ACT NOW: How to prepare for a bushfire

With NSW warned Tuesday could deliver the most dangerous bushfire threat in the state’s history, fire authorities are urging residents to prepare themselves and their home for disaster. Here’s how to do it.

Preparing your plan

You need to take steps to prepare yourself, your family and your home. This means being prepared well before you can be affected by a fire. A Bushfire Survival Plan is one of the best ways to help improve the safety of you and your family before the impact of, or during, a bushfire.

Your plan can help to stop you from making rushed and dangerous decisions at the last moment.

The NSW Rural Fire Service encourages you to complete your plan with your family, so everyone knows what they will do if a fire starts.

Keep your Bushfire Survival Plan in a safe place where everyone can see it. Sometimes, regardless of how well prepared you are, things don’t go to plan. That’s why, whether you plan to leave early or stay and defend, you need a back-up plan.

Download your Bushfire Survival Plan today.

Preparing yourself and your family

Preparation is not just about cleaning up around the house and having a plan. It is also about making sure you consider your physical, mental and emotional preparedness.

A bushfire can be a terrifying situation. Strong gusty winds, intense heat and flames will make you tired quickly. Thick, heavy smoke will sting your eyes and choke your lungs. It will be difficult to see and breathe. The roaring sound of the fire approaching will deafen you. Embers will rain down, causing spot fires all around you. Power and water may be cut off. You may be isolated. It will be dark, noisy and extremely physically and mentally demanding. An important part of preparing is having items that will help you survive a bushfire. You should prepare an emergency survival kit comprising the following basics:

  • A wide brimmed hat or hard hat to stop embers from dropping onto your head or down the back of your shirt
  • Glasses or goggles to protect your eyes against any smoke, embers and debris that may be in the air
  • Gloves to protect your hands from radiant heat, embers and debris that may be in the air
  • A mask or cloth (non-synthetic) covering your nose and mouth to protect you from inhaling smoke, ash and embers
  • A long-sleeved shirt made from thick cotton or wool shirt and a pair of heavy cotton pants, such as denim jeans, oil free drill pants or cotton overalls
  • Sturdy leather work boots or shoes and a pair of woollen or cotton socks

During a bushfire, it can be very hot and there may be sparks or embers flying around. It’s important to wear personal protective equipment. Loose fitting clothing made from natural fibres such as pure wool, heavy cotton drill or denim is important to protect you from injury. Synthetic fabrics can melt or burn. Recommended personal protective clothing includes:

  • Portable battery-operated radio
  • Waterproof torch
  • Spare batteries
  • First aid kit with manual
  • Candles with waterproof matches
  • Woollen blankets
  • Emergency contact numbers
  • Waterproof bag for valuables
  • Cash, ATM cards, credit cards
  • Medications, toiletries and sanitary supplies
  • Special requirements for infants, elderly, injured, disabled
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Combination pocket knife
  • Important documents, valuables and photos (in a waterproof bag)
  • Change of clothes for everyone
  • Drinking water (at least three litres per person per day)

Preparing your property

Regardless of your decision to leave early or stay and defend, you still need to prepare your property against the threat of a bush fire or ember attack. A well prepared home is more likely to survive a bush fire.

Even if your plan is to leave early, the more you prepare your home, the more likely it will be to survive bushfire or ember attack. A well prepared home can be easier for you and firefighters to defend and is less likely to put your neighbours’ homes at risk.

Some of the things you should do around your property include:

  • Cut back any overhanging trees or shrubs and dispose of cuttings appropriately
  • Check the condition of your roof and replace any damaged or missing tiles
  • Clean leaves from the roof, gutters and downpipes and fit quality metal leaf guards
  • Enclose underfloor areas
  • Store wood piles well away from the house and keep covered
  • Keep garden mulch away from the house and keep grass short
  • Make sure the pressure relief valve on LPG cylinders face outwards (so a flame wouldn’t be directed towards the house)
  • Ensure you have a hose which is long enough to reach every part of the home
  • Remove and store any flammable items away from the house
  • Install metal flywire or solid screens to the outside windows and doors
  • Have a non-combustible doormat
  • Check the condition of external walls, cladding and seal any gaps

In a bushfire many houses are destroyed through ember attack, when burning twigs and leaves carried by the wind land on or around the house. Even houses away from the direct path of the fire can be affected. Look for the places embers could start fires - on the roof, under the floor and around windows and doors - and take action to prevent them.