register.

The risk assessment outcome will inform actions taken by the department to categorise schools to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors to school sites in line with department policy.


  • outlines a state-wide, comprehensive approach to proactively reducing bushfire risk, now and into the future for the 2,200 Department schools.
  • outlines a coordinated approach by the department to reduce bushfire risk. This is one critical component to enable bushfire resilience.

The department is taking a strong leadership position in providing a foundational bushfire risk profile ‘re-set’. It is expected that this work will reduce bushfire risks within the department’s  control, as well as limit the adverse impacts of bushfires on school communities.

The SBRAT assists the DoE understand and integrate bushfire risk management into strategic activities, functions and decision-making in mitigating bushfire risk and to enhance the resilience of the school.

The management of bushfire risk is an iterative process that involves dealing with strategic (landscape scale risk) site considerations and school specific risks.

Once the landscape scale Bushfire Risk Rating Project is completed, the DoE will investigate other risk mitigating measures/programs of work.

Key parts of the Blackash delivery included:

  • Research and development of the framework and SBRAT
  • Engagement with key stakeholders
  • Testing and piloting of the SBRAT
  • Training of key DoE staff and SBRAT assessors
  • Support and expertise to the DoE throughout the project


The SBRAT is a first of its kind tool that is based on evidence and a key requirement of the independent expert inquiry into the 2019-20 bushfire season to understand bushfire risk of schools.