Bushfires are something that as Australians we must all contend with and should be ready for! From creating a fire plan to packing an emergency kit, we provide essential tips to help you protect yourself and your loved ones during fire season.
Every Australian knows, bushfires should not be taken lightly. What was once limited to a specific 'summer season' has now become an unpredictable occurrence throughout the year, largely due to global climate change.
Despite Australians experiencing the impact of a third consecutive La Nina season and witnessing signs of El Nino's return, the risk of bushfires remains ever-present. Sweltering summers and dry, windy winters result in an abundance of dead leaves, dry grass, and trees, all contributing to the fire risk. Moreover, these fires can occur anywhere, at any time.
Let's explore fire preparation and management to ensure you are fully equipped to handle bushfires.
Australia’s indigenous people have been carrying out traditional fire management of this land for many thousands of years. It was only with the arrival of the English, and the subsequent removal of people from their traditional lands, that their extremely successful fire management practices stopped. The clearing of lands, white settlements in fire-prone areas and the removal of traditional practices saw the emergence of uncontrollable bushfires in the twentieth century.
Thankfully, over the last few decades in some areas, and especially after the devastating Black Summer fires of 2019/2020, there’s been more attention paid to traditional fire management with calls to include Indigenous Elders in discussions around fire control.
So, what are some of the ways you can ensure your property is prepared for fire season.
While not strictly preparing your home for fires, understanding the new nationally consistent Australian Fire Danger Rating System (AFDRS), rolled out on September 1, 2022, is important. The AFDRS website tells us:
Australia’s fire danger rating system has been improved and simplified to make it easier for you to make decisions to stay safe on days of fire danger risk.
Across the country, fire and emergency services are applying nationally consistent colours, signs and terminology. This means that wherever you go in Australia, and whatever the season or bushfire fuels you’re surrounded by, you can understand the level of threat and what you need to do to stay safe.
As a country prone to the kind of bushfires that threaten life and property on an almost annual basis, this consistent signage is a most welcome and timely update. Please ensure you’re familiar with the sign and what the colours mean.
Did you know ember attacks are the most common reason buildings ignite during a bushfire? Countless studies, reports and anecdotal evidence over many years has shown these tiny, little flying missiles are more likely than flames to set your home on fire. And we’ve all seen television footage showing them travelling many kilometres ahead of a fire making the danger almost invisible but nonetheless, very real.
Do you know what embers love? Convenient dry fuel sitting in gutters and around your house. Keeping your home in tip-top shape, and your garden and yard free from any debris that could become bushfire fuel is the responsibility of all good homeowners. It’s easy enough to do by paying attention to your ongoing home and property maintenance. Be sure to remove leaves, rubbish, grass and anything else that could easily catch fire. Clear vegetation and trees and keep your gutter clear of debris!
Aside from keeping your home in good condition, maintenance is a home owners responsibility and critical factor should you need to make an insurance claim (it’s a key policy condition). Remember, no fuel, no fire!
If you live in a bush fire prone area, you should have a fire escape plan in place with every member of your household aware of what will happen and when. Know which route you’ll take and where you intend to go. Do you know where your local evacuation points are?
Have alternate routes available and make decisions early about what you’ll take with you. Not sure what to do next? Visit My Fire Plan for help creating your own plan.
With your fire plan in place, stay aware and alert if fires are approaching. Don’t assume you’ll be okay if fires are many kilometres away because embers can fly far ahead causing spot fires to flare up.
Download apps such as the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Fires Near Me and other reputable news apps to keep up to date with local fire conditions. Listen to local radio stations for information and directives.
If directed to leave, listen to and heed the advice of the emergency crews. If you plan to stay and defend your property, understand the risks you’re taking.
When it comes to preparing for bushfires, packing an emergency kit is a vital. In addition to food, water, and important documents, a first aid kit should also be included. This kit should contain items such as bandages, antiseptic, and medications for any pre-existing medical conditions. It's also important to regularly check the expiration dates of the items in your kit and replace any expired items. By having a well-stocked emergency kit including a first aid kit, you can ensure that you're prepared for any unexpected injuries or health issues that may arise while escaping a bushfire.
Making sure your home and contents policy is current is important because, for all the preparation you do and the care you take, each year ordinary Aussies lose their homes to bushfires. You policy can also give you the peace of mind knowing exactly what you’re insured for, any applicable excesses and even the relief that, should the very worst happen, you may be covered for temporary accommodation. You can even take a look at the MHIA Product Disclosure Statements (PDS) anytime.
Keep your insurance documents with your other important documents, so you can grab them easily if you need to evacuate. You’ll need the details if you need to call your insurer to lodge a claim.
Bushfires are a fact of life living in this beautiful country, especially if you live in dense bushland. Prepare yourself and your property ahead of time, know what you plan to do and of course, have your home and contents insurance policy in place.