Australia is notorious for its fire seasons and most summers there will be at least one major bushfire that causes damage in some part of Australia.
As major city suburbs encroach a little further into bushland each year, the risk of being impacted by fire increases for suburban residents. Australians have lived with fire danger for over two centuries and the warning systems and restrictions that have been put in place to reflect that experience.
If you live in an area that is in close proximity to large areas of bushland, long grass or coastal scrubland, you may be at risk and need to plan ahead accordingly.
All residents in bushfire prone areas are encouraged to develop a fire safety plan. This plan would usually include the following key details.
- Understand the Fire Danger Rating and decide which rating is the point which determines that you will leave.
- Decide whether you will leave early in the morning or the night before the Fire Danger Rating comes into effect.
- Decide where you will go.
- Map out your planned exit route and have an alternative route mapped out in case a fire is already impacting the area.
- Make a list of the important things you will need to take with you.
- Have a plan in place for your pets or livestock.
- List the people you have to notify and keep informed.
- Consider your neighbours and whether they will need help.
- Plan on how you will receive updates.
- Plan what actions you will take if you are caught unawares and it is too late to leave.
All states have a fire authority that is responsible for assessing conditions and issuing warnings as they deem appropriate.
The most important warning to take heed of is a notice of a Total Fire Ban.
When a total fire ban is declared it means that no open fires can be lit until advised otherwise. Additionally, machinery that creates sparks is not to be used on days of total fire bans. This means that such tasks as welding or grinding are not permitted on Total Fire Ban days. The operation of machinery like tractors for example is generally discouraged on these days. You can operate an electric barbecue or gas fired barbecue providing certain conditions are met – you may need to check the relevant fire authority’s website to confirm that you are complying with regulations.
In severe circumstances there can also be a ban on using water outside for usual chores such as watering the garden and washing your car.
As well as issuing notices of total fire ban, the fire authority in conjunction with the bureau of meteorology will classify each day during the fire season according to the following scale:
- Catastrophic – it is recommended that residents leave bush fire prone areas the day prior to the day that the warning comes into effect
- Extreme – If your home is not prepared properly to fight the fire – leave early in the day for a safer area.
- Severe – Leaving early is the recommended safest option.
- Other ratings are very high, high and moderate and
Many Australians are never personally impacted by fire however it is more than likely they know someone who has been. Fire safety is taken very seriously by Australians and you should get an understanding of the risks and precautions, especially if you plan on living near large areas of bushland.