Bush fire safety in four simple steps

THINK AHEAD: There are some simple things you can do around your home to prepare for bush fire season, like cleaning gutters.
THINK AHEAD: There are some simple things you can do around your home to prepare for bush fire season, like cleaning gutters.

Getting ready for a bush fire is easier than you think. By taking 20 minutes with your family to discuss what you'll do during a fire, you could save their lives, as well as your home.

Where you live is one of the things that determines if both you and your home are at risk of bush fire, and what kind of fire you might experience. Think about the area you live in:

Bush - if you live in an area that's close to or surrounded by bush, you're at risk. Bush fires can be hot, intense and throw burning embers towards your home.

Grasslands - if you live in an area where grasslands meet built up areas or homes, you're at risk. Grass fires can start easily and spread quickly.

Coastal - if you live along the coast near scrub, you're at risk. Fires in coastal scrub can be hot and move fast.

Paddocks - if you live on a farm or near paddocks, you're at risk. Fires can spread quickly over great distances.

On a hill - if you live at the top of a hill, you're at risk. Fires travel uphill faster. For every 10 degrees of slope, the fire can double in speed.

It's your responsibility to prepare yourself, your home and your family. There are four simple steps to get ready for a bush fire:

  1. Discuss - what to do if a bush fire threatens your home.
  2. Prepare - your home and get it ready for bush fire season.
  3. Know - the bush fire alert levels.
  4. Keep - all the bush fire information numbers., websites, and the smart phone app.

Step 1: Discuss

What will you do in a bush fire? Plan now. Get the whole household together and discuss your plan.

One of the most important things to do before a bush fire is to decide what you'll do if one should start. The information here can help you make that decision, and assist you with the steps in preparing yourself, your home and your family. Talk about the following points and write them down in your bush fire plan.

Leaving early is your safest choice.

When will we 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 we 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 we get there? What road will you take? What's your backup plan in case the road is blocked?

If you decide to stay, you need to be prepared. Defending your home from a bush fire can be challenging and you will need the right equipment. Check off all the equipment you will need in a bush fire emergency.

Remember while firefighters and emergency services will do everything they can to help you, there is no guarantee that there will be a fire truck available when you need it. If you decide to stay with your property, it's your responsibility to be prepared.

You will need firefighting equipment such as hoses, at least 10,000L water supply, and protective clothing, like eye protection, gloves, etc.

If you are staying with your property, you should also have an action checklist for before, during and after the fire.

Season starts early: Now is the time for residents and land managers to start preparing for the threat of bush fire.

Season starts early: Now is the time for residents and land managers to start preparing for the threat of bush fire.

Step 2: Prepare

There are some things you can do around your home to prepare for bush fire season. You need to prepare well beforehand, as leaving it to the last minute is too late. Here are simple things you can do:

  • 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, e.g. door mats, wood piles, mulch, leaves, paint, outdoor furniture.
  • Clear - and remove debris and leaves from the gutters surrounding your home. 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 source of water.

There are further things you can do to more permanently protect your home, including blocking areas where embers can enter, installing metal flyscreens, installing metal gutter guards, positioning gas cylinders on the side of the house away from trees and garden, directing pressure valves away from the house, moving garden beds away from house, replacing wooden fences with metal and using stones instead of mulch.

There's also additional tasks for if you live on a rural property, including removing overhanging branches from power lines, ensuring a fire tanker can access the property, clearing fire breaks along paddock boundaries, storing petrol, diesel and gas away from the home, keeping a well-maintained area around the home and sheds, placing water pipes from dams underground and install pump to the house, making sure hoses have spray nozzles and keeping water tanks full and connect to pumps.

Step 3: Know

If there's a fire in your area, you will find its alert level on the NSW RFS website, on the radio and the Fires Near Me app. Keep track of the alert level, so you know what to do.

Advice - A fire has started. There is no immediate danger. Stay up to date in case the situation changes.

Watch and act - There is a heightened level of threat. Conditions are changing and you need to start taking action to protect you and your family.

Emergency warning - The highest level of bush fire alert. You may be in danger and need to take action immediately. Any delay now puts your life at risk.

Before a fire even starts, monitor the Fire Danger Ratings daily at rfs.nsw.gov.au/fdr. The higher the rating, the more dangerous a fire is likely to be.

When it's severe you should only stay if your home is well prepared and you are ready to defend it.

At extreme, only stay if your home is prepared to the very highest level and is specially built to survive a bush fire.

Catastrophic is as bad as it gets. No homes are built to withstand a fire in these conditions. Leaving early is your only safe option.

Step 4: Keep

In a bush fire, it's important that you stay up to date on conditions in your area. The NSW Rural Fire Service strongly advises saving these numbers, links and apps now.

  • In an emergency call Triple Zero (000)
  • For information on bush fire, call the Bush Fire Information Line 1800 NSW RFS (1800 679 737)
  • NSW Rural Fire Service website: rfs.nsw.gov.au
  • Fire Danger Ratings: rfs.nsw.gov.au/fdr
  • Fires Near Me - free smart phone app
  • Local radio, local ABC/emergency broadcaster frequency, TV, newspapers
  • facebook.com/nswrfs
  • twitter.com/nswrfs
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