How to prepare for and survive a bushfire in your area


Your Property

Protecting your property is important even if you plan on leaving early. Preparing can also help against a sudden fire. Here are some ways to prepare:

  • Repair or cover gaps in walls
  • Attach a sprinkler system to gutters
  • Install fine metal mesh screens on windows and doors
  • Clean your gutters
  • Install gutter guards
  • Keep lawns short
  • Cut back trees that hang over buildings
  • Clean up fallen leaves around your house
  • Have hoses long enough to reach around your house
  • Check and maintain your home and contents insurance.

Your Family

You will need to decide with your family whether or not to stay or go. Here are some things to consider if you choose to stay:
  • Is your family prepared to cope with this?
  • Are they ready mentally?
  • Physically?
  • Emotionally?
If you have children, elderly people or people with medical conditions you should plan to leave early.


If you plan to fight the fire you will need to think about these and be absolutely certain that you will manage.

  • It is already hot in summer, now add the heat of a bushfire
  • Sparks will fly and some will land in the house, these will need to be put out and be watched.
  • As the fire gets closer the wind will be stronger carrying heat
  • Smoke will make it difficult to see and make it hard to breathe
  • It will be hot but you will also have to wear heavy protective clothing
  • It is likely you will lose power, telephone and water services
  • The fire front will normally take five to fifteen minutes to pass your house

If you are fine with all of this then you will remember to have:

  • sufficient independent water supply of at least 20,000 litres and a petrol, diesel, or generator powered pump capable of pumping 400 litres per minute
  • Loose-fitting clothes made from natural fibres, NO SYNTHETICS

A plan

You and your family will need to create a bushfire plan, this will need to include

  • whether you will stay or go
leaving early is safest, especially for children, the elderly and asthmatics, but if you are well prepared you can stay and protect

If you choose to GO you will need to think about:

  • When will you leave?
  • Where will you go?
  • How will you get there?
  • What will you take?
  • What is your backup plan?

If you choose to STAY you will need to think about:

  • Do you have the right equipment?
  • When will you start protecting?
  • What will everyone do before, during and after the fire?
  • Does everyone know what to do? In all situations?
  • What is your backup plan?

Your knowledge

The fire danger rating is divided up into 6 sections each one means:

  • Low-Moderate
No action is required but you should review you fire plan and possibly get ready to leave

  • High
Make sure you, your family and your property is prepared for a fire

  • Very High
Be prepared to act and check for updates on conditions and any fires near you

  • Severe
Leaving early is the safest option, but if you and your house are prepared you can stay and fight

  • Extreme
If you plan on leaving LEAVE NOW, it is safest. Fires will be out of control.

  • Catastrophic
You need to leave NOW even if you have decided to stay and defend. Fires are out of control and unpredictable and very fast-moving.


Its an extreme/catastrophic day. What do I do?

On a catastrophic day leaving early is your only option as homes are not designed to survive fires in catastrophic conditions. You should leave areas prone to bushfires the night before or early in the morning, DON'T "wait and see". Have a concrete decision on where you go, how you will get there and when you will go, stick to this plan. If you can't follow your bushfire plan go to a place of last resort like a well-prepared house or a school or shopping centre far away from the bush.

On an extreme day leaving early is the best option but is also possible to stay and defend, if you are properly prepared.

When to Leave

If you plan on leaving you should leave as soon as you know a bushfire is heading your way. You should already be prepared to leave. It is best to leave the night before or in the early morning as it will be cooler and the fire won't move as fast as it will in the middle of the day.

What to take

When leaving for a bushfire you should bring with you:

  • Medication/toiletries
  • Change of clothes
  • Torch
  • Phone and charger
  • batteries
  • Something to keep you occupied
  • Water
  • Emergency contact numbers
  • First aid kit

Where do I go?

You should go where your bushfire plan says you will go. And you should leave when you planned to leave. If the fire is sudden and nearly upon you, don't try to drive away you will most likely be caught by the fire. Instead you should leave to a place of last resort.


What do you do if it is too late to leave?

If it is too late to leave go to your place of last resort, you are not guaranteed safety but it is much safer than staying in your home.

When is it safe to return?

Normally, when it is safe to return it will be announced on the radio, in the paper or on tv, so keep an eye out. When you return you should remember to check for downed electricity lines, leaking gas or sewage, any embers and structural damage to your home.

Emergency contacts

Here are some contacts to use in an emergency for the ACT, these should all be stored in your phone:
  • Emergency: 000
  • ACT Rural Fire Service (general): 13 22 81
  • Speak and Listen users: 1300 555 727
  • TTY Users: 133 677

You should also have the contact details of friends and family so you can call them to tell them you are safe.


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