If you have ever been through a natural disaster, you will no doubt have had the terrible time of checking off all the belonging you have lost in your mind. This tends to come some days after the actual event, and really is part of the natural grieving process. After loss of lives, the loss of personal belongings is probably the hardest thing to come to terms with, especially after a disaster like a bush fire taking your home.
Those of us living in the city tend not to concern ourselves with action plans necessary to survive natural disaster events, and when my house was burnt to the ground in 1999, I had never conceived of the need for an action plan. Australia is currently experiencing record-breaking heat waves, which always bring with the heat the chance of deadly and destructive bush fires.
What can you do to prepare? Each person and family will have different needs, depending on their particular situation, but here is a list I have come up with. Take note of the points that apply to you and your loved ones, as they could save your life and important belongings.
- If you have pets, keep them inside and have carry cases ready. You will need to pack them and a little food and water for them. Letting them out of the house will only stress them out and you run the risk of them running away or being caught by the fire.
- Have a battery operated or dynamo powered radio tuned in to the emergency broadcast station (in Australia, that is the ABC). You will receive news of evacuation plans, routes and assembly points. You will also get information on where the fire is, its heading and current safe zones.
- Pack a change of clothes, water bottles, identification and medication for everyone in one backpack. Toiletries can be bought elsewhere when you have time to stop.
- Make sure that any important documents are backed up, preferably digitally and on a small form hard drive. If you can, make this a flash drive/thumb drive/usb stick or a small external hard drive. While they may not be much help in replacing documents, they are at least some kind of proof that you are who you say you are.
- Keep listening to the emergency broadcasts. If you get the notice to evacuate, move all young and invalid people into your car first, followed by pets and the gear then drive in a sensible and orderly fashion to your designated assembly zone. Make sure you have been accounted for, or the fire brigade will assume you are still in your place of residence.
- If you have livestock, open all gates. They will instinctively run away from the fire to safety. You can always look for them once it is safe to return to the area.
- Do not, under any circumstances, return to your home until you have been told it is safe to do so. Embers can reignite and start fires again. If you’re in doubt, contact the fire brigade or emergency teams in your team. When you do return, do a check of the property and surrounds as best as you can before unloading the vehicle.
This is not an exhaustive list. Everybody’s action list will be different and there are tips given by the authorities which have not been listed here. If you have anything you think should be added to the list, please add a comment below!