Your guide to preparing for and surviving the bushfire season (Text Only)
Prepare. Act. Survive.
Living in a bush setting is a lifestyle choice for many South Australians. The benefits are enormous, but so are the risks.
All people living in or near the bush-including those in suburban fringe areas of Adelaide and regional South Australia-are in danger of experiencing a bushfire.
In South Australia we have experienced several such events including Ash Wednesday in 1983 and the Wangary Bushfires in 2005. The reality of experiencing a dangerous bushfire is a risk that everyone must seriously consider.
While fires are inevitable, they are also survivable- and your chances of saving yourself, your family and your home increase according to your level of planning and preparation. The CFS will not always be able to protect each individual property threatened by fire. People who do not have a Bushfire Survival Plan are putting themselves and their family at risk
This booklet is a guide to help protect your home and the lives of your family. It explains ways of making your property less vulnerable to bushfire attack and will help you make the correct choices if a bushfire threatens.
Whether you choose to leave early to go to a safer place or to stay and defend your well prepared home, planning and preparation is the key to survival:
- Prepare and practise your Bushfire Survival Plan well before the fire season
- Prepare your home and your property to survive the fire front, ember attack and radiant heat
- Even if your plan is to leave early, the more you prepare your home and property the greater the chance your home will survive the bushfire
- If you prepare your property but don't feel able to stay and defend it, then plan to leave early. Make this part of your Bushfire Survival Plan
- Prepare for those days when the forecast Fire Danger Rating is very high, severe, extreme or catastrophic
- If you prepare to leave early, consider when you will leave, where you will go, how you will get there safely and what you will take with you
- If you are planning to stay and defend, prepare for a frightening experience
- Find out what equipment you need and determine what you will do if things do not go according to plan
- Prepare for when a fire is close to you
Preparing yourself, your family and your home is your responsibility. The more you prepare your home the better the chances are that it will survive a bushfire, even if you plan to leave well before a bushfire starts.
Preparing is not just about property and plans it is also about considering your physical, mental and emotional preparedness.
Am I At Risk?
Did you know?
- More than 35 suburbs in Adelaide's fringes are in bushfire prone areas
- More than 75 towns in the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island are in bushfire prone areas
- 75 towns in other parts of rural South Australia are in bushfire prone areas?
- Between 1/3 and 1/2 of people living in bushfire prone areas don't understand the threat bushfires pose to them and their family.
Use the CFS website to find out if you live in a bushfire-prone area.
Keys To Survival
There are seven keys to bushfire survival. It is recommended that you review these and your circumstances as part of developing your Bushfire Survival Plan.
- Written & Practised Bushfire Survival Plan
- Days of High Fire Danger
- Bushfire Behaviour
- Preparing your Home & Property
- Physical and Emotional Preparation
- Acting on Fire Danger days
- Bushfire Survival Kits
- Understanding bushfire behaviour
It is important to understand the characteristics and behaviour of bushfires, which are influenced by vegetation, topography and climate.
What do you know about bushfire behaviour?
- Recognising days of high fire danger
Bushfires can be more dangerous on certain days. Learn to recognise the characteristics and terminology of these days.
Do you know the signs?
- Preparing your home and property
Even if your Plan is to leave early, a well prepared home is more likely to survive a bushfire.
How prepared is your property?
- Creating Bushfire Survival Kits
Kits keep all the things you will need together and accessible. Create: Relocation Kits (what to take with you); Survival Kits (what you need to help survive the day); and Recovery Kits (what you need for the 24-48 hours following a fire).
What would you pack?
- Considering your physical and emotional preparation
It's important to be realistic about what you can and can't do. Ensure you and your family understand fully what a bushfire can mean in terms of fear, stress and threat to personal life.
How prepared are you?
- Acting on days of high fire danger
Put your preparation and plans into action on days of high fire danger.
What will you do on a day of high fire danger?
- Writing and practicing your Bushfire Survival Plans
Your plan is central to your survival.
Have you got a Plan?
You need to consider each of these key points when thinking of how you would respond to a bushfire.
Understand Bushfire Behaviour
Summer in Southern Australia brings conditions that are ideal for bushfires: hot, dry, windy weather and vegetation that quickly dries out.
Fire intensity refers to the amount of heat being generated. The higher the intensity, the harder the fire is to control and the more damage it is likely to cause. Fire intensity depends on three main factors: vegetation, weather and topography.
The type and amount of vegetation determines fuel load, which in turn determines fire intensity. The intensity of a fire increases in proportion to the amount of available fuel.
Because of heavier undergrowth, forest and scrub fires are significantly more intense than grass fires. As a result, the potential damage to a home is much greater.
Reduction of vegetation by clearing undergrowth is an essential part of your fire protection strategy because it is the best method for reducing the intensity of a bushfire.
Rising temperatures, wind speed and a reduction in humidity contribute to bushfire intensity and the rate at which it spreads. As vegetation dries out, ignition becomes easier.
In South Australia, the hot northerly winds pose the greatest danger. However, experience has shown that a south-westerly change, although cooler, can increase this danger by moving the fire in a different direction and catching people unaware.
Your bushfire protection strategy should take into consideration that fires are most likely to come from the northern and western sides.
As fires burn more quickly and with greater intensity up slopes than on fat ground or downhill, the most dangerous home sites are on ridge-tops and steep slopes. North-facing slopes also receive more direct sunlight which dries out vegetation which can result in more intense fires.
You will sometimes hear the words "fuel" and "vegetation" used interchangeably because vegetation is a fire's main fuel source. However certain vegetation is more dangerous. "Fine fuels" such as grass, leaves, bark and twigs less than 6mm in diameter ignite readily and burn rapidly when dry. Fine fuels and dense undergrowth increase the risk and intensity of bushfires.
Fire Danger Ratings
To help you assess your level of bushfire risk and action to take, it is important that you understand the Fire Danger rating.
The rating is forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology each day and is an early indicator for you of the potential danger, should a bushfire start.
The higher the Fire Danger rating, the more dangerous the conditions should a fire start.
The Fire Danger Rating chart will assist you to understand the predicted bushfire behaviour, potential impacts and recommended actions you should take for each category level. Take the time to review and understand the chart.
The Fire Danger Rating is not a predictor of how likely a bushfire is to occur, but how dangerous it could be if it did occur. It should be used as an early indicator to trigger your plans.
The Fire Danger Rating is issued by the Bureau of Meteorology after 4pm the day before and is available at www.bom.gov.au
Bushfires can threaten suddenly and without warning.
Know your Fire Danger Rating, monitor local conditions and keep informed.
Watch for signs of fire, especially smoke and flames
Know the Fire Danger Rating in your area and be aware of local conditions
Have your Bushfire Survival Plan and kit ready
Call 000 to report a fire
To Seek Information
- listen to local radio,
- go to www.cfs.sa.gov.au, or
- call the Bushfire Information Hotline on 1300 362 361 (TTY 133 677)
|Danger rating||What does it mean?||What should I do?|
Total Fire Ban
You Need To Act Now
Total Fire Ban
You Need To Get Ready To Act .
Total Fire Ban
You Need To Be Aware
Bushfire Ready Bonus
Knowing tomorrow's Fire Danger Rating can help you organise your family if your local school's plan is to close on certain fire danger days.
Fire Ban Districts
SA Fire Ban Districts
South Australia is divided into 15 fire ban districts.
Each district has its own fire danger season dates, so it is important to be aware of which district you live, travel or work in.
If you are unsure of which District you live in, use our simple tool that will help you locate your Fire Ban District.
The Fire Danger Season
The Fire Danger Season generally runs from November to April. During the season, restrictions are placed on lighting fires to reduce the chance of bushfires starting.
You must apply for a permit to light fires outdoors during these months, unless it is of a type prescribed in the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005 and Regulations.
A simple guide to the restrictions is below
|Fire ban district||From||To|
|1||Adelaide Metropolitan Area||1 December||30 April|
|2||Mount Lofty Ranges||1 December||30 April|
|3||Kangaroo Island||1 December||30 April|
|4||Mid North||15 November||30 April|
|5||Yorke Peninsula||15 November||30 April|
|6||Murraylands||15 November||15 April|
|7||Riverland||15 November||15 April|
|8||Upper South East||15 November||15 April|
|9||Lower South East||22 November||30 April|
|10||Flinders||1 November||15 April|
|11||North East Pastoral||1 November||31 March|
|12||Eastern Eyre Peninsula||1 November||15 April|
|13||North West Pastoral||1 November||31 March|
|14||Lower Eyre Peninsula||1 November||15 April|
|15||West Coast||1 November||15 April|
Total Fire Bans
A Total Fire Ban is declared by the CFS Chief Officer in conjunction with the Bureau of Meteorology and issued with the Fire Danger Rating.
A Total Fire Ban day can be declared at any time of the year and for any fire ban district. The ban stays in place for 24 hours. The CFS releases the information to the media the evening before the Total Fire Ban day to coincide with nightly news broadcasts.
By imposing the ban, the CFS is able to restrict risky activities. Penalties of fines up to $10,000 and two years' jail can be imposed if you break the law. On-the-spot fines of up to $315 may also apply.
On a Total Fire Ban day, fires cannot be lit in the open, apart from a very few exceptions.
More information on what you can and can't do on a Total Fire Ban day is on page 36
No one who was not there on the day could possibly have an idea of the sheer speed, force and total unexpectedness of this fire. We live in North Shields, for heaven's sake. There is no scrub or forest nearby. The beach is only 100 metres away from most houses. At the worst, we thought we might have to fight a bit of a grass fire. Instead the fire destroyed nine homes plus several permanent sites at the Caravan Park and took the life of one lovely lady-and that was just in our small township!
Gail Watherson, Black Tuesday Survivor
Check with your child's school, preschool or day-care centre, or on the Department of Education and Children's Services website for information on policies and procedures that will affect your school or school buses on days of high fire danger.
Bushfire Ready Bonus
Knowing that it's a Total Fire Ban Day can help you plan your activities.
Prepare Your Home and Property
Preparation of your home and property is an essential key throughout the year to ensure that you, your property and your family survive. A well prepared home is more likely to survive a bushfire than one that hasn't been prepared.
Even if you leave early, there is a greater chance that your home will be saved if you have undertaken preparations.
There are various ways in which a house can burn during a bushfire-radiant heat ahead of the fire front, burning debris falling on the building and direct fame contact.
Research has shown that the biggest cause, however, is sparks and embers landing on or near your home that can trigger a fire before and hours after the bushfire has passed.
Sparks and embers enter a home wherever there is a gap, such as under roofing tiles, under the floor in crevices, window sills and vents, and under verandahs.
- Starve the fire by clearing vegetation and rubbish away from your home, and using non-flammable building materials
- Create a defendable space by carefully managing trees close to your home, and reducing vegetation for 20 metres
- Fill the gaps where embers might enter or catch
- Protect your asset with adequate home and contents insurance
In the garden
Reducing the amount of vegetation on a property is one of the most critical components of preparing for bushfires. measures that should be taken before the fire season include:
- Removing dead branches, leaves and undergrowth from around your home especially under trees.
- Pruning tree limbs that are lower than two metres above the ground or overhanging your home.
- Reducing, removing and managing vegetation such as long grass within 20 metres of your home and within 5 metres of any sheds and garages.
- Removing bark, heavy mulch, wood piles and any other flammable materials close to your home and sheds.
There are various other measures that can be taken in the garden to protect your home. they include:
- Installing a sprinkler system to wet down the vegetation and your home to reduce the impact of radiant heat, sparks and embers. (All fittings should be metal as plastic melts).
- Ensuring access to an independent water supply such as a tank, dam or swimming pool of at least 5000 litres.
Do not rely on mains water being available during a fire.
- Installing a petrol/diesel-driven water pump.
- Making sure hoses are long enough to reach around your home.
- Using a stone wall, earth barrier, or fence close to your home as a radiant heat shield.
- Planting lower flammability vegetation, including plants and trees with high water and salt content.
- Developing a well-managed vegetable garden, as it can act as an excellent fuel break.
- Planting trees and shrubs with space between them so they do not form a continuous canopy.
Bushfire Ready Bonus
A Bushfire Ready property with excess vegetation removed or reduced creates a larger and more attractive entertaining space.
Actions In and Around The Home
Even the best prepared home is not designed or constructed to withstand fires under Catastrophic fire conditions
Some basic measures to improve your home safety are:
- Smooth surfaces-Paint or refurbish dried exterior timber, repair nooks or crannies where leaves and debris can gather. Design pathways, driveways and lawns around your home to keep a clear area immediately around your home.
- Roofing-Well-secured metal roofing is preferable. A tiled roof needs to be well fitted with fire-resistant sarking (fibreglass-based aluminium foil).
- Walls-Choose non-flammable wall materials such as brick, mud brick and fibre cement. Vinyl weatherboards, rough timber and other cladding can warp or catch fire. Gaps in external roof and wall cladding need to be sealed.
- Windows, crevices and vents-Spark-proof your home with bronze or stainless steel flywire screens on windows and doors, or install fire resistant metal shutters. Cover all wall cavities in fine wire mesh. Enclose areas under decks and floors. Screen vents in the roof space with fine wire mesh.
- Skylights-Install wire-reinforced glass or a thermo plastic cover on skylights as plastic can melt and glass can break in intense heat.
- Property access-Gateways should be at least 3 metres wide and there should be clear access with a turnaround point for firefighting vehicles.
- Gutters-Regularly clean gutters and remove leaves and bark from any areas where they can become trapped.
- Sprinkler system-A home bushfire sprinkler system that directs water over the roof, windows, doors and underfloor areas is one of the most effective ways of protecting against radiant heat, direct fame and ember attack. Seek professional advice for design and installation.
Prepare Your Property
Season by Season
- Remove dead vegetation from around your home and prune lower limbs of trees.
- Check with your council to see if a permit is required to burn off garden waste, or dispose of the material through mulching or at a council rubbish dump.
- Ember-proof your home, for example: check roof space for loose tiles and gaps and repair as necessary.
- Seal any areas under your home, verandahs or balconies.
- Slash or mow long grass and remove cut material (unless it can rot down before summer).
- Remove weeds.
- Cut back trees overhanging your home.
- Remove fallen branches and other debris.
- Check and service all mechanical equipment, including grass cutters, water pumps, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers.
- Remove leaves from gutters.
- Review and update your Bushfire Survival Plan.
- Maintain up to a 20 metre defendable space around your home (greater if on a slope) and with 5 metres of sheds and garages.
- Clear around trees.
- Remove leaves from the gutters.
- Slash stubble near sheds/buildings.
- Check reserve water supplies.
- Practise your Bushfire Survival Plan with your family.
- Prepare a relocation kit.
- Ensure you have a portable battery-powered radio and spare batteries to listen to bushfire warnings.
- Monitor Fire Danger Ratings.
- Remove undergrowth and dead vegetation.
- Check with your council to see if a permit is required for a burn-off.
- Check for any fire hazards and remove.
Bushfire Ready Bonus
Properties with reduced vegetation are less likely to harbour snakes.
"We thought clearing our property would be hard, but we got some mates around to help, then had a barbie in our nice clean yard. Next week it's Phil's place."
Jamie Kindler, SA
Prepare Bushfire Survival Kits
Bushfire Survival Kits should be prepared before the fire season.
Relocation Kits contain what to take with you if you leave.
Survival Kits contain what you need to help survive the day.
Recovery Kits contain what you might need for the 24- 48 hours following a fire.
For the family
- Battery powered AM/FM radio plus spare batteries
- A torch
- Woollen blankets
- A first aid kit
- Insurance papers and personal documents such as wills, financial papers and passports
- Snacks and water
- A can opener
- On the day-add money/credit cards, medications, drinking water and food for 24 hours
- Mobile phone & charger
- Children's toys
- Phone numbers for family and friends
For your pets
- A dish for water
- On the day-add any medications and drinking water
Make provision for the safe storage of valuables such as family photos and videos, insurance documents, and house deeds. ensure all members of the family are aware of the kits, contents and location.
Bushfire Ready Bonus
A well-prepared survival kit means you'll know exactly where to find the torch next time the power fails.
Ensure personal safety
Despite the heat, it is important you do not wear summer clothes during a fire. In the event of fire everyone involved should wear:
- Natural fabrics such as cotton, denim or wool- synthetics can melt or burn.
- A long sleeved shirt made from thick cotton or wool to prevent burns to the upper body and arms.
- A pair of heavy cotton pants or overalls to shield your legs.
- Sturdy leather work boots and a pair of wool socks to prevent burns to the feet.
- A wide brimmed hat to stop embers from dropping on your head or down your back.
- Work gloves to protect your hands.
- A pair of goggles to safeguard your eyes against smoke, embers and debris in the air.
- A smoke mask or cloth to cover your nose and mouth to protect you from inhaling smoke and embers
You must also drink water regularly to avoid dehydration
Prepare Your Bushfire Survival Plan
If you live in a bushfire prone area you must have a Bushfire Survival Plan.
Your plan will help you take action and avoid making last minute decisions that could prove deadly during a bushfire.
Your Bushfire survival Plan outlines what you need to do to help safeguard your property and, most importantly, what actions each member of your family will take on fire risk days and if a fire threatens.
Making a choice when a bushfire threatens is too late. The majority of people in bushfires die fleeing their homes at the last moment. Leaving late is a deadly option.
A template to complete your plan is included in this guide
A good plan:
- is prepared well before the Fire Danger Season
- is written down, so that the details are to hand when you need them
- has been practiced, so you know how it will go on the day
- is created with the whole family and covers everyone, including the young and the elderly
- includes what to do:
- before the Fire Danger Season
- on a Total Fire Ban day
- during a bushfire
- after a bushfire
- can adapt to unforseen circumstances
Prepare yourself and your family both physically and emotionally.
You and your family need to be prepared mentally and physically for the ferocity of a bushfire.
In a bushfire you will experience strong gusty winds, intense radiant heat and fames, heavy smoke which will make it difficult to see and breathe, embers will cause many spot fires, the sound of roaring fires approaching, power, telephones and water being cut off and an environment which can be dark, noisy and terrifying.
You need to realistically consider the overwhelming physical and psychological demands of facing a bushfire.
If you have any doubts about your ability to cope you should plan to leave early.
Understanding Fire Regulations
Regulations have been introduced throughout South Australia to protect lives and property during the bushfire season. They apply to everyone, not just those living in bushfire areas.
It is essential that you are familiar with the regulations and understand what you can and cannot do, whether you are at home, on holiday or visiting a national park.
Once the fire danger has begun there are strict controls on the lighting of fires and the use of certain tools in the open. The restrictions remain in place until the end of the season (see above for the dates in your district).
* A Schedule 9 or Schedule 10 Permit refers to a permit issued under the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005. Your council fire prevention officer or CFS office can provide further advice.
** An engine or vehicle exhaust system complies if:
(a) all engine exhaust emitted by the engine or vehicle exits through the system; and
(b) the system, or a device or devices forming part of the system, is designed to prevent the escape of burning material from the system; and
(c) the system, or a device or devices forming part of the system, is designed to prevent heated parts of the system from coming into contact with flammable material; and
(d) the system is in good working order.
*** domestic premises means a building or other structure that is fixed to the ground and connected to a reticulated or stored water supply and that is occupied as a place of residence but does not include a caravan.
If in any doubt, phone the Bushfire Information Hotline on 1300 362 361.
Your Questions Answered
|Fire Danger Season||Total Fire Ban|
|Q Can I light a fire in the open air for burning off grass, stubble, weeds, undergrowth or other vegetation?||NO||Unless you have obtained a Schedule 9 permit * from your local council||NO||Unless you have obtained a Schedule 10 permit * from your local council|
|Q Can I burn off rubbish or grass cuttings?||YES||
But only in a properly constructed incinerator and you must have:
If you want to burn on the ground you will require a Schedule 9 permit * from your local council
Unless you have obtained a Schedule 10 permit * from your local council.
The lighting of incinerators is banned on a total fire ban day.
|Check with your local council and the Environment Protection Authority, which also have control over the lighting of fires. Some councils have totally prohibited the use of incinerators and open fires for waste disposal on domestic premises.|
|Q Can I light a campfire, bonfire or light a fire for warmth or comfort? (See special provisions for gas or electric barbeques below)||YES||
But only if:
|NO||Unless you have obtained a Schedule 10 permit * from your local council|
|Q Can I use a gas or electric barbeque?||YES||
Providing you have:
Providing it is gas or an electric element and used:
Providing you have:
|Some councils allow gas or electric barbeques in caravan parks or cleared picnic areas. Look for the signs or contact the council for advice.|
|Q Can I drive a vehicle off road?||YES||You can drive a vehicle within 2 metres of flammable bush or grass provided that the engine is fitted with an exhaust system that complies with the requirements listed above. **||YES||You can drive a vehicle within 2 metres of flammable bush or grass provided that the engine is fitted with an exhaust system that complies with the requirements listed above. **|
|Q Can I have a fire in a national Park reserve or a forest reserve?||YES||Strict regulations apply to all fires, including barbeques, in government reserves. For further information contact the relevant government office.||NO||Fires are NOT permitted.|
|Q Can I use fireworks?||NO||Private use of fireworks is banned. Licensed pyrotechnicians can conduct fireworks displays providing a Schedule 9 permit * has been obtained.||NO||Private use of fireworks is banned. Licensed pyrotechnicians can conduct fireworks displays providing a Schedule 10 permit * has been obtained.|
|Q Can I use a grinder or welder outside?||YES||
Providing you have:
|NO||Unless you have obtained a Schedule 10 permit * from your local council.|
|Q Can I use a chainsaw, grass trimmer, lawn mower or slasher?||YES||
Provided that the engine is fitted with an exhaust system that complies with the requires listed above ** and:
Provided that the engine is fitted with an exhaust system that complies with the requires listed above ** and:
Act To Protect Yourself and Your Property
Fires can threaten suddenly and without warning. Be prepared to enact your Bushfire Survival Plan without receiving any emergency warning.
The CFS cannot guarantee a fire truck will be there to protect your property so you need to:
- Know what the bushfire dangers are for your area
- On a daily basis, know the Fire Danger Rating for your area and what you need to do
- Act decisively the moment you know there is danger
- Watch for signs of fire, especially smoke and fames
- Put your Bushfire Survival Plan into action (avoid a "wait and see" response)
Act with information
Look and listen for information on television, radio, internet, mobile phones and by speaking with neighbours.
- CFS website www.cfs.sa.gov.au
- Bushfire Information Hotline 1300 362 361
- ABC Local Radio (across Australia)
- Our other Emergency Broadcast Partners: FIVEaa Radio, Sky News Television, WIN Television, Commercial Radio Australia (full list available)
Bushfire "Watch and Act" & "Emergency Warning" messages
There are three types of Bushfire messages that will alert you to a bushfire:
- Advice message-A fire has started. There is no immediate danger. This is general information to keep you up to date with developments.
- Watch and Act message-A fire is approaching you, conditions are changing. You need to start taking action now to protect you and your family.
- Emergency Warning message-You are in danger and need to take action immediately. You will be impacted by fire. This message will be preceded by an emergency warning signal (a siren sound).
Emergency Alert telephone warning system
In an emergency in your area, you may receive a message via your landline (to service location) or mobile (based on your billing address) advising you of the nature of the emergency and where you can go for more information.
Remember that power failures will prevent cordless phones from working, fires may damage telephone infrastructure in your area, or the fire may be travelling too fast to get a warning out.
For more information on Emergency Alert please visit www.emergencyalert.gov.au. Do not wait for a warning message before you act.
Do not rely on one single source for emergency warning information.
Act On Days Of High Fire Danger
Fires can threaten suddenly and without warning, and can travel very fast. It's important that you use triggers to warn you of the potential for danger before a bushfire even starts.
Finding out tomorrow's Fire Danger Rating is the best trigger and should be the first step in activating your Bushfire Survival Plan-whether that be to leave early or stay and defend. If your plan is to leave, it's important to know where to go.
Hierarchy of Bushfire Safer Places in SA
CFS has developed a hierarchy of places that can offer relative safety from bushfire. It is important that you know what each of these are, where they are, and what risk you may be exposed to if you use one of these options during a bushfire.
More details and designated places can be found on the website.
Bushfire Ready Bonus
Leaving early gives you the chance to spend a nice planned day somewhere different, rather than worrying about the possibility of panicked evacuation.
BUSHFIRE SAFER PLACE
|Adelaide Metropolitan area, outer suburbs and rural settlements.||
For if you need to relocate early.
Suitable for use during forecast bad fire weather or during bushfire. May be subject to sparks, embers and smoke.
LAST RESORT REFUGE
|Ovals, buildings in rural areas.||
For if your plan has failed.
Not suitable for extended use and provides only limited protection during bushfire.
"When we first moved here, my eldest daughter was four and my youngest was a slowly expanding bump. It was very soon apparent that in the event of a fire, Mike would be out on the truck. There was no guarantee he would be able to get home to help me if a fire threatened our area. Staying and defending our home on my own in my condition simply wasn't an option."
(Danielle Clode in Future in Flames)
Bushfire in the city?
If you live in a city or township, understanding what to do in the event of a bushfire is just as important for you as it is for people in rural areas.
Just because you live in Adelaide, in the urban fringes, or a regional town doesn't mean you're not at risk from bushfire or serious grass fire. It's essential that you're always aware of local fire restrictions, Total Fire Ban days and your own bushfire risk.
If your risk is low, think about making your home available to relatives or friends who've decided to take the safest option and leave early on a Total Fire Ban Day, so they are not in a bushfire prone area at the time of highest risk.
Act When a Fire Is Approaching
Stage 1 As the Fire Front Is Approaching
Stay close to your home and extinguish any spot fires caused by flying embers and sparks. An ember or spark attack can occur up to an hour before the main fire front arrives, and up to eights hours after. Embers or sparks and burning debris can be large and frightening.
Research across Australia has shown wind-blown sparks and embers are the biggest cause of home destruction in a bushfire.
The main cause of death in bushfires is radiant heat, so it is important to take shelter in your home as the temperature associated with the fire front rises. Do not shelter in a dam, swimming pool, or tank as your face, head and lungs will be exposed to radiant heat and smoke.
It is important when you shelter, that you have 2 exits.
Stage 2 When the Fire Front Arrives
Go inside but stay alert as the fire front approaches. Identify a room for the elderly, young or other less able-bodied people to shelter in.
This room should be away from the likely direction of the fire and have at least 2 exits. Patrol the house for sparks and embers and put them out if safe to do so. Do not go under the house or into a basement as you can become trapped if the house catches fire. The fire front normally passes within a few minutes, after which it is usually safe to return outside.
Stage 3 After the Front Has Passed
It is essential to remain vigilant for many hours after the fire front has passed.
Small fires started by embers can soon burn out of control if they are not extinguished quickly, so keep checking. Hose down the house, paying special attention to the roof space, window frames and under-floor areas. Remember, homes will generally withstand the initial passage of a bushfire providing you have prepared your home appropriately.
Being proactive is the way Paul O'Brien protects his property and in the face of a recent fire threat, that attitude and diligence held him in good stead.
Faced with the news of the massive fire, Paul had less than an hour to put his plan into action and he wasted no time. Turning on sprinklers, filling the bath, plugging the gutters and using his firefighting pump to wet everything down before the fire arrived ... and yet even though the grass was wet, it didn't stop the fire completely.
"But it slowed it down enough for me to fight the fire myself with a shovel and buckets of water from the bath" he said. "I was pretty confident that I was prepared, because I'd been keeping my fuel load down."
"If people think it can't happen to them, as sure as the sun comes up tomorrow there will be a fire. People who don't take precautions are stupid."
For more information for each stage, see below or refer to the Fact Sheets section.
Remember, people will always be more important than houses. Your main priority is to ensure you and your loved ones are safe and survive.
You need to know what to do if you are caught in a fire, you may be threatened by a fire without any warning.
Preparation is the key to surviving a bushfire.
Make a plan and stick to it-don't wait and see.
- Monitor conditions and know the daily Fire Danger Rating. On Total Fire Ban days, it's recommended that you relocate if you have no plan to stay and defend, or if you are caring for vulnerable, young or elderly people. If it is forecast to be Catastrophic, leave as early as possible whatever your initial plan.
- Keep up-to-date through the CFS website and local radio (see our website for a full list of our Emergency Broadcast Partners)
- The safest place is away from the fire-your life and survival is the highest priority
- You and your family's survival and safety will depend on the decisions you make now and acting on these decisions. Put your safety first.
Max and Jean's Story
"It seemed that 40 years of CFS training and working with volunteers helped us to survive, but nothing could have stopped the inferno that engulfed everything in its path on that fateful day. Many lessons were learnt on how we must prepare for this sort of once-in-a-lifetime event. Reflecting on our actions, it would seem that we could have done no more when the fire was upon us but could have done plenty before the fire season started."
Max and Jean Hitch, Black Tuesday Survivors
Bushfire Dangers to avoid:
Many people who die in bushfires are caught by fire in their cars or on foot trying to escape. Maximise your chances of survival by leaving early.
Radiant heat is the heat you feel radiating from a fire. In major bushfires, this heat can be so intense that it can kill people from hundreds of metres away without a fame ever touching them.
Protecting yourself from radiant heat
- Distance-the best protection is being as far away from a fire as possible
- Shield-solid walls or buildings can create a barrier between you and the heat
- Clothing-as a last resort, protective clothing can reduce the impact of radiant heat
Protecting yourself from heat-related illness .
- Drink lots of water
- Cool yourself by loosening clothing and encouraging airflow
- Rest (when it is safe to do so)
Heat stress and dehydration are dangers during bushfires.
Survive On Holiday
Travellers and holidaymakers are also at risk during the fire danger season and need to take precautions.
If travelling through bushland areas, make sure you take appropriate fire protection clothing and equipment and identify the local Fire Ban District. Be aware of the Fire Danger Rating for the area.
It is advisable not to go bushwalking on fire danger days, but if you are caught in a bushfire you should:
- Never try to outrun the fames.
- Head for a natural fire break, e.g. streams, clearings or rock outcrops.
- Keep away from high ground in the path of the fire.
- Never shelter in an above ground water tank.
- Cover yourself or shelter behind a solid object such as a rock, to protect against radiant heat.
On the road
Bushfires often jump roads so find an alternative route if you are confronted by a bushfire.
If you become trapped, try to find clear ground away from any dense vegetation and stay in your vehicle.
Wind up your windows, shelter on the floor of your vehicle and cover yourself with woollen blankets to protect from radiant heat.
Stay in your vehicle until the bushfire has passed.
Camping and houseboats
People on camping and houseboat holidays must ensure they are familiar with local fire restrictions.
If camping or staying in a caravan park, enquire if a safe refuge area has been designated (informally by the park, or formally by the CFS as a Bushfire Last Resort Refuge). A brick toilet building or shower block is often ideal.
Be careful using generators and make sure you are familiar with restrictions applying to fires and barbeques.
If visiting a national park, ask the rangers about the local fire and barbecue regulations as they can vary.
This also applies to houseboat users when lighting fires along riverbanks.
Travelling outside SA?
Local ABC radio stations across Australia broadcast emergency information, advice and updates.
In South Australia, tune into your local ABC or one of our other Emergency Broadcast Partners: FIVEaa Radio, Sky News Television, WIN Television, Commercial Radio Australia (full list available) More information is available, especially for holiday-makers and travellers.
Bushfire Survival Plan
Thinking "I will leave early" is not enough.
You must prepare to act and survive.
What will you do?
It is difficult to make a single decision-whether you intend to stay and defend your property or leave early-as circumstances can vary.
It is important to recognise that in an emergency, unexpected things are likely to occur so you will need to adapt to changing circumstances and have a plan that will work in different situations.
Your plan should alter according to the forecast Fire Danger Rating and may need to take into account questions like: will it need to be different weekends to weekdays? What if the children are at school? What if we have house guests or someone is home sick?
You may also decide to have different plans to suit the daily Fire Danger Rating and enact one plan on days where the Fire Danger Rating is forecast to be Severe and a different plan when the Fire Danger Rating is forecast to be Catastrophic.
This section takes you step-by-step through each option. Use it to complete your personalised Bushfire survival Plan.
Considering whether to stay and defend
Even if you are unsure whether to stay and defend your property on fire risk days, both you and your property need to be well prepared. On days where the Fire Danger rating is forecast to be Catastrophic, leaving early is the best option for you and your family's survival.
Consider the following:
- Is your home constructed to meet the latest regulations for building in bushfire prone areas?
- Is your property prepared and maintained for bushfires?
- Are you physically ft to fight spot fires in and around your home for up to 10 hours or more?
- Does your home have a defendable space with at least 20 metres cleared of flammable materials and vegetation?
- Do you have the resources, appropriate clothing, well-maintained equipment, water supply (minimum of 5,000 litres and a diesel or petrol pump), necessary skills and knowledge to effectively fight a fire?
- Are you and at least one other person mentally and emotionally prepared to actively defend your property?
- Are you able to implement your plan while caring for distressed young children, elderly or disabled people in your home?
If these questions make you doubt your ability, the preparedness of your property, or if you are for any reason unsure about staying and defending your property, then you should prepare a plan to leave early.
Editable electronic versions of these plans are available online.
Preparing To Leave Early
In planning to leave early, you need to consider:
- When will you leave-have you decided what will be your trigger?
- Will your plan be different for weekdays, weekends or if someone is home sick?
- Are all members of your household going to leave early?
- Which members of your household (if any) will stay and defend?
- Where will you and your family go to ensure you are all safe? (Do you have friends, relatives or fun activities in a nearby Bushfire Safer Place?)
- What route will you take to get there?
- How long will it take to get there?
- What will you take when you leave early?
- What will you do if there are many fire risk days in one week?
- What warnings can you expect to get?
- Do your friends, family and neighbours know the details of your plan?
- What will you do with your pets and animals?
- What will be your trigger to return?
- Do you have a contingency plan if it is unsafe to leave?
Even if your choice is to leave early-well before a bushfire threatens-you should still have a contingency plan as part of your Bushfire Survival Plan. There are many scenarios to consider, such as what you will do if a fire starts quickly in your local area making roads impassable or travel particularly dangerous. You should have other options if road travel is not safe.
"... Then it was all go preparing the house. Our fire- fighting pump is always set up to our cement tank; so Damien started it up and we wet down the house, filled up the gutters, put covers over our windows in case they blew in, filled up the bath and all the buckets we could find. While Damien was on the roof blocking the gutters, he felt the wind change and knew we were in trouble. Outside it was so eerie, and raining ash. Inside I tried to keep it as normal as possible for the kids, putting all the lights on. Then we lost power. ... The kids and I didn't return until 6pm. I tried to picture what we were in for, but you just can't. As soon as we got to where the fire started, so did the tears. We had only lived on our property for three and a half months when the fire came. We bought at Greenpatch as we thought it was one of the prettiest places on the planet."
Jodie Curtis, Black Tuesday Survivor
Preparing To Stay and Defend
Staying to actively defend your home involves the risk of psychological trauma, injury and death. Your property must be well prepared if you intend to stay and defend. The better prepared your home, the more likely it will survive a bushfire. On days where the Fire Danger rating is forecast to be Catastrophic for you and your family's survival, leaving is the best option.
Are you confident from your answers to the questions above that your home is defendable and that you have the skills, knowledge and equipment to defend it?
What will you need to do if preparing to stay and defend?
Before the fire approaches:
- Dress all members of the household who are staying to actively defend in adequate clothing to protect them from radiant heat, smoke and embers
- Remind everyone of the plan, and check that they understand their role
- Locate your Bushfire Survival Kit
- Tune your radio to your local ABC-or one of our other Emergency Broadcast Partners-and have spare batteries handy
- Ensure there is enough drinking water as it will be extremely hot
- Secure livestock in well cleared areas with sufficient drinking water
- Let family or friends know that you are staying at home
- Prepare water buckets, a torch and ladder ready to check the ceiling space
- Prepare for the possibility that no power and possibly no phone lines will be available
- Keep pets inside with sufficient drinking water and food.
As the fire approaches, stay calm and ensure that you:
- Remove flammable items from the exterior of the house (e.g. blinds, outdoor furniture, door mats etc)
- Block down pipes and fill gutters with water
- Wet vegetation near your house with a hose or sprinkler
- Shut all windows and doors and place wet blankets and towels around windows and door edges
- Prepare inside your house (e.g. remove curtains, move furniture away from windows, close doors & windows)
- Stay close to the house, drink water and check welfare of others
- Patrol the inside of the home as well as the outside for embers or small fires.
As the fire front arrives:
- Take all firefighting equipment inside such as hoses and pumps as they may melt during the fire
- Move inside the house until the fire front passes, ensuring you have two exits from the house
- Patrol the inside of the home-including the ceiling space-for embers or small fires.
After the fire front has passed:
- Go outside and extinguish small spot fires and burning embers
- Patrol the property inside and out, including the ceiling space, and extinguish any fires
- Let everyone know that you are okay
- Monitor the radio for updates
- Stay with your home until you are sure the surrounding area is clear of fire.
Even if your choice is to stay and defend, you must still have a contingency plan as a part of your Bushfire Survival Plan. A change in household circumstances, someone home alone, unexpected visitors, or a fire starting quickly in the local area may all require you to reconsider your Bushfire Survival Plan.
Bushfire Survival Plan Checklist
The CFS recommends that you plan to leave early on days that are forecast as Catastrophic and that you only stay and defend on a day of Extreme Fire Danger if you are extremely well prepared and your home is properly constructed.
I will use this plan:
- When the Fire Danger Rating is Very High
- When the Fire Danger Rating is Severe
- When the Fire Danger Rating is Extreme
- When the Fire Danger Rating is Catastrophic
Where to go:
(Choose areas with a Bushfire Safer Place. Consider friends, relatives or activities in low fire danger areas)
How to get there:
(Consider a number of travel routes and how long the journey will take. Plan alternative routes in case the route is blocked)
What to take:
(Prepare a relocation kit-blankets, water, first aid kit, medications, change of clothes, important documents. Organise household members and make arrangements for pets)
When to go:
(Plan to leave early enough to avoid being caught in smoke, the fire or on congested roads)
Who to tell:
(Before and after)
Our trigger to return:
(e.g. When a lower Fire Danger Rating is released)
Back-up plan if we don't get out before a fire:
(is there somewhere else you can go to shelter?)
Know the forecast Fire Danger Rating by visiting www.cfs.sa.gov.au
Check local weather reports or contact the Bushfire Information Hotline on 1300 362 361 (TTY 133 677).
Stay and Defend
On a day of Catastrophic Fire Danger Rating leaving early is the best option for your survival-regardless of any plan to stay and defend. You should leave for a safer place well before a bushfire threatens your home.
I will use this plan:
- When the Fire Danger Rating is Very High
- When the Fire Danger Rating is Severe
- When the Fire Danger Rating is Extreme
Before the fire approaches:
(activate your plan-those leaving early should have already left the property, list the things you need to do in preparation)
As the fire approaches:
(prepare for ember attack on or near your home, list the actions you are going to take)
As the fire front approaches:
(stay safe by monitoring the fire from inside your home, document what you will do)
After the fire has passed:
(patrol your property to extinguish burning embers. You may need to do this for several hours. Outline what actions you will take)
(what will you do if you can't activate your plan? Leaving late is deadly. Make sure you identify a safer location and safe route)
Listen out for bushfire "Watch & Act" and "Emergency Warning" messages
Monitor your local ABC or other Emergency Broadcast Partner radio station using a battery powered radio for information.
Activating Your Bushfire Survival Plan
Once the plan is completed, it is important that you practise and review the plan regularly. This will mean that if you need to activate the plan in a real bushfire, you will have already gone through the thought processes and be able to respond appropriately.
Follow these steps:
- Identify the Fire Danger rating
Identify and use the Fire Danger Rating for the day to guide which plan to activate.
- Activate your Bushfire survival Plan
Activate your plan that is relevant to the Fire Danger Rating. Someone must take charge and lead the family through the process by communicating clearly what needs to be done. Make sure you know who is doing what and when.
- Prepare yourselves
Retrieve your survival kit and put on personal protective clothing.
- Prepare to leave early
Pack your relocation kit into the car and relocate to a Bushfire Safer Place. Make sure you have plenty of time to leave and do not return until it is safe to do so. Or
Prepare to stay and defend
Ensure you have the necessary equipment ready and are mentally prepared to actively defend.
- Keep informed
Monitor Bushfire "Watch & Act" and "Emergency Warning" messages: CFS website www.cfs.sa.gov.au through your local ABC Radio through another emergency broadcast radio station (full list on the CFS website) Bushfire Information Hotline: 1300 362 361 (TTY 133 677)
Bushfires are unpredictable and you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Do not rely solely on one source for information about bushfire incidents.