How to fire-proof your home from disaster

An unfortunate reality of living in this beautiful country is that many parts of Australia are susceptible to bushfires, and depending on where you are these can strike at different times of the year due to various weather conditions. For residents, that means it’s up to you to ensure your home is well protected against the elements.

To help you prep for a potential disaster situation, here’s what you need to know about fire-proofing your home.

Bushfire season may nearly be over, but there is still danger around

February/March can still be a time when bushfire danger is present in many states and territories, but danger from fire can happen at any time of the year. As much as we might be used to hearing about bushfires in Australia, many of us are underprepared when it comes to protecting our homes. Especially during years when there are lots of cool wintry days and rain throughout spring, it’s easy to believe that you’re safe from fires. But a wet season can actually increase the potential for grassfires.

To stay safe all year round, here are 5 top tips to fire-proof your home and protect what you’ve worked so hard to build.

1. Remove foliage around your property

Even in residential areas, fires can spread quickly if there’s tinder for flames to catch. These often lurk in places you don’t often see, such as your gutters, under the house and around your front and backyards.

Make it a priority to remove all the excess foliage from around your home that could be susceptible to catching aflame. This includes dead and dried-out plants, long grass, cardboard and other storage boxes that are under your house or deck, and flammable items that might be lying around outside.

Also ensure you have a sturdy (and long) hose in case you need to take action against a fire near your home.

2. Keep your gutters clear

It’s a dirty job but it’s something that just has to get done. Clogged gutters and those that are full of debris are a huge fire hazard.

Things like dry leaves and twigs can serve as kindling for a fire, so get the ladder out and make an effort to clear your gutters at least once a year – right before the summer heat hits.

3. Install smoke alarms and sprinkler systems (and check them regularly!)

Every state and territory in Australia mandates that smoke alarms must be installed in residential homes, but it’s up to you to keep them in good working order, or to inform your real estate agent or landlord if your system needs attention. Failure to check that the system is working, or if the batteries are left to run out without replacing them, could spell disaster – or worse.

If you live in an area that’s prone to bushfires, you also might look into residential sprinkler systems that can help put out fires fast.

While these are physical protection tools, it’s also important that you have the right home insurance policy in place. Protect your loved ones and the home you’ve worked so hard for by taking out a policy or updating your current one.

4. Create an evacuation plan in case of emergency

Whether it’s a physical document or simply a series of to-do items you keep locked away in your head, an evacuation plan could be the difference between getting to safety and putting yourself in harm’s way.

Speak to your family about the risks of fire, and clarify a few important points such as:

● At what level of the bushfire danger rating should you leave home?

● Who is responsible for packing up clothes, documents and other precious items in your survival kit?

● Where will you go – a family friend, an evacuation centre, or a last-resort location?

● Are there children, pets or elderly parents you will need to move away from danger should a fire arrive?

● Who will you notify about your plans to stay or leave?

● Is there a portable radio in the house or car that will keep everyone informed about the latest bushfire updates?

5. Don’t put it off – start today

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail, and when it comes to fires it’s often a life-or-death situation. It’s easy to fall into a false sense of security and believe that your house is immune because it’s never been hit by a fire before. But taking just a few hours to prepare can be the difference between saving your property – and protecting your loved ones – or losing everything you’ve worked for.

So don’t put yourself in a situation where you wished you would’ve prepared sooner. Have the conversation with your family today and start preparing for a potential bushfire.

What to do during bushfire season

Living in Australia means we sometimes have to face perilous weather conditions. Unfortunately, some of the most beautiful parts of our country are susceptible to bushfires, so you need to be well-prepared before a bushfire arrives in order to protect your home, your loved ones and yourself. Make sure you:

Stay connected: Whether it’s with the neighbours on your street or asking your friends in another town if they can house you in the event of evacuation, stay in contact with important people in case of an emergency. Also stay connected online, as news and local social feeds will provide updates during a bushfire.

Organise important documentation: If the worst does occur and a fire destroys your home, you’ll want to ensure all your critical documents are safe. So scan or copy files like your passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, your will, property title, insurance documents and more.

Pack up before danger arrives: When fire strikes, you often have only minutes to get to safety. That’s not enough time to pack everything you need for what could be a lengthy absence from your home. So before bushfire season, pack up your important documents, some spare clothes and lots of survival items (e.g. water, torch, radio, batteries and chargers, cash, first-aid kit, toiletries, medication and food). You might also want to pack away sentimental items just in case.

Today is the day to begin your fire plan

These steps should help protect your home all year round, but especially during bushfire season. Get started today so you aren’t underprepared if – or when – your home is under threat of a fire.

In addition to fire-proofing your home, make sure you have the right level of home and contents insurance.