kitome - Bushfire Safety Resource

With very dry weather conditions this year, there’s a high chance of a bushfire occurring in rural areas. Are you ready for a bushfire?

You may be preparing to have fun this coming summer, but it’s also important to prepare yourself, your family, and your property for a bushfire. This includes creating a bushfire survival plan, assessing and reducing your bushfire risk, and learning about fire safety. If you live near grassland like on a farm or in a country town, you’ll also need to prepare for a grassfire.

Bushfire forecast in 2017/2018

NSW has been experiencing very dry weather conditions this year, with high temperatures and a lack of significant rainfall. Dryness acts as fuel for a fire and the amount of fire activity in 2017 has doubled compared with 2016. Since July, there has been more than 5,000 fires across NSW. And some of these fires lasted for several weeks.

The most at-risk areas in NSW include forested areas along the coast, some inland areas, and the North-West of the state. As for the rest of Australia, high-risk areas include coastal and inland areas, and central Australia.

With summer almost upon us, you can expect to see more warm and hot days in the following weeks, along with windy weather. This means there’s a high possibility of more fires occurring. Firefighters predict that this upcoming bushfire season will be potentially deadly.

Create a bushfire survival plan

The RFS have many detailed resources on how to create a bushfire plan. There are four steps you should take:

  1. Have a discussion with your family about what to do if there’s a bushfire, eg will you leave early or stay and defend your property?
  2. Prepare your home for a bushfire, eg keep the grass short and have a cleared area around your home.
  3. Know the bushfire alert levels (blue, yellow, and red) and the fire danger ratings (low-moderate to catastrophic).
  4. Keep key information to stay up to date on conditions in your area, eg emergency numbers, websites, and a smartphone app.

Prepare your home

Here’s how you can prepare your home for bushfires:

  • Remove leaves and twigs from your gutters.
  • Install metal gutter guards and a fire sprinkler system.
  • Repair your roof if tiles are damaged or missing.
  • Install fine metal mesh screens on doors and windows.
  • Seal gaps in external walls, under the house, and around doors and windows.
  • Trim the grass, trees, and shrubs.
  • Remove fallen leaves, twigs, and debris from your property.
  • Have a long hose that reaches around your house.
  • Put a Static Water Supply sign on your property entrance if you have a pool, tank, or dam. This way, firefighters know they can get water from your place.
  • Check that your home and contents insurance is adequate and up to date.

Prepare yourself and your family

You and your family should also prepare yourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. A bushfire can be a scary situation. The flames, intense heat, and strong gusty winds can make you tired fast. Thick heavy smoke can choke your lungs and sting your eyes, making it hard for you to see and breathe.

The sound of roaring fire can be frightening. Embers raining down can cause spot fires around you. Your power and water supply may get cut off. You might find yourself alone in a dark, noisy environment that can be mentally and physically demanding.

If you don’t think you can cope, plan to leave early before a fire reaches your area and before you’re under threat. Children, the elderly, the disabled, and those with health problems should also leave early. It’s the safest option.

Assess your bushfire risk

You can assess your bushfire risk using the Bushfire Household Assessment Tool. You can also check if you live on bushfire prone land.

Grass fire dangers

Grasslands cover about 80% of NSW. Grass fires can start easily in pastures, paddocks, crops, and undisturbed natural grasslands. They can also move three times faster than a bushfire, which leaves you little time to get ready.

If you’re not prepared and you live on a farm or in a country town, a grassfire can cut roads and destroy your home, crops, and livelihood.

Prepare your farm and property for grass fires

Due to dry weather there’s an increased risk of grass fires this summer, so it’s important that you prepare your farm and your property for a grassfire.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Make a bushfire survival plan so you and your family know what to do when there’s a grassfire nearby.
  • Keep the grass short by mowing, grazing, or slashing it back.
  • Create firebreaks to prevent fire escaping or entering your property – mow, graze, or plough around crops, valuable assets (livestock, buildings), and fence lines.
  • Maintain your machinery to prevent them from starting fires.
  • Find a place where you can move your animals to safety.
  • Check and maintain equipment you can use to fight a fire such as hoses and pumps. However, do not attempt to control a fire on your own. Always contact your local fire service.
  • Make sure a fire truck can enter your property, eg keep gates and bridges open, and remove obstructions.
  • If you use fire on your property, go to your local Fire Control Centre and find out if you need a permit.

Teaching your family about fire safety

You can learn about fire safety at FireFacts.org. You’ll find information for parents that can help you and your family make your home safer, as well as games, activities, and colouring pages for children that help teach fire safety. With this valuable resource, you can educate your children about the dangers of fire and what to do if there’s a fire near or in your home.

If your family lives in the country, especially on a remote cattle station, you and your children can also learn some bushfire safety tips from Bushy the Bushfire Wallaby. The program is run by the Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland (RFBAQ). Here are some tips:

  • Prepare well before the bushfire season.
  • Make a plan, eg what to do and where to go if there’s a fire.
  • Clean up around the house and the property.
  • Have the firefighter ute ready with water to flow in the event there’s a fire and strong winds start to blow.
  • Have heaps of water out in the paddock, etc.
  • Put in firebreaks.

Protect your home and family from fire

Bushfires and grass fires are dangerous, so don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your property and family for a fire. With careful planning and preparing in advance, your home and family can survive a fire this summer.

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