Due to Australia’s hot and dry climate means that bushfires are sadly a common occurrence. Although bushfires can occur at any time of the year, the danger is during the warmer seasons of Summer and Spring. If you live in a high-risk bushfire area, it is your responsibility to reduce the risk to your family and property. While you may not be able to control the weather and climate, there are things that can be done to reduce potential damage.
Understanding your risk:
Where you live or where your business is based is one of the things that determine if you are at risk of a bushfire, and what kind of fire you might experience. Thinking about the area you live in is important.
Bush – If you live in an area that’s close to or surrounded by bush you are at high risk. Bushfire can be hot, intense and throw burning ashes towards your home.
Grasslands – If you live in an area where grasslands meet built-up area or homes, you are also at risk. Grass fires can start easily and spread quickly.
Coastal – If you live along the coast and near scrub, you are at risk. Fires in the coastal scrub are known to move fast.
Paddocks – If you live on a farm or near paddocks, you are at risk. Fires can spread quickly over great distances.
On a hill – If you live at the top of a hill, you are at risk of a bushfire. Fires tend to travel uphill faster. For every 10 degrees of slope, the fire can spread double in speed.
Catastrophic bushfires claim hundreds of properties every year, destroying homes, properties and belongings of many Australians. With extended dry spells already occurring this year, fire authorities are warning of an early and extremely dangerous fire season ahead. Below the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) have provided simple steps to help ensure you are in the best position possible should you be faced with the threat of an approaching bushfire.
What will you do if you were to potentially face a bushfire? Get the whole household together and discuss your plan.
One of the most important things to do before a bushfire is to decide what you’ll do if one should start. This guide can help you make that decision, and assist you with the steps in preparing yourself, your home and your family.
Leave early, this is your safest choice:
When will you leave?
What will be your sign to leave? It could be smoke in your area, or as soon as you find out there’s a fire near you.
Where will you go?
Where’s a meeting place that’s safe and away from a fire area? It might be a friend or relative’s place, or even a shopping centre.
How will you get there?
What road will you take? What’s your backup plan in case the road is blocked?
What will you take?
Make a list of what you’ll take in the event of a fire. Remember to include pets, identification and irreplaceable items like photos or documents.
Who will you call to tell that you’re leaving and that you have arrived safely?
Be sure to get in contact with close friends or relatives to let them know you are safe.
What is your backup plan?
What if things don’t go to plan? Identify a safer location nearby such as a neighbour’s home that is well prepared, or place of last resort. Is there a Neighbourhood Safe Place nearby?
Neighbourhood Safe Places are a place of last resort, such as a sports ground or local building that has been specially identified for use during a fire.
If you decide to stay put, make sure you are well prepared:
Before you start, ask your household:
- Is your home well prepared to make it as safe as possible during a fire?
- Are we putting anyone in our family at risk by staying?
- Will we cope in an emergency situation? In a fire, it will be hot, smoky and physically draining. Even trained firefighters can find it challenging.
Do you have all the equipment you need?
Be sure to have a hose that can reach your house, sufficient water supply, petrol/diesel water pump, ladders, buckets, shovels, etc. On top of this, investing in protective clothing such as eye protection, face masks, etc. is also important.
When there is a fire, what is your sign to start defending your home?
It could be as soon as you find out there’s a fire near you. Do not wait for an official warning.
Do you know what to do BEFORE, DURING and AFTER a fire?
Be sure to study the checklist below.
It’s not safe to stay with your property under the circumstance, like:
- If the fire danger rating is catastrophic
- There is an extreme fire danger rating and your home is not specially designed or constructed for bushfires
- Your property is not well maintained
- You or the people in your home aren’t mentally and physically fit and ready.
- Prepare your home and get ready
There are some simple things you can do around your home to prepare it for a bushfire. You need to prepare well beforehand as leaving it to the last minute can be too late.
- Trim overhanging trees and shrubs. This can stop the fire spreading to your home.
- Mow grass and remove the cuttings. Have a cleared area around your home.
- Remove material that can burn around your home or business. (e.g. Door mats, wood piles, mulch, leaves, paint, outdoor furniture)
- Clear and remove debris and leaves from the gutters surrounding your property. Burning embers can set your home on fire.
- Prepare a sturdy hose or hoses that will reach all around your home. Make sure you have a reliable water source.
- Know the bushfire alert levels
Before a fire even starts, monitor the Fire Danger Ratings daily. The higher the rating, the more likely a fire will come.
SEVERE – You can stay home only if you are well prepared and ready to defend it.
EXTREME – Only stay home if you are prepared for the very highest level and your home is specially built to survive a bushfire.
CATASTROPHIC – Is as bad as it can get, no homes are built to withstand fire in these conditions. Leaving early is your only safe option.
- Keep Key Information
In a bushfire, it’s important that you stay up to date on conditions in your area. The NSW RFS strongly advises saving these numbers, links and apps now.
For more information, contact your local fire station or fire control centre. For more information visit the Fire and Rescue NSW website.
On top of these steps, it is vital that you keep your home and contents insurance up to date. It is important to contact your broker to make sure you are covered against a bushfire, especially if you live in a high-risk area. We would recommend that you prepare a room-by-room inventory of everything you own inside and outside your house and then ensure your sum insured value if sufficient to replace your property in the event of the bushfire. Make sure that you regularly review your home and contents insurance with your broker to ensure that the policy you have matches your needs. Every Summer carries with it an inherent bushfire risk, therefore having a policy that protects your property assets in a bushfire is crucial.
If you are uncertain about your current level of insurance cover, talk to your East West Insurance Broker to ensure you hold an insurance policy appropriate to your needs.