Sydney – and in particular the North Shore – contains some of the most bushfire prone land in the world. Each and every year the threat of fires in and around the greater Sydney area is very real. Despite this not everybody knows or understand their individual risk.
It’s a fact. If you and your home are well prepared, you stand a better chance of surviving a bushfire.
There are some simple things that every household can do to better understand their individual risk and to better prepare for bushfires. By understanding your risk it will help you understand what steps you may need to take around your home to prepare for bushfires.
There are four simple steps the NSW Rural Fire Service recommends you do to get ready for bushfires.
DISCUSS WHAT TO DO IF A BUSHFIRE THREATENS YOUR HOME
Many households find that having a discussion over dinner works best as everybody is together and focussed.
Make sure your family has a general understanding about bushfires and bushfire safety. If they’re in an area that’s affected by a bushfire, such as at work or on holiday, they will need to make a decision about their course of action. Will they Leave Early, which is always the safest choice, or are they well prepared and have decided to stay and defend? Importantly discuss a backup plan in the event you’re unable to put your first plan into action.
PREPARE YOUR HOME AND GET IT READY FOR BUSHFIRE SEASON
There are simple things you can do around your home to prepare it for a bushfire. The more you prepare your home, the more likely it will survive a bushfire 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. Here are some basic maintenance tips to prepare your property:
- Trim overhanging trees and shrubs. This act can stop the fire spreading to your home.
- Mow grass and remove the cuttings. Have a cleared area around your home, free from bush and tall grass.
- Remove material that can burn around your home like door mats, wood piles, mulch, leaves, paint and outdoor furniture.
- Clear and remove all the debris and leaves from the gutters surrounding your home. Airborne embers can set your home on fire.
- Prepare a sturdy hose or hoses that will reach all around your home, and make sure you’ve got a reliable source of water.
- There are a number of things you can do before, during and after a fire. The things you need to do are contained in a data assets checklist on the RFS website.
- Taking care of your pets during a fire should formulate part of your plan. For more see the RFS pets factsheet.
KNOW THE BUSHFIRE ALERT LEVELS
If there’s a fire in your area, you’ll find its alert level on the NSW RFS website and in the ‘Fires Near Me’ app. You need to keep track of the alert level so you know what you should do. It’s also important that you know the fire danger ratings and what they mean to you.
*When it’s SEVERE you should only stay if your home is well prepared and you’re ready to defend it.
*At EXTREME, only stay if your home is prepared to the very highest level. These are homes built to standards as in AS 3959. The home will be constructed from certain materials. They may also have shutters and sprinkler systems. There is a lot of detail on thishttps://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/plan-and-prepare/building-in-a-bush-fire-area/bush-fire-protection-measures/building-construction-and-design) and is specially built to survive a bushfire.
*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.
KEEP ALL THE BUSHFIRE INFORMATION NUMBERS, WEBSITES AND ‘FIRES NEAR ME’ SMARTPHONE APP NEARBY
In a bushfire, it’s important that you stay up to date on conditions in your area. Visit the RFS website, know where to find information on fires, fire danger ratings and information on preparing. Ensure you’ve downloaded the app ‘Fires Near Me’ for your smartphone. This will provide you with information on current bush and grass fires and how far away from that incident you are – very useful especially when travelling.
There’s a lot of great information on the RFS website on preparing your home for fires check: www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/plan-and-prepare