BSB 806 015

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BSB 806 015

Getting your home bushfire ready

Preparing your home for a bushfire

When it comes to protecting your home and family from bushfire, preparation is absolutely essential.

Preparation starts outside your home with your garden layout.

  • Avoid having plants close to your house and instead, reduce vegetation so there is a gap between your home, sheds or garages and shrubs or trees.
  • Keep trees well-spaced, pruned, and your property clear of organic litter like loose leaves and grass cuttings during fire season.
  • Consider constructing a stone wall, earth barrier or fence around the house as a heat shield if you live in a particularly bushfire prone area.

Prepare your home for bushfire season

Bushfire preparation maintenance checklist

  • The best wall surfaces are non-flammable, but if you have a timber house you can use a fire retardant sealant on the external cladding or paintwork.
  • Metal fly screens on windows protect against flying embers and you can also use metal mesh to block external vents and openings. Door and window seals help fireproof your home, too.
  • Enclose areas under floors and decks, and gaps under verandas or balconies.
  • Check and replace damaged or missing roof tiles, clear gutters of leaves and twigs, and install metal gutter guards.
  • Take special care with any flammable fuel on your property. The vent pipes for LPG cylinders should be directed away from the house; fuel supplies and chemicals should be stored away from houses, in a clearly marked shed.

Pre-pack for an emergency

All state based emergency services advise having an emergency survival kit packed before bushfire season begins. Essentials include:

  • Portable battery-operated radio and waterproof torch with spare batteries
  • Candles and waterproof matches,
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Pocket knife and woolen blankets
  • A least 3 litres of water per person.
  • A list of emergency contact numbers
  • Waterproof bags ready for valuables, cash and ATM or credit cards, medications, and toiletries
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Change of clothes for everyone

This is also the time to pack any sentimental items so that they can be easily found and taken with you if you have to leave quickly. Put the kit in an accessible location the whole family knows about.

Have an evacuation plan in place

Draw up an evacuation plan for family and pets that designates an assembly point, responsibilities, and transport. Not everyone responds calmly in a crisis, so regular practice of the evacuation drill with the whole family is important preparation.

If you need assistance devising an evacuation plan, Country Fire Authorities has this helpful bushfire action plan template.

Invest in your safety

If you live in a bushfire-prone area, these additions are recommended for your home:

  • The entry to your property is at least three metres wide with clear access and turnaround space for a firefighting vehicle.
  • Independent access to a 5,000 litres-plus water supply such as a tank, dam or swimming pool. You can’t rely on mains water being available in the event of a fire.
  • Installation of a sprinkler system to keep your house and property wetted down at times of danger. Seek professional advice for the best configuration.
  • Garden hoses should have metal fittings and be long enough to reach all parts of your house.
  • Well-secured metal roofing is the best choice for your buildings; a tiled roof should be lined with fire-resistant insulation, while skylight covers should be wire-reinforced glass or thermo-plastic.

Australian bushfire danger ratings and advice

The colourful semi-circle has been a familiar sight along Australian roads for decades, but it was only in 2009 that all Australian states and territories adopted a uniform Fire Danger Rating (FDR) system.

Bushfire ratings

Each of the six colour-coded sections calibrates a range of data and forecasting from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) as well as localised factors like fuel load and terrain.

Getting familiar with what they mean, and how best to respond, can be life saving. 

Low to moderate: Controlled burning by authorities may occur at hte right conditions. Homes can provide shelter from smoke haze.

High: Be aware of how fires start and reduce risk around your home. Check your bushfire survival plan. Remain alert.

Very high: Hot, dry and windy conditions. If a fire starts it may be hard for fire fighters to control. Be ready to evacuate for safer ground.

Severe: Very hot, dry and windy conditions. A fire will be unpredictable and spot fires from embers will move quickly. Only stay to actively defend property if you are prepared to the highest level and your home has been designed to withstand bushfire. Otherwise leave without delay.

Extreme: A fire front will be unpredictable, fast moving and difficult for fire fighters to gain control. Embers will come from many directions. Leave without delay for a safter area, avoiding long grass and forested areas.

Catastrophic: A fire front will be large, unpredictable and almost impossible for firefightsers to regain control until cooler conditions prevail. Spot fires will start well ahead of the main fire front and spread rapidly. Homes are not constructed to withstand these conditions. Leave immediately at the issue of this warning. Do not wait and see.

Remember, preparing for a bushfire can save you, your family, your property and your livelihood.

Check your insurance covers you for all bushfire eventualities including rebuilding, smoke and water damage, and vehicle loss or damage.

It is advised to consult your state fire and emergency services for further information. This article should be used as a guide only.

REFERENCES

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