Emergency Planning – What Is Important To You?

Bush Fire Season is with us again . . . . so if you live in an area that is at risk its time to think about what would you do if a fire came through.

What would be the things would break your heart to lose?

  • Old Family photographs.
  • Mementos of your children’s early years.
  • Expensive paintings or artworks.
  • Important documents.
  • Jewelry from your partner.
  • The clothes you wore at a significant event.

After every bushfire the news programs show shots of people searching through piles of ash.

Why not think about protecting these keepsakes now.

Option 1 – Using a fire resistant safe

If you are going this route it might cost more than you expect.

You might need a large safe which is not only fireproof but water proof too.

You also need to check the fire rating. . . . the cheapest one at Bunnings may only give a short protection period at a low fire temperature.

Option 2 – Being ready to go

Have a box ready to go, preferably already in the car . . . it’s no good it being next to the door, if you aren’t home when the fire starts!

Option 3 – Off site storage

You could store the valuables with a family member or even in those self storage places.

For a suitcase, or similar sized box self storage costs are quite reasonable.

 

Perhaps the best solution is a combination of two or more of the options.

Emergency Planning – Scenarios

I heard on today’s news that there have been bush fires in NSW, in the first week of November!. . . . so I thought it was worthwhile reminding people about making an Emergency Plan.

If you have  just moved into your new house make sure you spend time thinking about what you would do in an emergency.

Even if you house is still being being built its not too soon to start thinking about emergency planning.

Don’t think this doesn’t apply to Houses on new urban estates. Your house can still be affected by things like grass fires and flooding.

I and many others have said “If you don’t plan, you are planning to fail!” . . . and the consequences of failing can be fatal.

Emergency Planning Guides

If you look on the websites for your States Emergency Services or Fire Brigade you should find sample plans.

The Australian Red Cross also have a great downloadable planning guide at this link  Red Cross Emergency Planning.

Emergency Planning Guides

If you look on the websites for your states Emergency Services or Fire Brigade you should find sample plans.

The Australian Red Cross also have a great downloadable planning guide at this link  Red Cross Emergency Planning

Potential Emergency Scenarios

Having seen a lot of emergency plans one thing that they often miss is planning for different scenarios.

Remember emergencies can happen without warning. . . . so check you have a plan for

  • Everyone at home with vehicle/s and time to leave safely.
  • Everyone at home with vehicles BUT no time to leave.
  • One parent away from home with vehicle.
  • Both parents away from home, but children home.
  • Adult/s home but children away from home.

If you don’t have a plan for any of these scenarios . . . . then don’t let that scenario happen.

 

Flameproof Doesn’t Mean Bushfire Proof

A CSIRO report on the Victorian 2015 Wye River fires has revealed that there are some problems with the current regulation on Bushfire protection.

Of the seven houses built since 2009 to comply with the regulations four were destroyed. (In the area of the fires 116 houses were destroyed)

This is in spite of up to $200,000 of additional costs.

Reasons for the Losses

The report identifies several issues that affected the survivability of houses

  • One house was clad with plasterboard, but this was then clad with cedar which was highly flammable.
  • Another well designed house appeared to be holding up until the older  next-door house caught fire. The extreme heat from the burning house destroyed the newer house.
  • Leaves and twigs on the ground burning.
  • Burning of  plastic water tanks, building materials, garden sheds, and boats stored under or next to houses.
  • Timber retaining walls burning
  • Storage of LPG Tanks

If you want to read the full report it can be downloaded here:  Wye River Fire Report

Photo from theconversation.com

Bushfire Preparation – Protective Clothing

This is a singlet . . . . . it is not protective clothing!

Yet every year (including this week, December 2015) I see on the news someone fighting a bushfire around their property wearing a singlet and shorts.

If you build your new house in an area at bushfire risk a singlet is not going to protect you from:

  • Burns from Flames, Sparks and Embers;
  • Extreme heat leading to Heat Exhaustion;
  • Smoke, damaging you lungs.

Even if you plan to leave you may get trapped by a fast moving bushfire . . . . so it’s best to have proper protection for everyone in your household.

Protective Clothing

Here is some advice on what your protective clothing should include:

  • Heavy cotton pants, for example denim jeans;
  • Long-sleeved shirt (made out of natural fibres such as cotton or wool);
  • Strong leather work boots with thick woollen or cotton socks;
  • Leather gloves;
  • Hard hat or wide-brimmed hat;
  • Glasses or goggles to protect your eyes against smoke, embers and debris in the air;
  • Leather gloves;
  • A face mask to protect your mouth or nose.

Make sure everything is loose fitting and made from all natural fibres.

It’s even better if you can have a natural fibre coat or overall as well. . . . Just check out what the firemen wear.

For more information check your state bushfire service website.

 

Are You Prepared for a Bushfire?


It will soon be Summer . . . . and Bushfires will be in the News!

Live close to the Bush? . . . . Are you and your new home ready in case a fire is heading your way?

Its not just making your new house Fire Resistant.

Questions You Need To Answer

  • Have you cleaned up your garden
  • Will you leave based on a Fire Danger Rating?
  • Where will you stay?
  • Which routes will you take? (don’t just have one route in case a fire is already in the area)
  • What will you take with you?
  • What about your pets or livestock?
  • How will you stay informed about warnings and updates?
  • What will you do if there is a fire in the area and you cannot leave?
  • How can you defend the house?

When thinking about questions like these remember that a fire can start at any time . . . . so think about what to do if only one person is at home.

Check With Your Fire Authority

This isn’t a comprehensive guide just a reminder to start you thinking.

Check with your State Fire Authority for more detail about how to make a fire plan.

 

See Bushfire for more posts

 

Sisalation or Sarking

Sarking is the sheet material which can be put over the roof trusses before the final roof covering is installed.

It’s normally standard on a metal roof as it prevents condensation on the underside of a roof from dropping onto the ceiling below.

In the case of a tiled roof it helps with weatherproofing and keeps dust out of the roof space.

In bushfire zones it is mandatory for a tiled roof to have sarking.

The reflective sarking (installed reflective side facing down) does help in reducing summer heat being radiated into the roof space and can help to keep the house warmer in winter. (See Reflective Finishes for more information)

In addition to plain sarking you can get an insulation blanket with sarking attached. This offering some sound insulation, for rainfall, and extra thermal insulation.

 

See Insulation for more posts

 

Bushfire – Building in the Flame Zone

Do you want to build close to, or right next to native bush?

In that case be prepared to for a lot of extra effort and cost. Both in the house design, material cost and bushfire extras.

Dealing with Regulations

There is no shortage of regulations from various federal, state and local government bodies that need to be considered. These include:

  • The Building Code of Australia (see fire safety)
  • Australian Standard 3959 (construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas)
  • Local Council Fire Maps
  • Local Fire documents
  • Local Environment Plan which may conflict with your need to have a cleared buffer area
  • Local Fire Brigade Requirements

Build a Bunker?

Well you could aim for a bunker like structure . . . but who wants to live in a real bunker with minimal windows?

You may still be at risk in a bunker like house, last fire season a lady died in an earth covered house in Victoria.

Bunker like structures can still have ‘weak points’, particularly at windows and doors, where embers and flames can penetrate the building.

Things To Consider

Ive already talked about the things you need to Upgrade for BAL 12.5 but in the flame zone you will need to ramp it up even further.

  • Bushfires can generate cyclonic strength winds, so the whole structure and the roof fixings need to be stronger.
  • It will help if the building is lower to the ground both to avoid the wind, and allow embers to pass over.
  • Any areas where embers can collect and weak points should be avoided, that includes roof ridges.
  • The cost of providing stronger windows and fire shutters could add $4-5,000/sqm.
  • Avoiding windows entirely on the direction that the fire is likely to come from.
  • Providing hard landscaping and walls as buffer zones.
  • Ensuring all external materials are non combustible.
  • Adequate Water Tanks and sprinkler systems.

A final bill for Fire Upgrades of over $100,000 or more is likely.

A Few Final Thoughts

  • Your house is still ‘Fire Resistant’, more resistant than the BAL 12.5 Standards, but not ‘Fire Proof’.
  • To be effective some of the precautions like fire shutters and sprinkler systems need you around to be fully effective.
  • Will you have the confidence to stay at home in the face of an oncoming bush fire, a seriously scary prospect.
  • If you do stay have you got a good Plan B, such as a separate underground fire shelter, late evacuation is frequently a deadly choice!

 

See Bushfire for more Posts

 

 

 

Bushfire Reserve – Volume

I have previously talked about Bushfire reserve supplies. . . . But how much?

I see various minimum water volumes put forward for bush fire reserves. For example in early 2014 the following applied.

  • Victoria, regulations for new builds require 10,000Litres.
  • South Australia the country fire service suggests 22,000Litres.

Just because there is a minimum requirement that doesn’t mean that is going to be enough water to deal with an incident for your property. Here are some thoughts on what I feel is appropriate.

  1.  10,000litres which can only be accessed via a fitting that meets the requirement of your local fire fighting service. This varies from state to state so check with your local brigade. This supply is really a last ditch supply available to the fire brigade when they are activly defending your property from direct attack.
  2. 2 – 4,000litres to assist you in dealing with ember attack with a hand held hose, in advance of the fire front reaching the property, and following the passing of the fire front.
  3. Adequate Volume to run a sprinkler system from starting the system until the fire front has passed. This volume will depend on the number of sprinklers, and the time you intend to run them. In other words Flow and Time:
    • Flow For a small house you could be using around 2,400litres per hour (Say 2  impulse sprinklers on the roof and 6 spray nozzles on the side of the house under attack) For larger Houses or those with several outbuildings the volume will be much larger.
    • Time The time will vary depending on your Fire Plan.
      • If you are planning to stay and defend your property you will want enough volume to defend your property during severe ember attack, while the fire front passes through your property, and to damp down afterwards. (Say 2 hours, 5,000litres)
      • If your Fire Plan is to set all the sprinklers running and leave early on days of high fire danger you will probably need to allow 12 hours running time per day of fire danger.(Say 28,000litres per day)

The above figures are indicative and any spray system should be properly designed.

Photo from Blazecontrol.com

Bushfire Water Storage

If you live in an area that could be subject to wildfire having a bushfire water storage is important . . . . . .  Even if you have mains water supply!

Public water mains only have limited capacity. . . . . . . . In a bush fire situation Fire Trucks will be sucking water out of the mains and your neighbours will want to have their hoses running. The result can be you get nothing, or just a trickle of water.

If you are building a new house in an area that has a bushfire risk then there will often be a council requirement to have a bushfire storage tank. With an existing house in the bush you also should consider adding a bushfire reserve water tank

Your Bushfire Reserve supply should be set up so the water cannot be used up in normal domestic use.

Suitable materials for above ground tanks are either concrete or steel. In ground GRP tanks would also be acceptable emergency supplies.

The tank should be located where the it can be readily seen and accessed by the Fire Brigade.  The outlet with a connection that meets the State Fire Brigade requirements. (Check your local State Fire Service website for current details of minimum size, location, arrangement, and signing ).

For similar posts see Bushfire

 

Bushfire Upgrades

To determine exactly what is needed in the way of ‘Bushfire Upgrades’ .

A full examination of the location and the house design is required

Its your safety so its worth getting an expert!

Likely Extras

The following are typical extras for a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) 12.5 zone:

  • All roof vents, wall vents and weep holes to have ember/spark guards made from corrosion resistant metal mesh with max aperture size of 2mm (See Photo)
  • External doors and windows to be provided with corrosion resistant metal mesh (steel aluminium or bronze)
  • Upgraded glass such as A-grade safety glass (min 4mm)
  • Weatherboards should be fibre cement (min 6mm thick). You may be able to use some external wood features but it will depend on the location and the type of wood
  • All external surface material joints less than 3mm
  • Weather strips or draught excluder to garage panel lift doors with a max gap of 3mm. (Roller door may be a better option)
  • A tiled roof to have full sarking  installed directly below roof battens
  • All external above ground gas and water pipes to be metal.
  • Protect air conditioning as it can ‘suck’ embers towards it. (See link for Evaporative Cooling)

Expect to pay an extra $5000 to $10,000 depending on the size of the house.

With a higher BAL , the cost will rise further with upgrades such as fire shutters.

Not Fire Proof

Its worth bearing in mind  that the upgrades will make your new home ‘Fire Resistant‘ not ‘Fire Proof

 

To find out more see: ‘What is the Bushfire Attack Level