Listen: John Redman from the NSW RFS chats fire safety with Duncan and Laura.
Now’s the time to get ready for bushfire season—whether you’re in a rural, bush-heavy area, or a suburban district.
John Redman from the NSW Rural Fire Service told Hope 103.2 now that summer’s upon us, families should be taking steps to protect their house, and planning how they will respond if a bushfire hits.
“We’ve just come out of the wettest summer on record which is pretty incredible, and prior to that was the third wettest winter on record,” he told Duncan and Laura, “but we are well and truly in fire season now.
“It’s a really good time to get your checklist out and sit down with the family and have a chat about what you need to do. It’s much easier than you think.”
How to Make Your Home More Firesafe
The NSW Rural Fire Service Home Safety Checklist will guide you through what you can do to make your house, yard and garden as safe as possible.
Download RFS Home Safety Checklist
“Take the time to do something as simple as mowing the lawn or trimming overhanging trees around your property, remove any material that can burn around your house, like doormats, mulch or paints or ratty outdoor furniture that you don’t need any more—get rid of it,” said John.
“If you’re out and not there to protect your home, you’d be very surprised how doing those little things is able to protect your home when you’re not there.”
Having the gutters cleared out is another essential step for every home owner, with embers in the gutters being one of the biggest triggers of house fires.
“The embers burn whatever dried out leaves and material are in your gutter, that gets into the roof cavity and then your house goes up,” John explained.
See the RFS Home Safety Checklist for a full list.
What to do in a Bushfire
If you decide to stay with your home and defend it in the middle of a bushfire, one of the worst things you can do is to get on the roof with a sprinkler: it mostly leads to people falling off the roof and injuring themselves.
Your job is to take the small preventative steps that save lives and prevent fire spreading.
Download RFS Bushfire Survival Guide
You should download the RFS Bushfire Survival Guide for full advice, but a few initial steps you can take include:
- Turning off the gas mains or bottles
- Filling the bath with water to provide yourself with a water source for spot fires
- Moving flammables such as doormats, small furnitre and debris away from the house
- Bringing animals inside or take them to safer open areas away from the home
- Then look after your house
“Patrol your home,” John said. “The most important thing you need to do is when a fire does hit your home, be active, putting out spot fires. Don’t lock yourself in a room. You’re no help to anyone there.
“If a fire does hit your property and you’ve chosen to stay and not leave early, you’re basically making a decision that you are going to fight for your house, and you need to be as active as you can.”
The RFS recommends that families sit down and make a plan. Decide with your kids who they should call if, for example, they’re home alone and there is a fire approaching.
“if you’re at the shops and the kids are at home, and you might not be there when the fire actually hits, you need to know what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it,” he said.
The Rural Fire Service’s App and Electronic Alerts
In emergency situations, the Rural Fire Service now sends out emergency warnings to people’s mobile phones based on either their current location or their phone billing address. The service was used during the recent fires at Llandilo, Cessnock and Lone Pine.
“We send a text message to your phone, or a phone call to your landline, giving you direct instructions on what to do, varying from ‘leave now, it’s not safe’, to ‘shelter in place, it is too late to leave’. So there are very clear instructions on what you need to do.
“We also have an alert level called Watch and Act, which means there’s a heightened level of threat, conditions are changing and you need to start putting those plans in place before the fire does hit.”
The Fires Near Me app is also available for free download on all smart phones, giving up-to-the-second information on the latest data from the Rural Fire Service. Local community radio stations also issue the latest information.
For more info, see the RFS website.