Australians urged to prepare a bushfire survival plan ahead of 2020-21 season
The 2019-20 Australian bushfire season resulted in more than eight million hectares of land along the country’s south-eastern fringe being engulfed in flames. It left 34 people dead with a further 445 people estimated to have died from smoke induced respiratory problems.
Many bush-fire affected communities are still rebuilding their livelihoods while devastated land will take decades to recover, leading authorities to issue an early warning this year urging Australians to prepare their properties and develop an evacuation plan for the upcoming bushfire season.
Having a bushfire survival plan firmly in place includes ensuring all members of a household or workplace know what to do in an emergency, to avoid making rushed and potentially dangerous decisions at the last moment.
The seasonal bushfire outlook report for 2020-21 warns some parts of the country should expect ‘above normal’ fire conditions from as early as August. In New South Wales, the south coast will potentially face a higher than normal bushfire risk due to long-term dry conditions in areas that did not burn in the last fire season. Queensland is set to experience normal fire potential with a risk of grass fires due to growth in some areas, while Western Australia will face above normal fire conditions in parts of the Kimberley. Normal fire potential is expected for the Northern Territory as is currently expected generally for other areas of the country.
Preparing a bushfire plan involves five important steps to understand what you need to do during a fire to help save lives and protect your home.
- Know the risk of your property and location
The area you live in can influence the risk of bushfire and the type of fire you might experience. Those who live in bush areas can face hot, intense fires that throw burning embers towards a property. Those who live in grassland areas can experience fires that start easily and spread quickly, while coastal dwellers can experience hot and fast-moving scrub fires. If paddocks adjoin the home, there is a risk of fires that can burn for great distances, while fires on hills can travel at double the speed depending on the conditions.
- Discuss the risk of a bushfire and what to do if it threatens your home
For those with an established bushfire survival plan, now is the time to ensure it’s up to date. This involves assessing current circumstances and preparing your property adequately. All occupants of the home should understand the bushfire response plan, be aware of the escape routes and ideally practice the evacuation plan quarterly. If you are not capable of making bushfire preparations for your property and family, including young, elderly, less mobile or infirm people, there are resources such as AIDER that offer a service to help you prepare and provide advice. It’s also important to check whether firefighting equipment, such as extinguishers and fire blankets, are well maintained and those with access to the equipment have the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to use them.
- Prepare your home and be bushfire ready
As more homes are built on the outer urban fringes, near bushland, an increasing number of homeowners will be required to plan for a possible bushfire. There are many things that can help limit the impact of bushfire damage to the home, such as keeping up with general housekeeping and maintenance around the property. Trimming overhanging trees and shrubs, mowing the grass, removing material that can burn around the home, clearing surrounding debris and preparing for a reliable water source is also critical – don’t leave it to the last minute.
Homes in bushfire prone areas with access to a water source can also equip themselves to tackle spot fires and ember attacks using GAAM Fire Defender.
This portable, reliable and easy to use domestic firefighting pump connects to a water source, such as a swimming pool, water tank or nearby dam, to help fight fire. The GAAM Fire Defender comes as a complete package with a 30 metre delivery hose, a 6 metre hard suction hose, a 240 litre capacity pump and a 4-stroke petrol engine. The unit can be mobilised quickly and easily to help protect the home during intense periods when firefighters can be stretched to capacity.
GAAM also provides the WASP Wildfire Protection Base Kit, another invaluable product that can help protect homes from fire. Many structures burn from the roof down due to windblown embers prevalent during wildfire emergencies. The WASP patented gutter mount unit features sprinklers that wet the roof and surrounding roof top areas with a 360 degree continuous spray. If a fire is approaching, the device is easy to deploy within seconds by attaching a sprinkler to the gutter using any household painting pole or a broom handle.
GAAM has been supplying equipment to Australian firefighters since 1933 and is the name they rely on to safely undertake their daily operations with our state emergency services teams relying on GAAM fire pumps, hoses, valves, and nozzles each bushfire season.
- Know the bush fire alert levels and what to do
It’s also important to know the level of bushfire risk in your area. Understanding the Bureau of Meteorology and emergency services ‘Fire Danger Ratings’, which can vary from low-moderate to catastrophic, the difference of each rating and how to act at each level, is crucial.
When a fire does occur, there are three levels of Bush Fire Alerts that provide an indication of the bushfire threat level. A great place to keep up to date with current warnings and alerts in place at any given time across Australia is the ABC Emergency website, which publishes accurate information and warnings from official emergency services sources.
- Have information ready at hand
To keep informed of all the developments in your area, there are many platforms and services to keep you and everyone nearby safe.
From the convenience of your mobile, downloading the Fires Near Me mobile app in NSW, and subscribing to feeds from Australian Fire Services, provides the latest bushfire warnings and incident information using fire incident map data.
- QLD Rural Fire Service
- NT Fire and Rescue Service
- South Australian Country Fire Service
- NSW Rural Fire Service
- Emergency WA
- Emergency VIC
In an emergency, relying on several different communication channels is recommended including emergency services websites, information lines, and your local ABC radio station.
For more tips and resources about bushfire safety, see Wormald’s Preparing for bushfires: Safety checklist. To update your fire emergency equipment, contact our team on 133 166.