How to create a family safety plan for bushfire season

Every year in Australia, bushfires occur somewhere in the country, these fires can be devastating on local communities. Our climate means that there is a high frequency of bushfires which are causing losses of both property and life. For this reason, people, communities and families need to be well prepared. Part of being prepared for bushfire season is having a family safety plan.

There are many resources available for creating a fire safety plan, and most of them focus on the four essential steps: 

  1. Discuss your plans with your family.
  2. Prepare yourself by going through the steps of your plan before a fire starts.
  3. Be alert and keep up to date with emergency broadcasts.
  4. Be informed with the resources, apps and tools you’ll need in an emergency.

Between 1967 and 2013, more than 8,000 people have been injured and 433 people have perished as a result of bushfires – not to mention the $4.7 billion in costs and damages.

Prepare yourself and create a family safety plan

Take time to get prepared in case you need to act fast. There are practical things you can do such as making a list of possessions to take with you in the event of a fire, reviewing your home and contents insurance to ensure you are adequately covered, and developing a family plan that will allow you to act fast should you be threatened by a bushfire.

Make sure everyone in your family — including children — understands the dangers of bushfire season. You’ll also want to walk them step by step through an emergency plan in the event of a fire. This might involve calling the authorities or nearby family if a parent isn’t home.

Read Real Insurance’s more comprehensive outline of How to get prepared for bushfire season with 9 essential steps

Nominate an emergency meeting point that is safe and well away from dense bushland. Also if there’s a high fire danger in your area, pack the essentials in a few bags and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. It can be a hassle having to pack and unpack your belongings, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

It’s also worth doing a couple of ‘dry runs’ of an emergency evacuation. It will help everyone familiarise themselves with what they need to do when danger strikes, and it will also reveal any potential issues that could interfere with your escape plan – so you can fix them now rather than get yourself into trouble during a real fire.

Finally, keep everyone in the family educated about bushfires in Australia. These free government resources are a great place to start:

How to prepare with young children and ageing parents

Unlike the typical adult or teenager, babies and toddlers can’t take care of themselves – especially in a dangerous situation. Similarly, if you’re looking after ageing parents, they may no longer have the physical capabilities to escape a bushfire on their own.

Practical tips for families with young children

The number-one rule is to always know where your baby or toddler is. This means you won’t be wasting precious time running around the house if a fire is on its way. If you’ve received a fire warning, it’s a good idea to prepare your car with all the essentials for your young children, such as baby seats, strollers/prams, nappy bags (stocked with nappies, clothes, wipes, blankets, food and water) and something to entertain or distract them if they will be away from home for a while.

If your child is at an age where they understand the dangers of fire, then it’s worth educating them about what to do in the event of a serious situation. Show them where the emergency numbers are located (such as on your fridge) and keep a map of evacuation meeting points close by. It’s also worth talking to them about fire danger upfront – explain what’s happening and that it’s important to remain calm and always listen to their parents’ instructions.

Practical tips for families looking after ageing parents

When looking after ageing parents, you’ll want to be just as prepared to evacuate quickly as you would with a small child. That means packing any disability equipment in the car, like wheelchairs and walkers, and making sure they never have to travel long distances to reach your vehicle in the event of a speedy evacuation.

If they already have trouble breathing, make sure an emergency (and portable) oxygen supply is always within reach, as well as their medication and bottled water, and keep them connected to the outside world with a mobile phone — to call you or emergency services if no one else is home at the time.

Know the bushfire alert levels and arm yourself with tools and information

Prepare yourself beforehand by keeping as much bush fire information on hand as you can. This means information numbers, websites and smartphone apps that relate to your local area or region. In some states and territories, if there is a fire in your area you will find an alert level on the relevant website.

In some places there are additional resources, for example, the NSW ‘Fires Near Me’ website and app which allows you to keep track of the alert level so you know what you should do. Research your local region, state or territory and get advice from your local council if you are unsure of what’s available to you. Here are the links to the Fires Near Me app for Apple and Android.

You can’t control the weather, but you can control your level of preparedness in the lead-up to bushfire season with these tips.

Not sure whether your policy protects you against bushfires, or is it time you got the right home insurance to cover what’s most precious to you this bushfire season? You’ll be glad you did.

Real Insurance is an award-winning provider of home insurance.

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