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How to Survive a Bushfire

As timber suppliers in the Brisbane and Sydney areas, we are very alert to anything that presents a danger to our customers. Sadly, it seems as all of Australia has become at risk for bushfires in the last few years. Nobody wants to lose their home or their property, but their lives are far more important than “things.”

Therefore, the first rule of survival in a bushfire is to always make every decision from a framework in which survival comes first and everything else is secondary. Don’t worry about your home burning. Don’t worry about your property being damaged or stolen. Just find a way to leave before the fire gets to your home.

There are some rare cases in which it may be wise to stay and defend your property. We advise being safe.

Bushfire Warnings

There are three warning levels and “all clear.” Knowing the difference between one and the other can save your life.

Advice: This means that a fire has already started but that it doesn’t represent any danger to you at the time. It means that you should pay close attention for further developments until the danger status downgrades to “all clear.”

Watch and Act: This means that the fire is moving towards you and that danger is imminent. It’s time to either defend your property or leave. We recommend leaving.

Emergency Warning: This means your home and your life are in immediate danger. You will need to take action immediately. It can often be too late to leave at this point or at least a lot more difficult.

All Clear: This means the fire is gone, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to return home yet. You need to be vigilant.

Taking Shelter

If you didn’t get out in time, here are some survival techniques. The fire front will take five to fifteen minutes to pass your home. You can stay inside until the front passes if your home hasn’t caught fire. You may have to actively defend your home while you are inside, though.

Make sure you are in the side that is farthest from the fire front and close to an exit. The best rooms are those with a water supply, a door to the inside and one to the outside. If the home becomes dangerous and unbearable and you have to exit, run to a spot that has already been burnt if possible. This can save your life.

After the Fire Front has Passed

Once it is safe, go outside and look for small fires. Areas to check: under the house, under the floorboards, inside the roof space, inside roof gutters and valleys, on window ledges and sills, on decks and verandahs, in sheds and carports, in outdoor furniture, in wood heaps, in garden beds and in mulch.

Make sure to drink water as much as possible and stay near your home until neighbouring areas are safe. Otherwise, you could be running or driving into a fire. Check all media such as radio, television and Internet if any are still operational. Your car radio may be your only option.

Leaving for a Safer Place

Most people who die in bushfires die because they didn’t decide to leave until it was too late. Get together with your family and decide on a “trigger” that indicates it’s time to leave. If you can’t leave in time, make sure you have a backup plan.

Remember that bushfires move fast and that you need to leave as early as possible. Have a “safe place” planned in advance and know how to get there. It is wise to have two safe places in opposite directions, depending upon where the fires are coming from.

When the roads are full of smoke or closed, it is too late. Besides the smoke, power lines can be down and trees can fall into the road. Cars don’t protect you from radiant heat, so make sure you aren’t driving into an area that is on fire.

The best route is to create your own bushfire survival plan, keep it close by and abide by it during or before “Watch and Act” status.