Fire Safety in your Community

Facing the threat of a bushfire can be very stressful especially if you haven’t stopped to think about what you will do.

The threat of fire is not restricted to people living on rural properties. If you live in or within 100 metres of bush, you should prepare your property and have a bushfire survival plan and emergency kit ready.

You must decide well before the fire season starts what you will do and make the necessary preparations. If you are going to stay, prepare for a frightening experience. Have a plan for how you are going to survive and where you will shelter. Find out what equipment you need and determine what you will do if things don’t go according to plan.

Even if your plan is to leave, the more you prepare your home the better the chance it will survive the fire.

Fires can threaten suddenly and without warning. You should act without relying on receiving any emergency warning.

The safest place to be is away from the fire. Being involved in a fire may be one of the most traumatic experiences of your life. Survival and the safety of you and your family depend on the decisions you make.

Develop a bushfire survival plan

Every home is different and every family needs to develop an individual bushfire survival plan.

Your plan should be developed as a family and you should consider if you and your family are mentally, physically and emotionally prepared to defend your home. Experiencing a bushfire can be frightening and traumatic.

Think carefully about how you and your family will deal with the stress of a bushfire. Picture yourself in the situation, ask yourself: Will I be able to cope? Would my family cope?

Some members of your family may leave early if they are sick, elderly or have a disability, with other members staying behind to defend your home. If leaving early decide when this will be. Leaving when roads are closed and filled with smoke is too late.

If family members are leaving early, where will they go? And how will they get there? What happens if people are at work or school? What about pets and livestock? What will you do with them?

You should include the whole family in the plan and assign specific tasks, it should also list actions to take on the day. Write down your plan, practice it so you know what to do if you need to use it and review it annually. Everyone should know where the plan is kept.

During a bushfire it is common for the following to occur:

  • Before the fire approaches, your house will be surrounded by showers of sparks and embers.
  • It is likely there will be strong winds, and as the fire approaches, burning leaves and bark will begin to land around you.
  • Thick, heavy smoke will make it dark and visibility will be poor, breathing may also become difficult.
  • It will be very hot and you will need to wear protective clothing.
  • Noise generated by the fire will be very loud and some people may find this frightening.
  • You will hear the burning, crackling and roaring of the fire combined with the roaring of the wind.
  • Sirens from emergency vehicles may also be distressful to some people.
  • Services such as electricity, telephone lines and water will more than likely be disconnected.
  • This may happen before the fire reaches you. So pumps, reticulation and water may not be available.
  • Without electricity you will need a portable radio with spare batteries in your emergency kit.
  • It will normally take 5 to 15 minutes for the fire to pass your house. This is when it will be the hottest.
  • During this time, you will need to check the inside of your house for spot fires.

If you encounter a fire while driving and there is a lot of smoke:

  • Turn your car headlights on.
  • Slow down and be aware that there could be people, vehicles, large trucks and livestock on the road.
  • Follow directions of emergency services personnel if present.
  • If you cannot see clearly, pull over to the side of the road, keep the headlights and hazard lights on and wait until the smoke clears.
  • Close windows and outside vents.

Don’t wait for a warning

  • Bushfires can start suddenly and without warning.
  • If you see smoke or flames you need to act immediately and put your bushfire survival plan into action.
  • Do not wait for a warning – if a bushfire starts close to a home it can threaten within minutes.
  • Keep up to date during a bushfire by checking for information from a variety of sources including:
    • DFES website - www.dfes.wa.gov.au
    • DFES information line - 13 DFES (13 3337)
    • DFES Twitter account @dfes_wa
    • radio emergency broadcasts
    • direct advice from neighbours, and
    • Monitoring your immediate surroundings.
  • No matter how you find out about a bushfire, act immediately for your own safety.

Prepare an emergency kit

An emergency kit is essential for short term survival whether you decide to stay at home or need to relocate to safer accommodation.

Your emergency kit should contain:

  • portable battery operated AM/FM radio
  • a waterproof torch
  • new spare batteries
  • first aid kit with manual
  • woollen blankets.

On the day you will need to add:

  • cash, key cards and credit cards
  • medications and toiletries
  • special requirements for infants, elderly, disabled or pets
  • extra car and house keys
  • combination pocket knife
  • drinking water and food for 24 hours
  • can opener, cooking gear and eating utensils
  • insurance papers, personal documents and photos.

Prepare your property

Your property should be prepared before the bushfire season. Bushfires are inevitable in Western Australia due to our climate and with a State so large the fire services may be some distance from a given fire incident.

Before the bushfire season

People need to prepare their home by:

  • clearing all rubbish, dry timber, piles of wood and any other material that will burn easily from at least 20 metres from around your home
  • cutting back tree branches so they do not overhang the roof. There should be at least two metres between the trees and your home
  • keeping gutters leaf free
  • regularly raking up, digging in or picking up dead leaves and litter
  • checking the condition of your roof – replacing any damaged or missing tiles and making sure there are no openings where sparks or embers could get in. Do not just check the roof for small openings; check other areas such as under the house and your eaves
  • removing and storing any fuel supplies and chemicals away from your house
  • planning what you will do with pets and livestock. Your animals will need water, shade and a refuge from the fire
  • ensuring you have complied with your local government’s fire break requirements
  • Locating LPG cyclinders to the side of your house least likely to be affected by a bushfire. The valve should also point away from the house
  • preparing an emergency kit
  • having protective clothing ready for the whole family (if you have decided to stay and defend)
  • knowing where to get public information from during high risk bushfire days
  • making sure that you have adequate home building and contents insurance cover
  • regularly reviewing your cover to take into consideration renovations, fixtures and additions such as swimming pools, sheds, gazebos, luxury fittings or new appliances
  • establishing independent water and power supplies so you can to maintain hose and sprinkler systems in case you lose services.
    • A portable pump will ensure sufficient water pressure during a bushfire and is an investment in your safety.
    • Gravity fed water tanks with wide opening outlets allow quick filling of buckets. Fit gate valves to all new tanks to use with your pumping equipment.
  • testing firefighting equipment at the start of each bushfire season and keeping it in reliable working order
  • keeping your property maintained throughout the bushfire season.

Bushfirefighter and Fire Control Officer Training

The Shire of Broome, in conjunction with DFES, conducts training for people involved in or interested in forming a bushfire brigade.

Those interested in control or prevention of bushfires within the Shire should contact the Shire office. Training in the following areas is provided:

  • Bushfire safety
  • Bushfire behaviour
  • Bushfire suppression and equipment
  • Landholders responsibilities
  • Bushfire legislation
  • Fire control officers – rules and responsibilities
  • Coordination and control
  • Fire weather.

Further information is available from the Shire of Broome Offices on 9191 3456 or contact the agencies listed on page 168 of the Shire of Broome directory.