After a year of drought and high temperatures the risk has soared across Australia, confirmed by data released by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (CRC). Here's how to prepare. Make safety your priority with these recommended essentials for preparing your property from the outside in.
The CRC is concerned that most people are not prepared ‒ but a well prepared property is more likely to survive a fire and it’s also
- easier for firefighters to defend
- less likely to spread fire and put neighbouring properties at risk
- better able to protect you in the event you’re not able to evacuate safely.
1. Clear your gutters of leaves and debris
Regularly clearing your gutters of dead leaves, bark and branches significantly reduces risk of ignition during a fire.
2. Install an ember guard or a gutter guard
Building standards for properties in bushfire-prone areas may require you to install an ember guard. The guard is designed to prevent embers from entering high risk areas like your roof cavity. The requirements for an ember guard vary depending on which bushfire attack level (BAL) applies to your area, but generally should
- be made of corrosion-resistant steel, bronze or aluminium
- be non-combustible
- have a maximum gap (or aperture) of 2 millimetres.
If you are not required to have ember guards consider installing a gutter guard instead.
3. Check your roof and repair any damaged or missing tiles
Falling embers and flammable material can easily fall into cracks, holes and gaps in your roof.
- Check roof tiles, sheets and other covers are non-combustible. Concrete and terracotta tiles are fully compliant with residential building standards in bushfire-prone areas, but make sure there are no cracks, gaps or missing tiles.
- Fill gaps greater than 3mm between the roof and wall junction. You can use fascia or eaves lining for this, or you can seal the top of your walls to the rafters at the lining.
- Sark sheet and tiled roofs. Sarking involves laying board or sheet material under tiles or iron. This prevents embers from entering your property.
4. Seal gaps in window sills and under doors
Embers are responsible for most bushfire-related house and structure fires. Take these steps to prevent them from igniting parts of your property.
- Cover or seal any gaps greater than 3mm in your walls and fascias with non-combustible materials or bushfire-resistant timber.
- Fit windows with external screens or bushfire shutters. The requirements for screens and shutters depend on your BAL and on the type of windows you have. Consult the building code before making a choice.
- Check skylights, vents, window ledges and other areas for gaps or cracks. Cover with compliant, non-combustible wire mesh.
5. Keep your lawns and gardens well maintained
Vegetation is fuel. Keep your lawns and gardens well maintained. Remove any dry grass and undergrowth from beneath your home and other structures and cut back trees or shrubs that overhang your roof.
Your local fire service may offer free one-off services to help clear vegetation and tend to gardens. The NSW Rural Fire Service AIDER program, for example, provides assistance for people with disabilities or limited domestic support.
6. And remember: check your insurance!
Even the most prepared home or business can sustain damage in a bushfire, which is why having adequate, up-to-date insurance cover is essential.
- If you’re a homeowner, take some time to review your home and contents insurance to make sure that everything is covered and you’re not under insured. People living in bushfire-prone areas should consider getting total replacement cover, which includes all the costs of rebuilding a home should it be destroyed.
- If you’re a business owner, review your property insurance with your broker to make sure your insurable risks are covered.
Talk to your local insurance broker for more advice about risk mitigation, and how best to protect your property.