29 October 2021

Be prepared: ACT bushfire season starts Monday

| Sally Hopman
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Fireman aims hose at fire.

Above-average rainfall may have delayed the start of the ACT bushfire season until Monday, November 1, but authorities warn against the danger of complacency. Photo: Warwick Costin.

Winter rain and continued heavy falls throughout spring have delayed the start of the official ACT bushfire season until Monday, November 1.

The ACT Emergency Services Commissioner, Georgeina Whelan, put off the start of the season by a month, saying the ACT community should feel confident that firefighting services were well prepared for the upcoming danger period.

“I am impressed with the level of preparedness the ACT Rural Fire Service has maintained over the last 12 months and confident our teams will continue this level of preparation and resilience over the coming months as we continually adjust our COVID-19 protocols,” Commissioner Whelan said.

“Our services are operating at full capacity and have business continuity plans in place to manage a range of impacts which could affect our workforce, including the impact of COVID-19 public health measures.”

Commissioner Whelan urged the community not to be complacent because of the wet lead-up to the summer season.

ACT Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said the recent wet weather in Canberra had resulted in grassland around the region having higher moisture content, adding that most dams were at maximum capacity.

“Although there is always the risk of a bush or grass fire under current conditions, this has reduced the likelihood of significant fire conditions in our area,” he said.

“This is a timely reminder to all Canberrans to prepare their homes and ensure they are ’emergency ready’ for the upcoming fire season. ”

READ ALSO Bushfires a wake-up call for future, says ANU scientists

Preparation for the season is the key, according to ACT Emergency Services, which urges all residents to have an emergency survival plan ready. After discussion with family, friends and neighbours, it should answer the following questions:

  • Are you in a bushfire-prone area? Find out at www.esa.act.gov.au/bushfire-prone-areas.
  • What will you have in your home emergency kit? Download the checklist from esa.act.gov.au
  • If a bushfire emergency is declared, what will you do? What is your evacuation plan?

ACT Emergency Services also offers advice on how to prepare your home in the lead-up to the bushfire season. This includes:

  • Clear and maintain gutters.
  • Move wood piles away from the house.
  • Trim tree branches hanging near the house.
  • Keep grass down and well watered.
  • Seal all gaps, vents and roof spaces.
  • Position any gas cylinders with vents facing away from the house and trees.
  • Install metal fly screens on windows and vents.
  • Install metal gutter guards.
  • Ensure your home and content insurance includes coverage for extreme weather conditions.
Grassland showing signs of life in the Namadgi National Park after the summer's bushfires.

Grassland showing signs of life in the Namadgi National Park after the last bushfires. Photo: Michael Weaver.

If a bushfire is approaching and you have decided to leave, ACT Emergency Service recommends the following checklist be followed with specific emphasis on who in the family should do what job.

  • Add the final items to your emergency kit like common medications, phone charger, pet food and water for everyone.
  • Pack the car ensuring that you have included your wallet, keys, banking, medical and insurance documents.
  • Make sure everyone is wearing appropriate clothes – long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy boots. Ideally, they should be made of natural fibres, not synthetics.
  • Close all the doors and windows and lock up but leave the front or access gate open if possible.
  • Decide on your primary destination but also have a back-up plan.
  • Put your pets in a safe place so they’re ready to be loaded into the car.
  • Ensure there is a change of clothing for the children – and some toys to keep them occupied.
  • If your car is behind an electric garage door, drive it out, facing the direction you’re heading for.
  • Remove any material that could burn around your home, including outdoor furniture.

For more information on how to prepare for the fire season, what to do in emergency situations and how to cope with the aftermath, go to esa.act.gov.au/be-emergency-ready

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