Listen: Anthony Bradstreet from the Rural Fire Service talks to Graeme Burrill
With bushfire season already underway, the NSW Rural Fire Service is urging anyone who lives near fire prone areas, to get ready, make a Bushfire Survival Plan—and attend their local ‘Get Ready Weekend’.
RFS Community Engagement Manager Anthony Bradstreet told Hope Nights that the summer to come will be hot, dry, and “challenging”.
“It really is critical for people to be getting ready and prepared for the coming season.”
The current drought is a double-edged sword: in rural areas, pastures haven’t been growing, so grass fires are less likely. But in the east and in mountain areas, drought equals dry bushlands, a high fuel load – and a high chance of fires.
“The fires we’ve just seen in the north east, is a taste of things to come unfortunately,” Anthony said. “So it really is critical for people to be getting ready and prepared for the coming season.”
“Getting ready for bushfires isn’t just about the emergency services. It’s about community. We all have a shared responsibility.”
Your Bushfire Plan Starts With a 5-Minute Chat
Making a Bushfire Survival Plan involves four simple steps:
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- Discuss what you’ll do in a bushfire
- Prepare your home and property
- Know your local Bushfire Alert levels via the RFS website and Fires Near Me app.
- Keep the RFS info sources handy – including the Bush Fire Info Line,1800 NSW RFS (1800 679 737), the Twitter and Facebook pages, and the ‘Fires Near Me’ app.
Questions to Ask Yourself
The first step in preparing is sit down with your family members, housemates or neighbours, and discuss what you’ll do if a bushfire threatens.
- Where will you go if you leave your home in a bushfire?
- How will you travel there?
- What will you take with you?
- When will you leave?
If you can answer some of those questions with your family or neighbours you’re in a much better position to survive a fire, says the RFS. The Bushfire Household Assessment Tool will help you answer some of those questions.
“If you have any doubts about your ability to cope, you should plan to leave early.”
The question of when to leave varies for each family or individual. People who are capable to defend their property may choose to stay, while people with a disability, parents with small children, or elderly people, will need more time and should plan to leave early.
If this is you, “don’t be waiting for an emergency warning or a text message on your phone to say you’ve got to leave now”, says Anthony. Instead, be well prepared ahead of time and leave before a threat becomes serious.
Deciding whether you will stay or leave will depend on you or your family’s mental and emotional readiness. The RFS makes it clear that bushfires can be terrifying, with gusty winds, intense heat and flames, raining embers, spot fires, heavy smoke resulting in poor visibility and low light, and roaring noise. Power and water may also be cut off leaving people isolated and vulnerable.
“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,” says the RFS website.
Talk to Your Neighbours
If you have neighbours who live alone, who don’t have a car, who are elderly, or have a health condition or a disability, it’s a great idea to speak to them now and see if they would need any assistance in the event of a bushfire.
Anthony encourages all people living in bushfire prone areas to talk to their immediate neighbours and be aware of each others’ plans.
“Two thirds of people have a bushfire survival plan, but we also need to think about the people around us,” he said. “Communities need to look out for each other.”
Prepare Your Home
The Bushfire And Your Home fact sheet will help you prepare. Some home maintenance steps you can take include:
- Have your gutters cleared of leaves and twigs
- Install metal gutter guards
- Repair damaged or missing roof tiles
- Install fine metal mesh screens on windows and doors
- Eliminate gaps around doors and windows by fitting or repairing seals
- Enclose any areas under the house
- Repair or cover any gaps in external walls
- Keep lawns short and gardens well maintained
- Cut back any trees and shrubs that are overhanging houses or sheds
- Clear fallen leaves, twigs and debris around your property
- Have hoses long enough to reach around your house
- Attach a fire sprinkler system to gutters
- If you have a pool, tank or dam, put up a Static Water Supply (SWS) sign at your property entrance, so firefighters know where they can get water
- Make sure your home and contents insurance is adequate and up to date.
If you live close to bush and are in a ”10/50 Scheme” area, you should clear vegetation on your property according to the 10/50 plan. This scheme allows people in designated areas to clear trees within 10 metres of their home without seeking approval, as well as underlying vegetation such as shrubs (but not trees) within 50 metres.
Attend Your Local “Get Ready” Weekend
More than 600 local Rural Fire Service stations around the state are holding Get Ready Weekend events this weekend, September 14 and 15. That’s despite many firefighters already being tired after an early start to the fire season.
Residents are encouraged to go to their local event, get to know their firefighters, and gain local knowledge. It’s also a family friendly event, with kids’ activities and a chance for photos on firetrucks at many fire stations.
For details head to http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/news-and-media/getready.