I’ve been getting a lot of worried messages from readers about the bushfires that are raging in Queensland and New South Wales at the moment. It’s a really scary time and many of our favourite places have been on fire including parts of Noosa and Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland. O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat was evacuated and the nearby Binna Burra Lodge was burnt down. My heart breaks for all of the wildlife that has been destroyed, and for all of the homes and businesses that have been lost. I hope that everyone can stay safe and my thoughts go out to our fire fighters who have been doing the most amazing job in really difficult conditions.
Firstly, I really want to say – keep things in perspectives. Australia is a really safe country. I don’t want this post to worry you but I do hope it helps you to think about the potential dangers and be prepared for them.
I’ve written a post before about the extreme weather in Australia so pop over there to read more about storms and weather situations.
When we moved to Australia, we had no idea that bushfires, storms and floods were something we needed to be aware of let alone that we should have an emergency survival kit and an evacuation plan in place should the worst ever happen. After being caught in our first major hail storm just after we arrived, it became apparent that Australia’s wildlife wasn’t the only thing that could cause us harm! (I say that as tongue and cheek, as the wildlife here is INCREDIBLE and we haven’t had any dangerous encounters in our five years of living here, so don’t believe all of the hype about everyone having snakes in their houses that you hear in the media). It also made me realise how naive we were when we were travelling in our motorhome around Australia a few years before we moved – we had no idea how intense and dangerous the conditions can get here. We didn’t sign up to any warnings or alerts, and we had no way of being informed of any upcoming danger, especially as we travelled in remote Western Australia!
If you haven’t already, read my post about extreme weather in Australia as that covers all of the weather resources you need to prepare for storm season. For this post, I’m going to focus on bushfire information and also want to share what to put in your survival kit. Australia is a stunning country, but there are some dangers here and it’s important to have a simple emergency plan in place to protect your family.
Please don’t be afraid of the extreme conditions in Australia. It just makes sense to be aware of some of the things that can be dangerous and to gather together a simple survival kit that means in the event of an emergency you have everything you need to easily make your way to safety. Most likely, you will never ever have to use it but it’s good to know you’re prepared.
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How to prepare for a bushfire in Australia
What is a bushfire and what causes bushfires in Australia?
Bushfires are frequent in Australia during the hot, dry seasons. Wildfires can spread incredibly quickly and cause a massive amount of damage – sometimes starting from a simple cigarette end thrown from a car, from a lightning strike or from a small fire that gets out of control. Controlled burns often take place in Australia to ensure the dry landscape can be burnt off so it can regenerate but, unfortunately, this doesn’t stop wild bushfires from occurring. Bushfires can affect all kinds of places – not just very rural properties, so it’s worth being aware of the risks and keeping an eye on bushfire alerts. If you live fairly near to any bush, near grassland or by the coast you are at risk. Bushfire embers can travel a long way so even if your property isn’t right next to a bushfire danger zone, you could still find your property under threat from a bushfire.
Also, even if you don’t think your home will ever be impacted by a bushfire as you live in the middle of a city, you go on holidays and you drive to places so you can still be impacted by a bushfire outside your home – it’s worth spending a few minutes learning about it so you are prepared in case you ever encounter one.
My husband actually put out a small bushfire last year in our suburb that was caused by somebody throwing a cigarette from their car! Tiny fires can escalate really quickly, so you need to keep your eyes peeled and take action if you see any signs of smouldering (whether that is dousing it in water yourself and/or calling 000 to get the fire brigade on the scene). The landscape in Australia is so dry and it can go up in flames so fast.
Simple tips on bushfire preparation
There are some simple steps you can take when planning for bushfire protection.
- When you’re buying or renting a property, do some research into bushfire prone areas. States have a page that will tell you if you’re considering moving to a bushfire zone. Make an informed decision about where you’re moving and spend some time thinking about bushfire emergency preparation so you’re prepared if the worst happens.
- If you are moving somewhere rural, check out some basic bushfire safety like does the property have bushfire shutters and a fireproof fence? Bushfire shutters and fireproof fences can provide some protection for your property if flames get close.
- Keep your grass cut short.
- Clean dead vegetation from around your property and make sure your roof and gutters are free from dead leaves.
- Make sure you have a long garden hose that reaches all around your property so you can put out any minor fires if you have to. Also, ensure you have access to a reliable water supply.
- Make sure flammable items aren’t stored next to your house (like piles of wood).
- Consider planting deciduous trees and bushes as these act as fire protection for your property.
- Ensure your screen doors and window fly screens are metal and not plastic.
- Make sure you are signed up to your local council alerts system – this will keep you informed of weather warnings and bushfire warnings, and also let you know when controlled burns are taking place. You want to make sure you’re receiving bushfire alerts and bushfire information so you can plan in the event of an emergency.
- Create a basic survival kit. Australia has extreme conditions and an emergency kit can be used in the event of flood, fire or any other emergency. I’ll cover below when your survival kit should contain. Some simple survival tools and first aid kit items can come in so handy and even if you never ever encounter a bushfire in Australia, they could come in handy in all sorts of situations.
- Keep an eye on weather warnings and weather alerts. Extremely dry weather coupled with winds is a recipe for disaster, so just be aware and listen to fire bans when they’re in place for bushfire safety reasons.
- Listen to advice and adhere to bushfire warnings. You will be told if you need to evacuate – listen to the warnings and get out. Your things can be replaced but you can’t! Don’t take any risks and stay alert to bushfire news.
- Have an emergency plan for your family. If you do need to evacuate, have a plan for where you and your pets will go.
- Plan what things you would take in a bushfire evacuation (assuming you have time to get organised during the evacuation). Are there any documents that you need to take (passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates etc.) or any irreplaceable photographs or family heirlooms? If you can think about this and make a list before an emergency happens, it will make gathering it all together so much easier if the time ever comes. Even better, store your most important things in a fireproof bag so they’re safe and ready to go in a few seconds (or even if you have to leave in an emergency, you’ll feel safe knowing they won’t get damaged.)
What to do in a fire emergency
If you know a bushfire is heading your way, and you have a little time to prepare your house before you leave you can:
- Turn off your power and gas, and move flammable items away from your home.
- Block up drains with small sandbags made with socks.
- If the fire is coming, douse the sides of your house in water from a hose pipe.
- Fill gutters with water.
- Fill baths and sinks with water.
- Block up all doorways and windows so there are no draughts. Hang wet towels or sheets over these.
The most important thing is just to keep up to date with bushfire reports in the news and by following a local bushfire app (different areas will have different bushfire apps and alert systems so Google it to find your local bushfire news sources).
Build your survival kit Australia
Your Australia survival kit should be for all occasions – flood, storms, bushfires even traffic accidents – whatever the emergency, a good survival kit will come in really handy. When I say ‘survival kit’, I don’t mean it needs to be about life or death – it can just be an emergency kit to cope even in minor problems like power cuts. But a good, solid survival kit could also save a life so I think it’s an important thing to have.
A survival first aid kit
The first thing to put in your survival kit is a good first aid kit. As survival tools go, this is hands down the most important. I have created my own little first aid kit that I take out and about with me and I use it all the time when my kids fall off their bikes and scooters or they fall over. I’ve realised that my little portable kit is great for days out, but I really need a more substantial kit as a car emergency kit. My husband has arrived on the scene of two major traffic accidents recently, and you just never know when you might need access to some emergency first aid.
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A torch or flashlight comes in so handy in lots of situations including minor situations like a power cut or a problem with your car at night. A good quality torch should be in your survival kit.
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A fire blanket is a really handy thing to have in your emergency kit. You can use it to put out a small fire, or wrap around yourself in the event of an emergency. It suffocates the flames and is easy and safe to use.
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Fireproof bag or fireproof box to store important documents
Your birth certificates, passports, house deeds, essential bill documents – there are many bits of paper in your home that are really valuable. Not to mention things like any irreplaceable photographs. A fireproof box or fireproof bag is a fantastic way to secure your paperwork so you know it will always be safe, even if your house was to burn down while you were away on holiday! It’s even better if you can get a lockable fireproof bag so you can store sensitive data in it too and know that it will always be safe.
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Other things to include in your survival kit in Australia that you can pack at the time of the emergency:
- Drinking water
- Phone and phone charger
- Overnight bag with clothes, pyjamas and toiletries as you don’t know how long you might be away from home
- Your laptop and/or an external hard drive for your computer
- Any medicines that you might need
- Things you might need for your pets
Be bushfire ready
Emergency situations like we’ve recently seen with the bushfires is a reminder that we all need an emergency survival kit. Australia is a safe country but there are some emergencies and natural disasters that can pose danger, so make the effort to learn about bushfire prevention and to collect a small survival kit together so you’re prepared for even emergency that might come your way.
Preparing an emergency kit can just take you a few minutes and cost a few dollars but once it is done, it’s done and it can give you peace of mind to know you’re prepared for whatever comes your way.
Stay safe everybody and if you’ve been affected by the bushfires my thoughts go out to you.