Australia is notorious for bushfires. With extreme heat waves in the summer months driven by climate change, each decade in just Western Australia alone has been warmer than the last since the 1950s. Heatwaves are becoming hotter, lasting longer and occurring more often so it’s absolutely essential you prepare your home for them this summer.
Bushfires go hand in hand with heatwaves, with the South West of Australia one of the most fire-prone regions in the world. Most of us are no strangers to bushfires, whether we’ve been affected by one or see the constant updates on the news. But the concept of a ‘normal’ bushfire season is rapidly changing, as the fires blaze for longer and affect larger areas of land. Make sure you know what to do during a bushfire with these essential tips.
1. Know the Triggers
Whilst you may be fully aware of how a fire starts, how much do you really understand the triggers? The main factors affecting bushfires are:
Ignition: Fires can be started by lightning or people.
Fuel: For a fire to blaze it needs to be fuelled by a sufficient quantity and dryness. If a wet is followed by a dry season, fires are more likely going to spread and become intense.
People: Whether it’s deliberately (arson attack) or accidental (powerline faults, a cigarette not being put out properly etc), human activities can cause and reduce the effects of fire.
Weather: Fires are more likely to spread or intensify on days that are hot, dry and windy. Hot weather also dries out the fuel, which adds to fire spread.
For a fire to start it needs to have three basic components – fuel, oxygen from air and oxygen from heat. To control a fire at least one of these elements must be removed. Fuel load can also impact the size of the fire with the greater the fuel load, the more intense it becomes. Wind speed can bring fires to an ignition point too, by supplying a continuous supply of oxygen to fuel the fire making it harder to control and put out. Locations with less humidity are also more prone to bushfires because of the dry air.
2. Invest in Essential Preparation Items
Especially living in certain parts of Australia, there’s a few critical preparation items you should invest in before the fire season starts. If disaster should strike your home at least you’ll be able to reduce the damage until emergency help arrives. Items like a water pump can be ideal if you live in a really high prone area and will enable you to control the fire with a high pressure water system.
Invest in a fire resistant safe to store away valuables and important documents, and make sure you have a few good quality torches laying around. A portable generator can be a vital investment too, providing reliable and possible lifesaving power. Bushfires can be notorious for cutting power and water supplies so having the right generator on hand can be essential for powering a water pump or critical appliances. If you are in a high-prone area it can be a wise idea to have a bushfire survival plan. Plans should be kept updated (don’t leave it more than a year old) and should include safety measures to prep you to actively defend your home or leave for a safer place.
3. Know the Risks
Living in Australia – especially the South West – puts you and your home at risk of a bushfire. But bear in mind about the other risks involved too. Homes that back onto bushland will be more at risk than central city homes or check whether your local area has a bushfire history.
Properties surrounded by trees and shrubs (within 20 metres) tend to be prone to bushfires, as with homes built on a slope. Familiarise yourself with your location risks before the bushfire season to assist with early preparation and survival plan.
4. Prepare Your Garden and Surroundings
If you do live in a bushfire prone area, it’s your responsibility to reduce any risks to you, your family and your home. Prepare your garden and surroundings before a bushfire for the best shot at protection. Grass should be mowed regularly at the front and back of your property, gutters free from leaves and debris and the area generally tidy and free from any build-up of flammable materials.
Understand your local surroundings and find out where the community evacuation point is. You will be able to get this information from your local fire station or upon direction from fire fighters in the event of an emergency.
5. What to Do During a Bushfire
Whilst pre-prep is important, you’ll want to familiarise yourself with recommendations on how to cope during a bushfire too. Above anything it’s important you stay calm and avoid entering any areas where the smoke or fire is. Report the fire by calling 000.
Keep all windows, doors and shutters closed to your home and where possible, block any downpipes or gaps underneath the doors and windows. Wet blankets is good for underneath and a sock full of sand or soil for the downpipes is sufficient. Use your garden hose or water pump to wet down timber decking and surrounding gardens if the fire is approaching your home but avoid standing on the roof of your property. Keep a torch close by and any firefighting equipment you have until help arrives.
6. Prepare Yourself and Your Family Mentally
One of the most important steps before and after a bushfire is metal preparation. It’s not all just about cleaning up your home and having a solid plan of attack, bushfires can be terrifying situations and mentally demanding. The damage from bushfires aren’t just in the physical living area and smoke inhalation, they can take a huge toll on you emotionally too so prior preparation is essential.
Have a plan and make sure everyone in your home is aware of it. Ensure your home has shelter points and keep yourself hydrated during the experience. Be wary of what a bushfire entails and try and picture yourself in the middle of a bushfire now, to prepare you in the best possible way during peak season.
This article is written by Jayde Ferguson, who writes for Able Sales – Australian wide supplier of quality backup generators ideal to prepare you, your family and your home this bushfire season. You can catch her on Google+.