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Preparing your Home for Bushfire Season

By Laura Anderson

Bushfires cause damage in Australia every year. As more Australians build homes adjacent to bushland areas each year, the number of homes affected by the danger grows. It is important that you understand and know how to minimise the risk and where to get help from if you need it.

Statistics shows that a high number of homes are destroyed by ember attacks. This is where houses ignite and burn due to wind borne embers. They land in gutters or in piles of debris that piles up on verandas or in doorframes.

If people are well prepared they can save their home.  Below are some tips on planning ahead.  Ideally you should be on top of this before fire season but it is never too late to protect your home.

  • Clean out gutters and other roof fittings – make sure you remove all leaves and debris as they are extremely flammable.
  • If you have a woodpile position it away from the house.
  • Prune any trees that are close to the house and cut down any overhanging branches.
  • Keep grass short and rake up leaves.
  • Have at least one hose that reaches the perimeter of your property.
  • Don’t store piles of old newspapers and cardboard close to the house, recycle regularly.
  • Store flammable liquids and paint away from the house.
  • Pool chemicals can ignite if placed near other flammable liquids so store them away form other potentially dangerous chemicals.
  • Make sure your insurance is up to date and covers your property and its contents for bushfire damage.
  • Create an evacuation plan.

Other tips to remember:

  • Don’t shelter in your swimming pool as your head and other exposed body parts will be susceptible to radiant heat.
  • Don’t empty your pool as it can be used for a water source for the fire brigades.
  • You must evacuate if told so by fire authorities.
  • Have treasured possessions and pets on hand so evacuation is fast.

Tips if you have pets:

  • Your pets must be a part of your plans. They are at high risk of serious injury or fatality during extreme temperatures.
  • Monitor their behaviour as it gets hotter. If signs of heat exhaustion (excessive panting, vomiting, uncharactersitc aggression) are present consult a vet right away.
  • Make sure they have plenty of water and shade available to them.

Prevention inside the home

There are some things you should always be doing to keep yourself safe from fire, but they are extra important during summer.
Windows – special safety windows can be installed into homes if you live in a bushfire prone area.
Smoke alarms – every home must have at least one smoke alarm on each level, make sure yours is working.
Appliances – switch off powerpoints when not is use. This can not only stop a fire from spreading but save you money on your energy bill.
Open Flames – never leave candles unattended and ensure cigarettes are completely put out before discarding.
Stove – never leave a hot stove unattended and double check all cooking appliances have been turned off after use.
Kitchen – remember that water does not extinguish oil or fat based fires, it can enhance them. Keep a fire blanket or extinguisher in the kitchen area.

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