Are you prepared?

The more residents are involved in preparedness the better outcome for the community as a whole.

Professor Ian Thomas is a fire engineer and director of Victoria University’s Centre for Environmental Safety and Risk Engineering (CESARE). Professor Thomas and his wife protected their property at Glenburn, north-east of Kinglake, during Saturday’s bushfire using bucketed water after the pump on his fire hose and sprinklers broke down.

The landscape near Kinglake, which was devastated by the Black Saturday fires. Photo: Angela Wylie - The Age 25 February 2009

The landscape near Kinglake, which was devastated by the Black Saturday fires.Photo: Angela Wylie - The Age 25 February 2009

“Preparation is the key, we have 30-40 metres of land around our house mostly cleared of vegetation other than low-cut grass. That made the task of protecting the house practical. With our protective clothing, we were able to work outside the house for several hours putting out embers and preventing the fire from coming in contact with the house and nearby trees.

The fire approached our property from four directions as it passed through our area but there was no damage to our house or big shed. The radiant heat was intense at times when groups of bushes went up but we were able to avoid severe exposure.

One next-door neighbour’s house was destroyed, as were seven others nearby. Protection of properties is possible, but only with adequate planning and preparation. Fire safety for householders is complex. There is no perfect plan, but residents should observe the following rules:

  • Clear bush for at least 30 metres around the house and keep gardens away from the house as isolated ‘islands’
  • Have a flexible protection plan in place, but recognise that even then it may not cover all contingencies
  • Test equipment and practise using it regularly, including in the dark, on very hot days and without the power being on

Fire is vicious, often unpredictable and you have to be prepared to adjust to the circumstances. Conditions change and things go wrong. When that happens, you have to reassess and adapt your plans according to the situation. If you do plan to stay you ideally need more than one person to effectively defend a property, although the experience of one of our neighbours shows even this is possible.”

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Preparing your property for the coming Bush Fire Season is is not just about cleaning up around the house and having a plan.

It is also about making sure you consider your physical, mental and emotional preparedness.

We are happy to assist and provide advice for you in the preparation of your Bush Fire Survival Plan. Send us a message and we will be in touch with you, and to download your copy of the Bush Fire Survival Plan click here.