Fire Ready Challenge: How to make fire preparedness a family affair

Fire Ready Challenge: Are you Prepared?
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I live in Victoria, it’s one of the most fire-prone areas in the world, so the harsh reality is my family or people I know may be affected by the impacts of bush fires. It’s not something I’ve paid much attention to though till now, because I’ve always lived in an urban environment and thought we were ‘safe’. But the truth is fires can occur where suburbs meet the bush or in urban areas where houses have grassland, bush or parkland around them.

You may be living in a high fire risk area without even realizing. Just weeks ago there was a huge out of control grass fire in Melbourne’s northern suburbs which put many families at risk. Most people didn’t have a fire plan. Do you?

If you live in or are visiting a high risk bushfire area in Victoria, you need a Bushfire Survival Plan.

So how do you get your family prepared?

Firstly, Identify if you are at risk. Is your home (or holiday destination) surrounded by woodlands, bush or grass lands? Yes? Then it’s time to make a Bushfire Survival Plan.

Know and understand the Fire Danger Ratings
.

I totally didn’t realise this, but Fire Danger Ratings are not a weather gauge. They predict how a fire would behave if started, including how difficult it would be to put out.

CODE RED days -These are the worst conditions for a bush or grassfire.

Homes are not designed or constructed to withstand fires in these conditions.

The safest place to be is away from high risk bushfire areas.

It’s really important to plan what you and your family will do on code red days, include this in your plan and tell family, friends and your school about it.
CFA Fire ready app
Stay informed
The CFA has a FireReady App that can keep you up to date on your phone or mobile device. Check the CFA website cfa.vic.gov.au, follow the CFA on Facebook www.facebook.com/cfavic, on Twitter @CFA_Updates, and stay tuned in to your local ABC radio station.

Make a Plan
The CFA website has brilliant resources which can help you plan how to prepare, what to pack, when to leave and where to go.
The FIRE READY KIT contains all the information you need to make sure you are really fire ready.
It’s really important to plan what you and your family will do on code red days, include this in your plan and tell family, friends and your school about it.

It’s probably a good idea to get the kids involved too. When they know what is going on, there is a better chance that both you and they will stay calm, which is super important in a stressful situation.

Some things you can do to help prepare your family and kids:

  • Talk about fire risks together and what a Code Red day means.
  • Talk about why you may need to leave your home early on a fire risk day.
  • Talk about the feelings you may all experience in the situation and how you may deal with the feelings.
  • Prepare your relocation kit together.
  • Talk about where you will go until the danger passes – you may be away from home for a several days.

Practice with your kids and support network (which may include neighbors, friends, relatives and teachers) at the start of and during summer to ensure everyone knows what to do.

Plan ahead. Are you a one car family? Don’t get caught without transport. Plan ahead for this by organising a neighbor or friend to take you somewhere safe, or even call a taxi.

Always make sure you have enough fuel in your car. I’m always guilty of driving around with the tank nearly empty.

KNOW YOUR TRIGGER TO LEAVE
The safest option is to leave high-risk bushfire areas the night before or early on Code Red days. Do not wait and see.

Code Red days are rare. When they are forecast they are very serious.

Fire fighters will be very busy and won’t be able to respond to every call. You may need to face the fire without assistance. This is why you need to leave early. There is no reason to put the lives of you and your children in danger, indecision can cost lives.

As a mother I’m often home alone with Emma, during the day, so when making my plans I also need to factor in what I’d do if the Mr was at work. The reality is that your family may be separated (at school/work) when you need to leave. Have a good think about how you will communicate with other family members if you are apart and factor that into your plans.
Sometimes you will be able to decide that family members won’t go to work or school that day, but situations change quickly so be prepared to make decisions about leaving on your own.

If you have a newborn, young children or care for an elderly family member, decide very early on and make your plans clear, about when you will leave.
Protect your skin against radiant heat in a fire by covering up and wearing sturdy shoes
Put together your Relocation Kit
This includes:

  • Protective clothing
  • Food and water
  • Wool blankets
  • Medications and toiletries
  • A change of clothes
  • A list of the contact numbers for your doctor, dentist, local hospital, chemist, vet, municipal councils, gas, electricity and water providers, as well as family and friends.
  • Important papers (e.g. passport, insurance policies, will) – It’s a good idea to scan a copy of these and give them to someone you trust or alternatively upload onto the cloud so you can access them from anywhere.
  • A first-aid kit
  • Pet food, water and bedding if needed.
  • Keep your important items and information in a safe place during the bushfire season. Scan important information and photos and store them on a memory stick or portable hard drive.
  • Extra cash
  • Irreplaceable sentimental items
  • For the kids – include comfort item, games or toys, and special requirements like nappies and formula (don’t forget sterile water – available at pharmacies)
  • If you have pets, consider their needs as well

The three things I'd save in a fire
Store in an easy to access location, and make sure the whole family knows where to access it.

Once you have prepared your Bushfire Survival Plan, it is a good idea to share the details of your plan with family, friends and neighbors. Doing so will save everyone a lot of distress when there is a bushfire as they will know that you are prepared and know where to find you.

It’s a lot to think about isn’t it? But being prepared is the best thing you can do to save your family. Remember, stuff can be replaced, you can’t!