“The flames were closing in from everywhere. The heat was so intense you could feel it in your lungs every time you breathed. Trying to think was close to impossible.
At one point it was black everywhere. A voice inside you tells you to give up, but then there is a bigger voice saying; you have to get the kids out, you have to tell your neighbours, you just have to get out.”
Bushfires devastate families, leaving people homeless or worse still, leaving people seriously injured or grieving the loss of loved ones.
While the days are lengthening and the weather is fining up; barbecues and beach visits are on the cards. It’s an exciting time of year, but with hot weather also comes the threat of bushfires.
You don’t have to live in the bush to be threatened by bushfire; just close enough to be affected by burning material, embers and smoke. Queenslanders and all Australians should be familiar with the official Bushfire Warning system.
What is the Bushfire Warning system?
You will find the Bushfire Warning system for your area on the Rural Fire Services Qld website (if you live in Queensland), ABC local radio and local television news. There are three levels of warning: Advice Warning, Watch & Act Warning and Emergency Warning.
What should I do when I see a Bushfire Warning for my area?
Your action will depend on the warning you get for your area and on the Bushfire Survival Plan you have made. (We will give more information on the Survival Plan shortly).
- Level 1: Advice – an advice warning is issued when a fire is in your area but there is no immediate threat. Make sure you tune into local radio or visit the Rural Fire website for your state to stay informed. And review your Bushfire Survival Plan.
- Level 2: Watch & Act this warning is issued when there is a heightened level of threat. A bush fire is approaching you and your life may be in danger. You need to get you and your family ready to enact your Bushfire Survival Plan.
- Level 3: Emergency Warning you and your family’s life is in danger. You need to take immediate action by either leaving safely or preparing to protect yourself as best you can if you cannot leave.
PREPARE, ACT, SURVIVE
Your main priority is to ensure that you and your family are safe. During a bushfire, this depends on your preparations, and the decisions you make. The lives of you and your family are more important than any building. Whether your plan is to leave early or stay, you must prepare your home and property to increase your chance of survival. Making a bushfire survival plan and acting on it is the best way to do this.
What is a Bushfire Survival Plan?
Your bushfire survival plan details how you can prepare and take action if threatened by a bushfire. Write your plan down and practise it regularly, particularly coming into bushfire season. It will be based on the Fire Danger Rating and any level of Bushfire Warning issued. You can make one based on the ideas on the downloadable pdf on the Rural Fire Services Qld website here.
Should I stay or should I go?
On days of catastrophic and extreme fire weather the best course of action is to leave well before any fire impacts your area.
If you plan to leave early, then you must leave your home well before a bushfire threatens and travelling by road becomes hazardous. Your leave-early preparations should include getting your property ready for a bushfire, make your Bushfire Survival Plan and make a back-up plan if something changes (like if someone is ill or you have visitors).
If you choose to stay, planning is critical to successfully staying with your home, as it may involve the risk of psychological trauma, injury or death. You need to prepare your property so that it can withstand the impact of bushfire, and be safe enough to shelter you and your family. You will also need to make your Bushfire Survival Plan in accordance with your decision to stay and have a back-up plan that allows for changes.