Bushfire Safety Advice

This is from a flyer printed by Main Arm Rural Residents Association, a community group for residents of Main Arm, Upper Main Arm, Palmwoods and The Pocket.

Our world has moved into a new era of increased fire danger, as was evident in November 2019 with the Mount Nardi fire. The event prompted Police to go to Upper Main Arm and Palmwoods and warn people to evacuate. The fire came from the Upper Wilson’s Creek area to within 2 km of jumping over the ridge south-west of Palmwoods. This could happen again. Most of us are new to this experience but many things have been learnt, leading to this checklist. We hope it will enable us to be better prepared, more knowledgeable, and safer in the future.

Detailed information is on https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/ which is frequently referred to below.

THE CHECKLIST:

1) URGENT SITUATIONS

Ring 000 if you are in danger. Know your address so 000 can pass it on. Leave sooner rather than later if you do not have a Fire Plan to stay & defend your home: https://www.myfireplan.com.au/

If the alert level is CATASTROPHIC leave anyway.
Take extra care on the road.
Determine alternative escape routes – your primary route may become unsafe.
Heed advice from RFS, avoid panic and be sceptical about false info.
Don’t ever attempt to back-burn (during bushfires) – seek RFS advice on hazard reduction (outside of bushfire season).

2) INFORMATION

Mains power may fail so have access to mobile communications and charge batteries.

RFS website “Fires Near Me” https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fires-near-me is the prime source of information. This is updated perhaps twice per day when fires threaten so may not be 100% current. Find and understand the Alert Levels. “Fires Near Me” also comes as an app you can download onto your phone or tablet.

Look up and like the Main Arm Rural Fire Service page on Facebook. When their shed at the western end of the village is open, advice is readily available there too.

https://hotspots.dea.ga.gov.au/ is based on satellite passes 1 or 2 times per day and also shows new fire outbreaks. Its times are in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) so add 11 hours in summer (10 hours when NOT daylight saving). Also read the “Legend” carefully.

Understand where the wind is coming from & which direction is North. Generally, winds in the valleys are weaker than on the coastal flats. Northerlies are our hot dry wind. For weather and wind forecasts, try windy.com and/or willyweather.com.au and/or www.bom.gov.au.

Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has weather and satellite images, including for fires burning.

Understand when Total Fire Bans are current and what they mean.

Communicate with your friends and neighbours so they know if you are staying or leaving and for vital local information. Keep a list of nearby phone numbers so you can alert neighbours.

Facebook pages Main Arm Community Notice Board and Main Arm Valley Voice may have posts with more up to date information on bush fires in the area.

There is an excellent show on https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/black-summer/11926142 on how other people prepared for and fought recent bush fires.

3) ADVANCE PREPARATIONS

See https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/ for lots of detail, particularly for deciding your fire plan https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/resources/bush-fire-survival-plan

In 2 of the last 3 years we had fires in Spring so consider not being away from August to December. October can be the hottest month – less cloud cover than in Summer.

Organise and rehearse your escape route. If you are on a dead-end road how will you leave? Drive away safely.

Make sure you have clear access for fire trucks. Clear at least 3.5 meters wide (prefer 4.0 m) and at least 3.5 metres high (prefer 4.0m) to allow their access. If the truck cannot get to your house you are much more likely to lose it. Have a turn round area.

If you have water accessible for the RFS (pool, dam, tank, etc) display a sign near it saying SWS (Static Water Supply) – buy one or make your own. Try at RFS Fire shed for supplies and advice.

Have adequate insurance and know that it will work – check the exclusions or ask them.

Fit quality leaf guards to keep gutters clean. Rake and clear all combustibles from around house and plastic water tanks and plastic pipes. Clear tree branches growing over house. Most houses ignite from sparks and embers rolling down the roof into dry, leaf-filled gutters or falling on open timber decks. Bring all flammable furniture etc indoors.

Dangerous vegetation such as slash pine trees (Radiata), molasses grass, macadamias should be removed from near the house.

Clean below the house and fit fine mesh to stop embers blowing in under the house.

Have battery radios, torches with spare batteries prepared, and mobile phones charged. Mains electricity and phone lines can easily fail – your internet may not work. Obtain other equipment like hoes, rakes, spades, ladders, buckets, mops. Organise protective clothing – long sleeve cotton shirt & jeans (not nylon). Consider face masks.

Organise hose pipes with nozzles, fire pumps and even roof sprinklers.

4) FINAL PREPARATIONS

If remaining activate your fire plan. The critical Fire Plan can be prepared in a few minutes using: https://www.myfireplan.com.au/

Leave as soon as possible if you do not have a Fire Plan.

If staying, it is safer inside your house than outside.

Flood gutters with water by blocking top of downpipes with socks full of sand or dirt. Purpose made plugs are available from Mitre 10 at $7 each. If possible, keep flooding the gutters to create a cascade as the fire approaches. Fill buckets, baths, sinks, etc.

Turn off gas supply and preferably move bottles away from house. Take all petrol etc to an open non-ignitable area, preferably inside a vehicle.

Organise your animals and their needs food, water etc. Open gates or cut fences as needed for animal escape.

Tow away boats, caravans, and surplus vehicles to a safe place.

Remove valuables like passports, photo albums, credit cards to a safe place.

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