5 ways to stay safe this bushfire season
The bushfire outlook for southern Australia, particularly the east and west coasts and stemming inland, is looking grim this season. As the days grow warmer and the conditions continue to get dryer, the need for having a bushfire emergency plan in place is critical. If you, or loved ones, live close to bushland, forests, long grass or coastal scrub, you must have an emergency plan in place, and well-rehearsed.
…or do as this author did, and sell up and move to a safer spot and enjoy summer!
5 ways to keep safe this bushfire season
- Landscape to reduce fuel for fires
Careful planning of your home's surrounds, can help reduce the effects of a fire on your house. This includes plant selection, garden bed placement, storage of flammables, and proximity of trees and shrubs.
According to the Country Fire Authority (CFA), garden design should be focused around these four principles:
- the creation of defendable space
- the removal of flammable objects from around the house
- spacing out plants to slow down the fuelling of a fire
- careful selection, location and maintenance of trees.
To help you plan, the CFA has some handy ‘Landscaping for Bushfire’ resources. Visit CFA Vic > Plan Prepare > Landscaping
- Clear your yard and home of all unnecessary plant matter: dead or alive
Starting from the highest point of your property, down, clear all dead leaves and vegetation starting with your gutters. If you haven’t started doing this yet, plan it for this weekend. Reducing potential fuel from around your home can help keep your home safe in a bush fire or grass fire. The number one rule is, if it is dry and crackles or crunches – it must go!
Just as importantly, you need to clear trees, branches and shrubs from close proximity to your home. Check with your local council as to the regulations around clearing trees, branches and vegetation from your home.
- Check all external taps, hoses and fittings
Make sure that all external taps and hoses are in great working order. If it has been a while since you’ve replaced your hose or fittings, and they’re looking fragile, it is time to replace them.
- Write your bushfire survival plan down: share and practice
Thinking clearly in an emergency is not a skill that you can count on. Documenting your bushfire emergency plan in consultation with the rest of your household and practicing it before putting the written plan in a safe spot, will help ensure everyone is clear on what needs to happen in the event of a bushfire emergency.
Guidelines from the CFA are that your plan should clearly communicate actions:
- before the bushfire season
- during the bushfire season
- leading up to fire risk days
- supporting your back up plan.
To make it easier and ensure you’re covering all the essentials in your plan, the CFA has made a Bushfire Survival Planning Template available on its website. Visit CFA Vic > Plan Prepare > Your Bushfire Plan.
- Be ready to leave early: before a fire starts
In a high-risk fire area, making a commitment to leave before a fire even starts – on high risk days – is the safest decision for everyone. Depending on wind and other conditions, what may feel like a distant threat of a fire can get scarily close, swiftly. Driving in, or near, fires is extremely dangerous and often not even possible.
Remember that staying and defending, doesn’t just put your household at risk, but the lives of emergency services personnel and other concerned community members too.
Helpful emergency preparation related references and resources
In Victoria, all online resources point back to our CFA. Your first stop for information about preparing for bushfire season should be the CFA.
Country Fire Authority > Plan Prepare > Your bushfire plan: the basics
Victorian State Government | Environment, Land, Water and Planning > osom.vic.gov.au > an up to date list of all fire incidents and planned burns for Victoria