Here are the necessary steps to take in the event of a bushfire that’s close to home.
Recent Australian bushfires have burnt across approximately 18.6million hectares, destroyed just under 6000 buildings and has killed an estimated one billion animals, and pushing some species to the brink of extinction.
Bushfires are a natural part of the Australian environment and although you may not live near bushland, it’s a good idea to at least have a plan of action in the event of.
Whether you decide to defend and protect your home or have to do the unthinkable and leave it all behind, these essential tips are here to help reduce risk to your family and home.
What to prepare before a bushfire
- Regularly clean leaves and debris from gutters, the roof and downpipes.
- Install high-quality metal gutter guards.
- If you live near fire-prone bushland, consider installing a well insulated garage door with reflective foil backing and fire retardant.
- Install steel mesh screens on all windows, doors, vents and weep holes and avoid plastic fly screens on windows and doors.
- Remove any flammable materials and keep your backyard tidy and clean.
- If you do have any flammable materials such as woodpiles, paper, boxes, garden furniture and other flammable items, relocate them away from your home.
- Install a garden hose that is long enough to reach around the perimeter of your property.
- Make sure all LPG cylinders installed have the pressure relief valve facing outwards and away from your house.
- Make sure all family members know where the community evacuation area is.
- If you have a swimming pool, put a Static Water Sign at the front of your property. Contact your local fire station for more information.
- Develop a written bushfire survival plan and discuss it with family members.
Defending your home from a bushfire
- Put on protective clothing — long sleeved shirts, long trousers, broad brim hat, goggles, leather boots and gloves. Avoid anything synthetic.
- Fill up all water storages inside the home, including baths, sinks and buckets
- Fill up external water storages wherever possible.
- Roll out hoses, check pumps, fill up backpack sprayers and test sprinkler systems.
- Close all windows and doors to prevent smoke, flames and embers entering your home.
- Place wet woollen blankets or cotton towels around the inside of windows and doors to prevent smoke and embers from entering.
- Close all window shutters.
- Turn off your air conditioning system to avoid smoke and embers being drawn into it.
- Block downpipes and fill gutters with water.
- Park cars in the driveway facing the street.
- Make sure all pets are safely contained inside.
- Keep a battery-powered radio nearby incase the power, telephone or mobile reception is cut off.
- Monitor Emergency WA for the latest updates and advice.
- Hose down the roof, external walls and garden area that are facing the fire.
- If you start to notice embers flying around, turn on the sprinkler system if you have one.
- Continue to patrol your property for embers and extinguishing as they land, providing it’s safe to do so.
- Keep an emergency bushfire kit ready — first aid kit, spare batteries, portable torch, any required medications, and plenty of drinking water.
- Keep all valuable items and documents in a metal cabinet, packed and ready to go.
- Drink plenty of cool water, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
If you decide to leave your home in the event of a bushfire
- Close all windows and doors, and fill up water all water storages inside the home, including sinks, baths and buckets.
- Move all outdoor furniture away from the house.
- Pack food, plenty of drinking water and your emergency bushfire kit.
- Take all your valuable items and documents, which have been packed and ready to go.
- Close doors and windows, fill sinks with water and move outdoor furniture away from the house.
- Switch off main gas supply and air conditioning systems.
- Make sure everyone is wearing protective clothing.
- Discuss a back-up plan, including where you will stay if it is unsafe to return to your home.
- When seeking shelter, find your local place of last resort, could be a ploughed paddock or beach, dam or river.
- Radiant heat can be potentially fatal, make sure there is a solid object such as a concrete wall between you and the fire.
Returning home after the bushfire has passed
Although the fire has passed, you are not completely out of the woods yet. If you are returning home, exercise extreme caution as there’s no telling what was burning around your property. Authorities recommend staying away from the area until you have been advised it is safe to do so. High levels of radiant heat can be dangerous and potentially fatal, so we recommend continuing wearing your protective clothing and keeping hydrated.
- If you have your portable radio, stay tuned in to ABC radio station or check the Department of Fire and Emergency Services for information and updates.
- Actively patrol your property for any embers hours after the fire has passed. Make sure to check:
- Roof lines and gutters
- Garden beds
- Around outdoor furniture
- Sheds and carports
- Verandahs, alfresco areas and decking
- Window ledges and door sills
- Continue to water down the outside of your home, including the roof, external walls, and garden areas.