The Australian summer provides perfect conditions for barbeques, backyard cricket and trips to the beach. But unfortunately long periods of hot, dry weather also have a downside – the potential for bushfires.
Despite bushfires being a common hazard of the Australian summer, many property owners remain unprepared to mitigate the risk of damage to their property.
With that in mind, Chubb Insurance Australia has compiled 10 tips you can use to reduce your bushfire risk at home or business:
1. PREPARE A BUSHFIRE SURVIVAL PLAN
The Plan should outline the steps you need to take to ensure the safety of yourself, your family, employees, and pets.
Remember to consider different situations – bushfire conditions change rapidly.
Don’t just have a Plan A; also consider Plans B, C and D.
2. UNDERSTAND BUSHFIRE DANGER RATINGS
Ensure you are familiar with the meaning of different Bushfire Alert levels and Fire Danger Ratings. This will help you determine when to trigger your Bushfire Survival Plan.
3. IDENTIFY NEIGHBOURHOOD SAFER PLACES
Identify Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSP) close to the property and note their location in the Bushfire Survival Plan.
NSPs are refuges of last resort in the event the Bushfire Survival Plan cannot be implemented. Consult your local fire authority for a list of NSPs in the area.
4. CLEAN UP OUTSIDE
Keep outdoor combustibles to a minimum.
Ensure dry foliage such as fallen leaves are cleared away, particularly from roofs and gutters.
Trees overhanging buildings should be cut back where permitted.
5. HELP FIREFIGHTERS WITH WATER SUPPLY
Swimming pools, water tanks and dams may serve as a vital water supply for firefighters.
If you have bulk water storage such as these, display a Static Water Supply (SWS) sign at the property entrance.
6. ENSURE BUILDING CODE REQUIREMENTS ARE MET
Determine if your building(s) are properly constructed for the level of bushfire risk.
The National Construction Code (NCC) references Australian Standard AS 3959:2009 ‘Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas’ which sets out detailed bushfire zone construction requirements.’
Significant changes were made to AS 3959 after the Black Saturday Bushfires and older buildings may not comply.
7. BE EMBER SAFE
Embers can travel kilometres ahead of the fire front and are the leading cause of house fires during a bushfire.
Simple measures such as installing AS 3959:2009 compliant mesh screens over windows, doors and other openings can improve the resistance of a property to ember attack.
8. LEAVE EARLY
The safest option in a bushfire is to leave early.
Don’t wait until it’s too late.
You should strongly consider leaving early especially if you are not bushfire prepared, your property is not constructed for a bushfire, or a Catastrophic (or Code Red in Victoria) Fire Danger Rating has been issued.
9. PREPARATION IS VITAL
Choosing to stay and defend may place you at serious risk.
Not all properties can be defended.
If you choose to stay, make sure you're well prepared, and physically and emotionally capable of defending your property.
If in doubt, you should leave early.
10. GET MORE INFORMATION
The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) offers a bushfire checklist as well a range of other tips and useful advice. Check out the ICA resources here: http://www.insurancecouncil.com.au/for-consumers/consumer-tips/bushfire-preparation
For further bushfire risk management tips and advice, please consult with your local fire authority.