It’s going to be an extra hot bushfire season this year: the Guardian has reported a higher bushfire risk caused by higher than usual temperatures, less rainfall, shifting weather patterns & large fuel loads as stated in the outlook from the Australasian Fire Authorities Council. Areas that face this higher risk include regions of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, the Northern Territory & South Australia.
Here’s how to prevent bushfires from harming your family & damaging your home according to the Department of Fire & Emergency Services of the Government of Western Australia. We’ll also take a look at bushfire window screens & their role in your bushfire prevention strategies.
First, monitor & understand the danger ratings
The Australian Fire Danger Rating System or AFDRS came in effect nationwide on 1 September 2022 to let people know the level of risk in case a bushfire starts.
The four AFDRS ratings are:
– Moderate / Green: Plan
– High / Yellow: Prepare
– Extreme / Orange: Act now
– Catastrophic / Red: Leave now
Do note that “no rating” does not mean a bushfire isn’t going to start—this means that the bushfire is not expected to spread in a dangerous way. You’ll still have to keep your guard up & follow your local regulations.
It is highly recommended to checking your local fire ratings every day, particularly during bushfire season, & to check multiple sources of information.
Decide whether to evacuate or stay & fight
Fighting to protect your home comes with far more risk, & you will need to have the right mindset & more thorough preparations. It is advisable to evacuate when the situation calls for it, & to leave as early as possible. Don’t wait for the official announcement or text message before you leave. Remember that staying to defend your home is NOT an option for catastrophic or red ratings.
Prepare your emergency kit
Don’t wait for bushfire season to put these in one container, & to put this container in an accessible place that everyone in your home knows about:
– First aid kit
– Legal documents
– Jewellery & other precious items
– Personal hygiene items
– Drinking water (3 litres per person) & food
When packing clothes for your emergency kit, you’ll want to include protective clothing that’s thick & loose fitting made from natural fibres like cotton, denim or wool. Synthetic fibres could melt from a bushfire’s intense heat & seriously hurt your skin.
Pack long sleeved shirts, a thick woollen coat, long trousers, thick woollen or cotton socks & sturdy boots. Also take a wide brimmed hat or helmet, gloves, & a smoke or particle mask.
Don’t forget to take these with you on your way out:
– Your wallet
– Medications & other medical equipment
– Phone, laptop & charger
– Keys to your house & car
If you do decide to not or cannot evacuate, your emergency kit should include everything in the emergency kit above plus enough food, drinking water & medications to last five days. Also pack goggles, a waterproof torch, battery powered lights, a battery operated AM/FM radio & non-flammable blankets. All this should be kept in a fireproof container with emergency contact information.
Prepare your family
You also shouldn’t wait for the bushfire season to have a plan in place in the event of a bushfire causing you to evacuate. Create your bushfire plan together with your family so that in case you do have to leave, you can do so calmly & efficiently.
Give everyone a specific task to do such as filling all the sinks with water, turning off the gas, closing all the doors & windows, & moving all outdoor furniture such as doormats away from the house. Don’t forget to make special provisions in your plan for small children & older members of the family.
Prepare your pets or livestock
Backup food, water & other pet essentials should be part of your emergency kit, but there are guidelines for what you can do to help keep your pets safe in case you have to leave them behind:
– Leave your pets inside the house
– Leave enough food & water in large, heavy containers that won’t tip over, or leave a tap on to drip slowly
– Make provisions for your pet to be able to climb higher in case of flood, such as a bench
– Leave toilet litter & bedding
– Make sure your pets have some identification
– If pets have to be left outside, they should not be tied up
– Put a visible map showing where the gates & water are in case the animals have to be moved in your absence
– Make sure that gates on your fences for your pets or livestock fit well
– Make sure the fences can be cut in case the animals need to escape
The first thing to do would be to find a safer area you can move your pet to well in advance, such as animal boarding facilities or an animal shelter. For livestock, look for a well-grazed paddock you’ll be able to move them to. If you can’t find any of these, ask your local council evacuation centre.
Prepare your home
Grass & other plants around your residence should be kept no higher than 10 cm & regularly pruned so that they don’t become dense. Remove wood, shrubs, mulch & other flammable material that might be leaning against your house. Tree branches that touch your house should also be cut to leave a clear space around it.
Note that regulations may vary between Local Government Areas regarding plants around your home in the context of bushfire preparation.
Keep your gutters clean & use metal gutter guards. Check your roof for missing tiles & make sure to stop up any gaps in the roof, eaves, wall claddings & floor. Also block all the external vents, chimneys & skylights. You can use door & window seals as well as fire retardant sealant on your cladding or painted surfaces. You may also want to install bushfire shutters.
Also make sure that areas under your floors or decks, verandahs or balconies are enclosed to prevent fire from spreading.
Your gas cylinders should be secured upright & chained, & kept away from the bush. The gas release valves should also face away from your property.
It’s also a good idea to have a firebreak around the perimeter of your property made of mineral earth, as well as to install a solid fence to act as a fire or heat shield.
Water sprinklers that will wet your house thoroughly are a good investment, as are long, sturdy garden hoses with metal fittings & enough length to reach around your house. If possible, have nearby access to about 5,000 to 10,000 litres of water such as a swimming pool or a water tank.
If your residence is in a rural area, make sure any petrol or gas you have on hand is stored safely in a separate shed away from your house. Also make sure that your pumps & generators are working. It’s likewise a good idea to have underground water pumps connecting from dams to your house, as well as fire breaks along the boundaries of your paddocks.
You’ll also want to make sure your home is easily accessible by fire trucks, particularly around cattle grid loading & bridge loading areas.
Bushfire screens for windows
It is strongly recommended to install bushfire window screens or metal fly wire mesh not just on your windows but also on all vents as well as evaporative air conditioners. This mesh keeps flying embers & sparks out of your house, which can reach your property from more than a kilometre & a half away.
Metal fly wire mesh can also keep sparks within an enclosed area like a chimney or fireplace to keep them from spreading around inside the house.
Stainless Steel Mesh is ideal for bushfire-prone areas up to BAL 40. Made with 316 Marine Grade Stainless Steel, this mesh meets Australian Standards 3959-2009 & is ordinarily used in high-temperature conditions.
Note that only stainless steel mesh can be used in bushfire screens for windows in areas with a very high bushfire rating in compliance with Australian Standards 3959-2018. Stainless steel is also the strongest mesh in terms of durability.
Aluminium mesh provides a lightweight alternative for homes in areas with lower bushfire ratings, or bushfire-prone areas up to BAL 29. Bushfire screens for windows using aluminium mesh are also heat-resistant & non-flammable.
Also made from aluminium, our wire mesh is likewise strong & durable as well as complies with Australian Standards 3959-2009.
Use our stainless steel, aluminium or wire mesh to cover chimneys, fireplaces, vents & openings under your ceilings. You may also use them as gutter guards to keep leaves & other flammable materials from accumulating.
Preparations for bushfires also have to provide for when the bushfire is over. You shouldn’t let your guard down even if the danger has passed because the situation could still change quickly.
Also remember that bushfires can break out even when it isn’t bushfire season, the timing of which may be different from one LGA to the next. Bushfire season may even be extended depending on the weather.
Timely preparation is essential in making sure you & your family are safe, & that the damage to your home & property is kept to a minimum. Get ready the bushfire season now.
EHi supplies & installs flyscreens, along with a wide range of home improvement products: Blinds, awnings, security screens, shutters, & grilles. These products form the focus of our government – backed apprenticeship, which we’ve recently named the Cert iii in BASS G™.