Prepare. Act. Survive. Summer Fire Safety
Victoria is one of the most fire prone regions in the world. If you live, work or travel anywhere in Victoria this summer, you may be at risk of bushfire and you need a well thought out Bushfire Survival Plan.
Chief Fire Officer Shane Wright talks about Summer Fire Safety.
Victoria has experienced wet weather over the last 12 months, but it only takes two weeks of hot, dry and windy weather to create dangerous fire conditions.
Are YOU at risk at home?
You can download an information brochure at this link Urban Fringe Summer Fire Safety2011 12
Even in the urban area there are some properties that are high risk from grass, scrub and bush fires. During this Summer fire season our fire-fighters are giving special attention to properties in high risk areas so they better understand their risks and preparation requirements for this Summer. Even if your home is not in bush area you need to consider grassfires. Grass fires should not be underestimated; they can be extremely dangerous and cause death, trauma and/or serious injury.
Prepare weeks and months before the fire season. Planning ahead can save you and your family from fire. You need to know what to do, and when and where to go on hot, dry, windy days.
While every fire is different, all have flames, burning embers, smoke and radiant heat. Understanding fire is vital in identifying your fire risk and protecting yourself.
Radiant heat is the heat you feel from a fire and it is a real danger in bushfires. Being outdoors during a bushfire means you risk exposure to radiant heat and it can kill you.
During a bushfire smoke reduces visibility and the quality of the air you breathe.
Fires in areas located around parks, beachfronts and along creeks can affect homes and properties in the immediate area.
People who are at risk:
• Homes that back onto or are surrounded by bush, grassland, reserves, scrub, paddocks or large parks.
• People who live in heavily timbered (tea tree) urban coastal areas
• Workers at commercial properties such as offices, factories and warehouses that back on to any of the above
• The young, the elderly and people living with disabilities or medical conditions such as heart and lung conditions.
Preparing to reduce the fire risk
You can reduce the fire risk around your home by clearing out anything that could fuel a fire.
Preparing your family:
• Make a list of maintenance tasks you need to do before Summer.
• Plan possible relocation venues and routes to take for all family members especially children, the elderly and people with disabilities or medical conditions on days when the Fire Danger Rating is; “SEVERE” “EXTREME” or “CODE RED”
(Relocation can be defined as going to a place of safety e.g. the Cinema, Shopping Centre or home of family/friend away from the high risk bushfire area on the day).
• You may need different plans for business/school days and weekends/public holidays.
• List necessities that you need to keep with you e.g. medicines, important documents, bank books, insurance papers, etc.
• List and gather the family valuables that you will take with you upon relocation
• Adults staying at home to defend their property must be physically and mentally prepared, suitably dressed and equipped with the following Personal Protection Kit:
Goggles, gloves, hat, boots, cotton trousers, long sleeved shirt and face mask
Metal buckets, hoses connected, rakes and shovels
Preparing your property:
• Clear grass and weeds from around your home to a minimum of 3 meters
• Clear gutters, roofs and down pipes
• Store anything flammable (e.g. firewood, rubbish, gas bottles) away from your home
• Make sure your garden hoses are long enough to reach all areas of your property
• Make sure mops and buckets are easily accessible
• If you have any concern regarding crown land contact the relevant authority
Grassfires In Urban Areas
Grassfires spread rapidly and can quickly threaten lives and property.
If your property is bordered by or is near grassland or paddocks, even on a suburban block you are at risk from grassfire.
Due to favourable growing conditions there is an above average risk of grassfires for the 2011/2012 fire season.
If you live in a grassland area you need to have a Bushfire Survival Plan and prepare yourself and your property for grassfire.
Ubderstanding the grassfire risk
• Most losses, including loss of life, occur after a wind change in a grass fire.
• Grassfires can be extremely dangerous.
• Grassfires can travel very quickly. As grass is a fine fuel, fire burns through it faster than through forest and can generate enormous amounts of radiant heat that can kill anyone caught out in the open.
• The taller and drier the grass, the more intensely a grassfire will burn. Short grass under 10cm is a much lower risk.
• Grassfires can start earlier in the day than forest fires as grass dries out more quickly than forest when temperatures are high.
• Grassfires can be started accidently when using machinery such as chainsaws, lawnmowers, tractors and welders.
Protecting yourself from grassfires
The safest place to be during a grassfire is well away from the threat.
If you are threatened by a grassfire, always protect yourself by covering up all exposed skin with protective clothing.
Protecting your home and property from grassfires
It is important that a defendable space, a minimum of 3 meter clearance, is created and maintained around your property. This limits the ability of a moving grassfire to ignite a building through direct flame contact or radiant heat
Inform your local council if public grassland, a paddock or bushland near your home poses a high risk to yours or others property.
Narrow fuel breaks (under 3 metres wide) are ineffective at stopping a fire; however they may slow it down or limit the ability of a moving grassfire to ignite a building or fence through direct flame contact or radiant heat.
It is too late to begin spraying and slashing as the fire approaches. You must prepare now!
Reduce the height and proximity of grass to your property by:
• Spraying and using herbicide
• Creating fuel breaks by removing all fuel (vegetation) down to the soil.
If you are going to stay
If you live in a high risk bushfire area and your plan is to leave; leave early on the day.
If in doubt, leave.
If there is a grass, bush, scrub fire nearby, you can expect:
• Lots of smoke – it will be difficult to see and may cause breathing difficulties
• Emergency vehicles on nearby roads – road travel could be very dangerous
• Small fires created by embers carried by the wind
• Significant radiant heat – this can be deadly
The greatest danger confronting you during a bushfire and a grassfire is not the flames, but radiant heat. This should no be confused with the heat of the atmosphere on warm days. Radiant heat travels in straight lines, radiating out from a bushfire ahead of the flames
• The best protection from radiant heat is distance
• Radiant heat can be blocked by a solid object, such as a concrete wall or building that creates a barrier between you and the bushfire
• Only stay if your home is well prepared and you can actively defend it.
• Protect exposed skin area with long trousers, light long sleeved woollen jumper and good solid shoes
You must also consider the smoke from the fire, it can affect air quality and pose health risks. The signs of smoke irritation include: itchy eyes, sore throat, runny nose and general coughing.
To minimise the effect of smoke in your home:
• Keep all windows and doors closed
• Place towels or blankets around the bottom of doors and window sills
• Do not use your air conditioner
• Stay indoors
If there is a fire nearby and burning embers fall around your home and property take the following action:
• If you can see the fire, call 000 (zero, zero, zero) to report it
• Make sure everyone remain safely inside your home
• Stay alert and be aware of what is happening outside
After the fire front has passed extinguish small fires around your home:
• Make sure you are wearing your Personal Protection Kit to protect yourself from radiant heat, smoke and embers
• Gather necessary equipment, including hoses, buckets of water and mops
• Go outside and carefully extinguish embers/fires around your home using your hose and/or wet mop
• Stay alert and continue to monitor the situation
Total Fire Ban Days
Total Fire Ban is a day where certain activities that may cause fire are banned. Total Fire Ban Days are declared by CFA and announced the night before through all major media outlets. These are days of high fire risk with high temperatures and strong winds.
On days of high fire risk, stay informed by tuning in to your emergency broadcasters: ABC Local Radio, commercial radio stations or Sky News Television. If travelling on days of high fire risk, listen to the radio specific to the area you are in for current updates. You can also contact the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on 1800 240 667 (or via National Relay Service on 1800 555 677 if you are Deaf or hard of hearing) to find out about any fires in the area on the day.
On Total Fire Ban days, NO fires are allowed in then open, including:
• Barbecues fuelled by wood, heat beads or briquettes
• Outdoor ovens
• Fires for warmth
• Burning off grass or rubbish
On Total Fire Ban Days you ARE allowed to use:
• Gas or electric barbecues built into permanent structures, with no flammable materials within a 3 metre radius
• Portable gas or electric barbecues within 20 metres of a dwelling (excludes mobile homes, caravans and tents), with no flammable materials within a 3 metre radius
• A barbecue or spit at an outdoor function if you’re a caterer or charitable organisation and have a written permit from your fire service. You must comply with all conditions outlined on the permit.
BUT, you MUST have:
• Either a hose connected to a water supply, or a vessel with at least 10 litres of water
• A supervising adult be present at all times when the fire is alight
Fire Services advise against all non-essential work, using engine driven:
• Plant trimmers
• Driving in long grass
You can get more detailed information on Total Fire Ban days by downloading the “Can or Can’t I” brochure from the MFB website www.mfb.vic.gov.au
Avoid travel to high risk bushfire areas on Code Red Days
If going on holidays or travelling in bush, coastal areas or parklands, make sure you stay informed about bushfires while you’re away.
• People travelling in fire prone areas need to be aware of current fire danger ratings in Total Fire Ban districts
• Observe local fire restrictions
• Adhere to local Total Fire Ban days
• Tune in to ABC Local Radio, commercial radio or Sky News Television for updates. For a full list of all emergency broadcasters go to www.cfa.vic.gov.au
• Ensure your holiday accommodation is Summer Fire Safe and has working smoke alarms
• Find out from local CFA or councils where the designated Community Fire Refuges and Neighbourhood Safer Places are in that area
KNOW YOUR TOTAL FIRE BAN DISTRICT
Plan and practise your relocation destination and routes with your family. If your plan is to leave, - leave early.
• Your car offers very little protection from radiant heat
• Avoid driving in areas where there is fire activity as during a bushfire roads are extremely dangerous. If you see smoke, turn around and drive away from it
• Find a place away form high risk bushfire areas to relocate to, for example a shopping complex, central business district or a regional centre or a home of friends and family
• You will need to know what route to take and have an alternative if that route is blocked or congested. Your normal route may take much longer than expected
To increase your protection if caught out on the road in your car:
• Do not get out and run
• Park behind a solid structure to block as much radiant heat as you can. If this is not possible, then pull over to the side of the road into a clear area, well away from debris that may ignite
• Wind up your car windows, close the vents, put on your hazard lights and headlights, leave the engine running and the air conditioning on recirculate
• Drink water to keep hydrated
• Get down as low as possible below window level
• Cover up with a dry woollen blanket until the fire passes
• Get out of the car once the fire front has passed
Understanding Fire Danger Ratings
A Fire Danger Rating is a prediction of fire behaviour, including how hard it would be to put out a fire once it starts. To stay safe you need to be aware of the Fire Danger Rating in your location each day over the fire season – it is your trigger to act.
Fire Danger Rating provides information on:
• The type of threat bushfires may pose to life and property on any day given the forecast weather conditions.
• The sort of bushfire behaviour that could be experienced on that day
The Fire Danger Rating Barometer will alert you to danger so you can take action.
Fire Danger Rating will be a feature of weather forecasts and alert you to the actions you should take in preparation for and on the day. It will be in newspapers, broadcast on radio, TV and on websites. CFA www.cfa.vic.gov.au
On a CODE RED day, leaving high risk bushfire areas the night before or early in the morning is the safest option
Each of the Fire Danger Ratings has recommended actions you should follow.
||If you live in a bushfire prone area the safest option is to leave the night before, or early in the day. Do not wait and see.
• Consider staying if your home is well situated, prepared, constructed to withstand a bushfire and you can actively defend it.
• If you are not prepared to the highest level, to leave early in the day is your safest option.
• Be aware of local conditions and seek information by listening to your emergency broadcasters.
||• Well prepared homes that are actively defended can provide safety
• If you are not prepared, leaving high risk bushfire areas early in the day is your safest option
• If you are not prepared leaving busfire-prone areas early in the day is your safest option.
• Check your Bushfire Survival Plan
• Monitor conditions
• Actions may be needed
• Leave if necessary.
Fire agencies will provide you with as much information as possible when there is a fire. Information can be obtained through CFA, DSE and MFB websites or the VBIL hotline. You could also be notified of immediate dangers in your area via Standard Emergency Warning Signal or telephone based Emergency Warnings.
Standard Emergency Warning Signal (S.E.W.S)
SEWS is a distinctive sound that may be broadcast in an emergency. It is a distinctive sound designed to alert listeners that an official announcement is about to be made concerning an actual or potential emergency.
An automatic telephone based system will issue warnings to communities on any emergency, including a fire. Through this system you may receive a text message to your mobile or a voice message to your landline phone. When a message is issued it will go to all phones linked to properties in a designated area (by billing address) that could be impacted by the emergency.
Listen for three levels of warnings this fire season. They will alert you to danger from any actual or potential fire, so you know what action to take. You should take these messages seriously and read or listen carefully to the information given.
A fire has started but there is no immediate danger. You will receive updates and general information on the situation.
Watch and Act
This represents a heightened level of threat. Conditions are changing and you need to take action now to protect you and your family.
You are in danger and need to take action immediately. You will be impacted by fire. This message may be preceded by a Standard Emergency Warning Signal (a siren sound)
! If you do not understand any message prior to or during this fire season seek help from your family, friends, neighbours or local Fire Service.
Do not rely on official warning to leave. Fire can threaten suddenly and without warning, so you should always be ready to act. Stay informed by tuning in to your emergency broadcasters: ABC Local Radio, commercial radio stations or Sky News Television for updates and warnings during the fire season. For a full list of emergency broadcasters go to www.cfa.vic.gov.au
In an emergency phone 000 (zero, zero, zero)
For further information on Summer Fire Safety
MFB website: www.mfb.vic.gov.au
CFA website: www.cfa.vic.gov.au
For information on planned burns, visit the Department of Sustainability and Environment
For information on evacuating in the event of an emergency, visit the Victoria Police website: www.police.vic.gov.au/communitysafety
The Victorian Bushfire Information Line: 1800 240 667 or via National Relay Service on 1800 555 677 if you are Deaf or hard of hearing for:
• Bushfire preparation, planning and safety messages
• Each days Fire Danger Ratings and what they mean
• Total Fire Ban Days do’s and don’ts, and fire restrictions
• Planned burns in your area
• Updates on current bushfires.
For information on alerts and warnings:
• Visit www.cfa.vic.gov.au
• CFA warnings are available via the CFA_Updates Twitter feed (@CFA_Updates)
• Tune in to your emergency broadcasters –ABC local radio, commercial radio and designated community radio stations. (For a full list of all emergency broadcasters go to www.cfa.vic.gov.au
• Sky News Television
• Victorian Bushfire Information Line: 1800 240 667 or via National Relay Service on 1800 555 677 if you are Deaf or hard of hearing