CGU – Managing your Fire Risks this Bushfire Season
Do not forget the devastation of the Victorian Bushfires
Check the ABC Emergency site
Prepare a Bushfire Emergency Plan
Before a Bushfire – be prepared
- Fire agencies recommend that you develop a written bushfire survival plan and discuss this with your family
- Know the Fire Danger Ratings and what they mean. Use them as your trigger to stay or leave the area
- Consider moving children, the elderly and people with illness or disability as well as animals from danger as early as possible
- If you live in or intend to travel to a high risk bushfire area, know the location of the nearest bushfire safer place, meeting point or evacuation centre and how to get there
- Check the frequency of the nearest ABC Local Radio station using our frequency finder, to stay up to date with the latest conditions and fire danger rating
- Don’t wait and see. It’s extremely dangerous to leave after there are signs of fire in your area. Come up with a plan to decide when to leave your home, where you will go and how you will get there.
- Always notify your family and friends of your plans and intensions to stay or go
- Make sure your bushfire survival kit ready and you know of its location
Watch this helpful video
If you decided to leave your home, make sure you:
- Close doors and windows, fill spouts with water and move outdoor furniture away from the house
- Pack food, water and your survival kit in your car, adding any final items
- Turn off mains gas supply
- Take your list of contacts to inform them of your departure and destination
- Develop a back-up plan, including where you will shelter if you have not left early and it is unsafe to leave. This is a dangerous situation and you must know where you will seek shelter from radiant heat.
- Establish the location and route to your closest Neighbourhood Safer Place. Neighbourhood Safer Places are places of last resort. They may save your life but they do not guarantee safety.
- If you are able, identify several exits to ensure you can leave safely if your planned route is blocked.
- Make sure you are wearing protective clothing, as this is critical to shield you from deadly radiant heat.
If you decide to stay and defend your home:
- Fire agencies say defending your home requires at least two able-bodied, fit and determined adults
- Both adults need to be sure they’re physically and mentally prepared to work in difficult conditions
- Homes in an area with a Code Red or Catastrophic fire danger rating are difficult to defend, even if well prepared
- You should ensure your home is fully prepared by following a guide like this prepared by the Country Fire Authority in Victoria. You should ring your state’s fire authority and ask for an assessment or advice.
- It’s recommended that you have 10,000 litres of water for fire fighting purposes, as well as a fire fighting pump and hoses
- Other equipment needed includes a water sprayer, bucket, mop, shovel, torch and battery powered radio
- Ensure you have adequate protective clothing, as outlined in the survival kit. Radiant heat is biggest killer in a fire
If you are travelling:
- Find out what bushfire safety plans are in place in the area where you are camping, caravanning or rented accommodation.
- Know the most up-to-date Fire Danger Rating in the area where you are staying in for holiday or work by tuning in to your ABC Local Radio station
- Find the nearest Neighbourhood Safer Place when you are staying in a high risk bushfire area
- Know alternative routes to leave your destination
- Plan activities carefully on hot, dry and windy days. Contact the Visitor Information Centres for safe tourist activities and locations
- Pack your own emergency survival kit and have it accessible at all times.
During a Bushfire
Travelling in a bushfire
Driving during a bushfire is a last resort. It will take longer than you expect and road conditions can become dangerous. There may be road closures, smoke, fallen trees and embers.
Cars are a very dangerous place to be during a bushfire as they offer very little protection from radiant heat. If you get caught on the road, this is a very dangerous situation.
- Park behind a solid structure to block as much heat as you can. If this is not possible, then pull over to the side of the road into a clear area, well away from debris that may ignite
- Wind up your car windows, close the vents, put on your hazard lights and headlights, leave the engine running and air conditioning on recirculate
- Get down as low as possible below window level
- Cover up with a woollen blanket until the fire front passes. If you have water, drink it
- Get out of the car only once the fire has passed
If defending your home:
- As soon as there is a fire in your area, everyone defending your home should wear protective clothing
- Make sure all cars, farm equipment, caravans and portable gas cylinders are moved away from the house
- Also remove door mats, outdoor furniture, pot plants and all other flammable items away from your home
- Ensure the mains gas supply is switched off, switch off air conditioning units and gas cylinders should be kept upright with their relief valve away from the building
- Fill the gutters with water and wet down around the building. Keep a supply of wet towels and rags nearby
- Windows and doors should be closed and wet towels used to fill gaps under doors
- It’s recommended that you shelter inside until the fire front passes, but still patrol for embers and extinguish them on landing
- If you house catches alight, close the door to the room behind you. Never get caught in a room without an exit and if you must go outside, move onto burnt ground as soon as possible
If you need to seek shelter during a fire due to a sudden change in your bushfire survival plans, fire agencies say the main priority is sheltering from radiant heat, which is produced by the fire.
- It’s recommended you seek shelter in a well-prepared home that can be actively defended, from a private bunker that built to regulation or at a community shelter or refuge
- If sheltering in a building, make sure you have a point of exit in every room of the shelter
- Maintain visibility so you know what’s happening outside with the fire
- Always take your bushfire survival kit and wear protective clothing to provide extra protection from radiant heat
- Leaving when a bushfire has arrived is extremely dangerous and deadly but if you have no other option you can go to your local place of last resort, a ploughed paddock or the beach, dam or river, but don’t shelter in water tanks.
- Radiant heat can be blocked by a solid object such as a concrete wall or building, which creates a barrier between you and the fire
- Always inform family and friends of your movements
Bushfires and radiant heat
- The hotter, drier and windier the day, the more intense a bushfire will be and the more radiant heat it will generate
- Being outdoors during a bushfire means you risk exposure to radiant heat
- The radiant heat from a bushfire can kill a human without flames ever touching them
- Radiant heat kills very quickly. The human body cannot absorb large amounts of radiant heat or withstand extremely high temperatures
- Radiant heat causes death from heat stroke where the body’s cooling system fails, leading to heat exhaustion and heart failure
- Ensure that you continue to stay cool and keep sipping water to stay hydrated
- If someone is affected by heat stroke, move them to a shaded area and try to cool them down. Call 000 and seek assistance immediately.
During an emergency, only if it is safe to do so, contact your ABC Local Radio station to tell the listeners what you can see. This will help the community with first hand and reliable knowledge about what’s going on. Keep our phone number handy.
After a Bushfire
- Stay listening to your ABC Local Radio station for updates and instructions from emergency agencies
- If you have evacuated, do not return home until you are advised it is safe to do so.
- For those who have stayed and defended their homes, continue to wear your protective clothing and patrol your property for embers, hours after the fire front has passed
- Call your family and friends to let them know you are safe
- If you’re worried about the location of friends or family, ring the National Registration and Inquiry System on 1300 993 191 rather than contacting local police stations. International enquiries for the NRIS can be made at + 61 7 3055 6220.
- If your home is unsafe to occupy after a fire, notify your local police and check with your insurance company whether you can claim temporary housing expenses or obtain an advance on your eventual settlement.
- It is the owner’s responsibility to secure a site following a fire. Make sure outside doors can be locked and that openings are covered against weather and entry. If you are the occupier, contact your landlord or real estate agent and inform them of the fire.
- If you need professional assistance in boarding up the premises, contact a general contractor in your area to assist you.
- Your Local Fire Service will help secure the premises until responsibility can be handed over to the owner/occupier or insurance company where possible.
- Food, beverages and medicines exposed to heat and smoke should be discarded.
- Remember to let friends, family and neighbours in your community know your new or temporary address and contact details.
- After a fire, contact your Insurance Broker or your insurance company as soon as possible to inform them of any loss or damages. If you are not insured, your recovery will depend upon your own resources and assistance that may be available from government or non-government agencies.
- Services such as telephones and supply of water, electricity and gas may be affected by the bush fire.
- After a fire, if your house is damaged, your local Fire Service will contact local council, gas and fuel, and the electricity authority to disconnect services as required.
- If any services have been disconnected, it is the owner’s responsibility to have the service checked and re-connected by the utility service provider. Do not attempt to reconnect services yourself.
This has been provided courtesy of the ABC.