Bushfires are a real risk for many Australian households and businesses. In the past few years, the length and severity of the bushfire season has increased, putting our communities in greater danger.
Climate change is a major contributor to these changes in the bushfire season. To protect our communities, businesses and environment, there is a pressing need for Australia to address our consumption of oil, gas and coal and move towards a more sustainable future.
Bushfire season is longer and more severe than in the past.
In the last few years, Australia has experienced catastrophic fire seasons. According to the Climate Council, the fire season is now longer and more dangerous than in the past. The extended fire season means there is less time for reduction burning and other preparations.
Bushfires not only have the potential to damage homes and business properties, but they also lead to a heavy financial and resource burden. Pooling resources has become more difficult as bushfire seasons across Australia are starting to overlap.
The effect of climate change on bushfires in Australia
The Climate Council claims that climate change has contributed to the changes in the fire season across Australia. Burning fossil fuels has led to an increase in global temperatures, and an increase in the number of high fire risk days.
The main effects of climate change on Australia’s bushfire season are:
- Hotter temperatures
- Longer lasting heat waves
- Record breaking droughts
- Dry soils and vegetation
- Less rain over southern Australia
- More lightning due to hotter temperatures
Without an active approach, the danger of bushfires in Australia will only increase. With longer seasons and more dangerous conditions, finding enough resources to prevent and fight fires is also an issue.
It’s crucial that Australia shifts towards a more thoughtful approach to climate change and bushfire management.
What can we do?
The government must develop risk reduction policies to help keep communities safe throughout the bushfire season. We need to move towards a more sustainable future to help reduce our contribution to climate change and mitigate its effects.
For community members, business owners and households in fire prone areas, the most important thing is to stay alert and be prepared.
Protecting homes and business properties during bushfire season is essential.
Don’t wait until an emergency happens to act. If your home or business is located in an at-risk area, it’s critical that you prepare for the fire season every year.
Understanding your fire risk
Seek information from your local emergency service providers about the fire risk to your property. Also familiarise yourself with the fire danger ratings and when you should evacuate in case of emergency.
Creating a bushfire plan
Bushfire plans outline what you will do incase of an emergency. It’s important to revise your bushfire plan every year. Being prepared can save lives.
A written bushfire plan can also help relieve some of the anxiety and stress surrounding bushfire season. Having processes and procedures in place will help with making decisions if there is an emergency.
A bushfire plan should include:
- Whether you will stay and defend the property or evacuate
- When to evacuate
- Where you will go and what route you will take
- What you will take with you (your survival kit)
- How to find shelter if it’s too late to evacuate
Businesses should also consider how they plan to return to work if they are affected by a bushfire. Ensure you have the adequate level of insurance coverage and consider setting aside an emergency fund.
Prepare an emergency kit
You should always have an emergency kit ready to go incase of emergency. Your emergency kit should include:
- Drinking water
- First aid kit
- Protective clothing
- Emergency numbers
- Battery operated radio
- Woollen blanket
Preparing your property
You should prepare your property for the fire season every year. Create a checklist of maintenance and preparations you need to do to ensure you are ready.
Prepare your property by:
- Clearing away dead leaves and twigs
- Cleaning out the gutters
- Keeping grass cut below 10cm
- Trimming lower branches of trees and shrubs
- Using stones or pebbles instead of mulch in the garden
- Make sure gas release valves are facing away from the property
Passive fire protection
Ensure your home or business property is equipped with adequate passive fire protection systems such as:
- Fire rated doors
- Fire windows
- Fire curtains
- Fire baffles
Passive fire protection systems will help protect your home in the case of a fire by slowing down the spread of flames and smoke.
You may be required to meet certain standards when it comes to fire protection systems. Contact your local authorities for more information.
Compliance with Australian Standards
New buildings and renovations in fire risk areas must comply with Australian Standards as outlined in the Building Code of Australia. Commercial properties must also maintain compliance. There are heavy penalties for non-compliance.
Fire protection systems, including fire doors, must be regularly inspected, tested and maintained by an accredited person to meet Australian Standards.
Working together towards a more sustainable and safe future
The bushfire season can create stress and anxiety for a lot of people across Australia. It’s important that we work together to protect our communities and local environment. Being prepared for emergencies is crucial, and can help ease some of the anxiety.
As we look forward to the future, it’s important that we embrace technologies and solutions which tackle climate change. Reducing our contribution to climate change will not only protect our environment, but will help us better keep our communities safe.