Prepare for an Emergency - Prepare your home, yourself and family

Most of the information below is extracted from the NSW Rural Fire Service website:  https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/

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Know your risk

Living with the bush is part of living in New South Wales – but so is living with the risk of fire.

A bush or grass fire can happen at any time of the year but the risk is higher during the warmer months, when bush, grass or scrub is drier.

You don't have to live right near the bush to be at risk. Even if your home is a few streets back, you may be at risk.

Check if you live on Bush Fire Prone Land.

Grasslands cover approximately 80% of New South Wales.

There is an increased risk of grass fires this summer. It is important that you understand grass fires and how to protect yourself, your family and your property from the threat of fire. Grass fires are unpredictable; they can start anywhere, spread rapidly and move three times as fast as a bush fire.


Think about the area you live in

I live in an area surrounded by bush

What to expect:

  • Fires in dense bushland can be very hot, intense and fast moving
  • Burning embers may be blown from the bush, landing on your property and starting spot fires or setting fire to your home
  • Embers may land for many hours even after the main fire front has passed
  • Smoke and fire may affect driveways or homes, making it difficult to leave
  • The radiant heat from a fire nearby may set fire to your home or surrounds

I live close to grassland or paddocks

What to expect:

  • Grass fires can start easily and spread quickly, not only destroying homes but also crops and livelihoods
  • Grass fires are very hot and can produce huge amounts of heat which can kill anyone out in the open
  • As grass dries out or cures, it can catch fire more easily
  • Fires in tall grass will have tall flames that may burn across trails, roads or fire breaks
  • Grass fires can move much faster than a bush fire, catching people off guard

I live in an area where the bush or grasslands meet built-up areas

What to expect:

  • Fires can spread quickly from parks and reserves, threatening your home, fences or gardens
  • Thick smoke from the fire might make it difficult to see or breathe
  • Even if you live a few streets back from the bush, you are at risk from ember attack
  • Burning embers can travel through the air, setting fire to homes a few streets back from the bush

Fire Behaviour

There are a number of things which can affect the way a fire burns, including:

  • Slope – a fire travelling uphill will travel faster. In fact, for every 10 degrees of slope, a fire can double its speed. As a fire speeds up, it becomes more intense and more dangerous.
  • Vegetation – smaller items such as twigs, branches and leaves are known as 'fine fuels'. These can burn very easily. Burning bark, twigs and leaves can also be blown in the wind.
  • Weather – when it's hot, dry and windy, fires can be more intense and unpredictable. Strong winds can send a fire in different directions and cause burning embers to be blown through the air.

Know your risk and be prepared

Even if you're not at high risk, here are some tips to help make you, your family and your home safer.

Make a plan and talk about it

Make sure your family has a general understanding about bush fires and bush fire safety. If they are in an area that is affected by a bush fire, such as at work or on holiday, they will be able to make the safest choices. The Bush Fire Household Assessment tool can be used to help you make an informed decision regarding your 'Leave Early or Stay and Defend' choice for this bush fire season.

Make preparations to your home.

Embers can travel many kilometres ahead of a fire, so even if you are not directly threatened by a bush fire, you may be impacted by embers. Preparing your home can reduce the risk of embers starting spot fires around your home. For tips on what you can do to prepare your home..

Keep yourself informed on days of increased fire danger.

Pay attention to your local radio and TV stations and monitor our website and social media pages on hot, dry, windy days. This will help you plan your day and make sure you avoid areas where there is an increased risk of a bush fire.

The NSW RFS acknowledges the assistance of the Country Fire Authority in preparing this material.


Prepare your home

A well prepared home is more likely to survive a bush fire.

Even if your plan is to leave early, the more you prepare your home, the more likely it will survive a bush fire or ember attack. A well prepared home can also be easier for you or firefighters to defend, and is less likely to put your neighbours' homes at risk. A well prepared home will also give you more protection if a fire threatens suddenly and you cannot leave.

Here are some basic maintenance tips to prepare your property:

  • Clean your gutters of leaves and twigs
  • Install metal gutter guards
  • Repair damaged or missing tiles on the roof
  • Install fine metal mesh screens on windows and doors
  • Fit seals around doors and windows to eliminate gaps
  • Enclose the areas under the house
  • Repair or cover gaps in external walls
  • Attach a fire sprinkler system to gutters
  • Keep lawns short and gardens well maintained
  • Cut back trees and shrubs overhanging buildings
  • Clean up fallen leaves, twigs and debris around the property
  • Have hoses long enough to reach around your house
  • If you have a pool, tank or dam, put a Static Water Supply (SWS) sign on your property entrance, so firefighters know where they can get water
  • Check and maintain adequate levels of home and contents insurance. Ensure it is up to date.

These tips are also available in our Bush Fire and Your Home fact sheet.


What to wear

During a bush fire, it can be very hot and there may be sparks or embers flying around. For this reason, it is important to wear personal protective clothing.

Loose fitting clothing made from natural fibres such as pure wool, heavy cotton drill or denim is important to protect you from injury. Synthetic fabrics can melt or burn.

Recommended personal protective clothing includes:

Wide brimmed hatA wide brimmed hat or hard hat.  A hat can stop embers from dropping onto your head or down the back of your shirt.
 
GogglesGlasses or goggles.  Eye coverings can protect your eyes against any smoke, embers and debris that may be in the air.
 
GlovesGloves.  Gloves can protect your hands from radiant heat, embers and debris that may be in the air or on anything you pick up around your yard when protecting your property.
 
MaskA mask or cloth (non-synthetic).  Covering your nose and mouth, may protect you from inhaling smoke, ash and embers.
 
Long-sleeved cotton shirtA long-sleeved shirt made from thick cotton or wool is ideal (eg cotton drill work shirt).  A shirt can stop embers from burning your skin and help protect you from radiant heat and debris.
 
JeansA pair of heavy cotton pants, such as denim jeans, oil free drill pants or cotton overalls.  Long pants can stop embers from burning your skin and help protect you from radiant heat and debris.
 
Leather work bootsSturdy leather work boots or shoes along with a pair of woollen or cotton socks.  Sturdy leather footwear can stop embers from burning your skin, help protect you from radiant heat and debris.

Prepare yourself and family

abc kidsfrom ABC Kids for Parents 2019


Preparation isn't just about cleaning up around the house and having a bushfire survival plan.

It's also about making sure you consider your physical, mental and emotional preparedness.

A bush fire can be a terrifying situation. Strong gusty winds, intense heat and flames will make you tired quickly. Thick heavy smoke will sting your eyes and choke your lungs. It will be difficult to see and breathe.

The roaring sound of the fire approaching could be frightening. Embers will rain down, causing spots fires all around you. Power and water may be cut off. You may be isolated, and it will be dark, noisy and extremely demanding both mentally and physically.

If you have any doubts about your ability to cope, you should plan to leave early, well before a fire reaches your area and well before you are under threat.

People who are at higher risk, such as children, elderly, disabled or with medical problems, should always leave early.

Leaving early is always your safest option.

To help your family prepare for a bush fire, you need to make a bush fire survival plan. This will help you make important decisions like when to leave, what to take, and what to do with animals.

Stay informed about bushfires in your area.


Neighbourhood Safer Places

Neighbourhood Safer Places are a place of last resort during a bush fireNeighbourhood Safer Places are a place of last resort during a bush fire emergency.

They are to be used when all other options in your bush fire survival plan can't be put into action safely.

You should be aware of any Neighbourhood Safer Places in your area, and note them in your bush fire survival plan before a bush fire occurs. You should also know how to get there, as well as alternate routes in case the road is blocked or too dangerous to drive on.

Not all areas will have a Neighbourhood Safer Place. If there is no Neighbourhood Safer Place in your area, you should identify other safer locations you can go to as a last resort. This might include a nearby home which is well prepared, a shopping centre or oval which is well away from the bush.

A Neighbourhood Safer Place is designed as a Place of Last Resort in bush fire emergencies only. Please note that travelling to or sheltering at a Neighbourhood Safer Place does not guarantee your safety.

Use the interactive map to locate your local Neighbourhood Safer Places:  https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/plan-and-prepare/neighbourhood-safer-places

Remember:

  • Your safest option will always be to leave early.
  • People with special needs, such as the elderly and people with a disability, should always leave before the threat of bush fire.
  • If it is unsafe to leave the area or stay and defend your property, and the path is clear, you should move to your pre-identified Neighbourhood Safer Place, or other safer location, prior to the impact of a bush fire.
  • Be aware that when you are travelling to your Neighbourhood Safer Place there may be heavy smoke and poor visibility.
  • It is important that you are familiar with the area. Gather at the Neighbourhood Safer Place location and remain there until the bush fire threat has passed.
  • The conditions at the Neighbourhood Safer Place may be uncomfortable and you may be affected by heat, smoke and embers.
  • Water, toilets and food may not be available at the Neighbourhood Safer Place and emergency service personnel may not be present.
  • Neighbourhood Safer Places are not intended for pets and livestock.

 

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